Archive for the ‘Era of Easy Entertainment’ Category

2009’s Biggest Box Office Star: Stupidity!

October 16, 2009

After five days and $43.1 million, someone add Couples Retreat to the list!  2009 has been called the Era Of Easy Entertainment by many great film scholars (well…. really, just me) because in the doldrums of one our country’s worst-ever recessions, the film industry, particularly the less intellectual section of it, is thriving.  With depressing news on our TVs, depressing pink slips on our desks, and depressing bills in our mailboxes, it appears that Americans are decidedly in the mood for something light and fun.  Movies that offer a respite from these harsh realities seem to be the antidote-of-choice for many sad Americans, and 2009 has seen dumb movie after dumb movie top the box office.

Now when I say “dumb,” I am not claiming that these movies shouldn’t exist, nor am I trying to act pretentious and snobby.  I am merely stating that there have been a huge number of generally poorly-reviewed, generally illogical and senseless movies that have succeeded at the box office this year.  These films typically don’t take themselves very seriously, and though many are comedies, there have been equally stupid and equally successful action flicks and thrillers as well.  Americans like not having to think very hard when they’re at the movies, and 2009 has been all about cinematic junk food! Let’s take a look at some of the top benefactors of the EEE:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – $402.1 million

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – $179.9 million

Fast And Furious – $155.1 million

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra – $149.2 million

Paul Blart: Mall Cop – $146.3 million

G-Force – $118 million

The Ugly Truth – $88.9 million

Knowing – $80 million

Hotel For Dogs – $73 million

I Love You, Man – $71.4 million

Obsessed – $68.3 million

The Final Destination – $66 million

Bride Wars – $58.7 million

Tell me, how many of these titles are people going to remember in ten years?  Heck, it hasn’t even been ten months and I can barely remember Knowing!  The point is, the above movies are reaping the benefits of a stressed American populace, capitalizing on the desire for escapism of so many people. 

Fast And Furious Proves It Yet Again: The Era Of Easy Entertainment!

April 6, 2009

Okay, so by now, we’ve all let it process that Fast And Furious earned $70.9 million over its opening weekend! In April! The biggest April weekend of all time by $30 million dollars! Not since April 2003, when Anger Management had a $40 million weekend, has a film opened this big during the rainiest month of the year. It’s seriously amazing that Universal managed to get the third sequel of a “dying” franchise on the top of the charts. Take a look at what people were predicting:

Box Office Guru: $43 million
Slashfilm: $48 million
Box Office Prophets: $41 million
Box Office Report: $52 million
Entertainment Weekly: $41 million
The Box Office Junkie: $38 million

The closest prediction was a full $20 million off! Now, am I simply justifying my own ineptitude, as my prediction was the worst of any of those? Well, sort of. But more importantly, I’m using Fast And Furious‘ crazy $72.5 million weekend to justify my theory of 2009: The Era Of Easy Entertainment. I made this theory back in January, but with the success of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Taken, Knowing, and now Fast And Furious, the EEE has held true throughout the first part of the year. In the sour times of this recession, Americans clearly want to go the movies for the escapism they offer, and furthermore, when they attend the theater, the last thing people want to do is think too hard. Therefore, the titles that features gag humor, obvious plots, and lots and lots of explosions are going to succeed right now. Cinematic comfort food!

Welcome To The Era Of Easy Entertainment!

January 20, 2009

We’re in the middle of a huge economic recession, millions of people are out of work, the news is consistently depressing, the earth is apparently so polluted that a Wall-Eish future seems likely, we’re still fighting what seems to be a never-ending battle in the Middle East, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop just earned $39 million over four days in theaters. What is going on in the world, and why are all these terrible things happening at once? To be honest, I can’t really tell you anything about those first five- you’d have to ask a Washington insider about those. But when it comes to the issue of Paul Blart: Mall Cop raking in huge profits, let me offer up this explanation: In light of the economic, political, and social struggles that currently permeate our society, we have reached a new stage of culture: The Era of Easy Entertainment (EEE), where popular entertainment has become valued more as a distraction than an artform.

You see, it seems to me that in these tough times, the last thing people want in their lives is any more stress. And yes, if you’re wondering, there is a such thing as stressful entertainment. Over the last few years, movies centered on war have completely stalled at the box office. Even high profile releases like The Good German ($1.3 million), Flyboys ($13 M), The Great Raid ($10 M), and Flags Of Our Fathers ($33 M) have had trouble finding an audience. The best performing war-themed picture was 2005’s Jarhead ($62 M), but even that failed to live up to expectations. Still, if these films were to be released right now, I predict that they would do even worse at the box office than they did in their original theatrical runs. Why? Because people are tired of bad news! People are tired of war and fighting and not knowing what is going to happen next! And now, as the economic foundation of the country starts to crack, people are eager for something consistent and comforting. Where have they turned? To easy entertainment.

With exception of Nothing Like The Holidays ($7 M), every single comedy that has been released in the last two months has been a solid hit. Role Models earned $67 million. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa earned $178 million. Four Christmases earned $120 million. Bolt earned $113 million. Yes Man earned $93 million. Marley And Me has earned $134 million. Bedtime Stories has earned $105 million. Bride Wars has earned $40 million. And Paul Blart: Mall Cop opened to $39 million! The average T-Meter on RottenTomatoes for these films is 39%, so it’s not like these are just the best films out there right now. Yea some of them are great, and others are truly awful, but I think it’s more that right now, people just truly want to laugh and smile. Think about all the people who lined up in droves to go see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Don’t you think they knew that it wasn’t going to be a magnificently memorable work of art? What they did know was that it would be safe enough and fun enough to provide them with a pleasant distraction from the reality of life, if only for a couple hours.

But this trend isn’t just limited to film. Look at the general trends of television viewing this season. The sitcom, which many pronounced as “dead” a few years ago, is now back in full force. Shows like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and 30 Rock have seen massive 35-45% increases in their viewership this season, despite network television ratings being universally down. And it’s not just comedy that makes up the EEE. No, some entertainment is just “easy,” like television’s number one new show, The Mentalist. The show does absolutely nothing to break the mold of a typical CBS procedural crime drama. It follows a very predictable formula each and every episode, and audiences aren’t complaining. In fact, because it requires so little thinking, and the mystery is always wrapped up by the end of each episode, it’s pulling in almost 19 million viewers every week. Shows like Lost or 24 should be glad they launched when they did, because they would never break out in 2009- they just require too much thinking, too much stress!

There’s no telling how long EEE will last. It is the reason that films like The Unborn and My Bloody Valentine: 3D have done so well lately. These are horror flicks, yes, but they are also proedictable and fun. It is the reason dogs are the hottest thing in Hollywood now. They don’t need to be able to act or speak- they’re cute and make people feel good. So long as people are worried about our failing economy, horror films and comedies and movies that advertise the fact that they are fun, will continue to thrive. Already, the box office is having an incredibly lucrative winter season because people have made it very clear that right now they don’t need a ton of drama- they want some simple comfort instead.