Hollywood Should Be Worried About a Box Office Trend

Films directed at 'grownups' are fizzling
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2022 2:42 PM CST
'Films for Grownups' Are Fizzling at Box Office
This image released by Focus Features shows Cate Blanchett in a scene from "Tar."   (Focus Features via AP)

Studios have been putting out a lot of movies of late that have wowed the critics, writes Brooks Barnes in a New York Times analysis. The problem is that Barnes sums up the box office results for these movies—think "Oscar-oriented films" and "films for grownups," as he puts it—with a word the studios most definitely will not like: "carnage." He ticks off a number—including Tár, The Fabelmans, Armageddon Time, She Said, and Devotion—that have come nowhere near recouping the money it cost to make them. Universal, for example, spent about $55 million to make She Said, the story of the female reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, and it has pulled in $5.3 million.

One commonly cited reason: "People have grown comfortable watching these movies at home," film consultant David A. Gross tells the newspaper. The pandemic likely accelerated this trend, but Barnes' analysis makes clear that doesn't explain it all. Studios largely avoided commenting for the story, perhaps because this is the season to gather votes for Oscar contenders. "Or it may be because, behind the scenes, studios still seem to be grasping for answers," he writes.

All of this comes as movie-makers continue to reevaluate whether the old metric of "bodies in seats" is still viable in the age of streaming. At the Guardian, Benjamin Lee also attempts to understand why so many movies are "bombing" in theaters in 2022. Among the quotes collected: "It just shows you how discombobulated the whole marketplace is when some of the movies that are going to theaters are not necessarily the most commercial on the face of it, but some of the movies that were sent directly to streaming might have been more commercial in theaters," says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at Comscore. (More Hollywood stories.)

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