Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

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.
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The Beginning Of The Year Is Scary: A Decade Of Horror Movies At The Box Office

January 7, 2009

Go grab your flashlight, blanket, and stuffed animal. We’ve reached the doldrums of winter, and on the box office calendar, that means its time for our annual onslaught of horror films. What was once merely regarded as a tough time to release a movie, has in recent years become a veritable dumping ground for studios to release cheaply produced horror films. If people were afraid to the officially label the trend before, there’s simply no denying it in 2009. In the next six weekends, five horror films are coming out. On the docket we have The Unborn, My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans, The Uninvited, and Friday The 13th.

We all know that Hollywood never makes bad decisions, so if all these films are being released in the next few weeks, it must be a well documented fact that horror titles in January and February make lots of money, right? To answer that, let’s look at January/February horror releases over the last decade of box office history. Here’s the horrific box office retrospective:

2000
Feb. 4 – Scream 3 – $84 million
Feb. 18 – Pitch Black – $39 million

2001
Feb. 2 – Valentine – $20 million
Feb. 16 – Hannibal – $165 million

2002
Jan. 25 – The Mothman Prophecies – $35 million
Feb. 22 – Queen Of The Damned – $30 million

2003
Jan. 24 – Darkness Falls – $32 million
Jan. 31 – Final Destination 2 – $47 million

2004
Interestingly enough, none.

2005
Jan. 7 – White Noise – $56 million
Jan. 28 – Hide And Seek – $51 million
Feb. 4 – Boogeyman – $46 million

2006
Jan. 6 – Hostel – $47 million
Jan. 20 – Underworld: Evolution – $62 million
Feb. 3 – When A Stranger Calls – $47 million
Feb. 10 – Final Destination 3 – $54 million

2007
Jan. 12 – Primeval – $10 million
Jan. 19 – The Hitcher – $16 million
Feb. 2 – The Messengers – $35 million
Feb. 9 – Hannibal Rising – $27 million

2008
Jan. 4 – One Missed Call – $27 million
Feb. 1 – The Eye – $31 million

2009
Jan. 9 – The Unborn
Jan. 16 – My Bloody Valentine 3-D
Jan. 23 – Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans
Jan. 30 – The Uninvited
Feb. 13 – Friday The 13th (Gimmicky? Yes. But The Omen did make $12 million on 06/06/06…)

There are a couple of trends that I see in these figures. First off, movie titles are getting worse. According to current horror movie titles, if I really wanted to scare you, I should have just named this entry “The Blog Post.” Second, the horror pattern doesn’t really start until 2005. Until the successful debut of White Noise, the early weeks of January seemed off limits to a studio with a horror film. They stuck mostly with family-friendly affair, instead. Third, people were very tired of horror in 2007 and 2008. After years of Japanese remakes and torture-porn flicks, the genre felt stale. Fourth, these movies suck!

Sometimes I wonder why Hollywood is so obsessed with establishing patterns. If 300 can open to $70 million on a random weekend in March, a Hannah Montana concert can earn $30 million over three days in February, and Cloverfield can debut to $40 million in January, doesn’t that do anything to prove that people will go see what they want to see, regardless of its release date? I don’t know why studios feel the need to pigeonhole bad horror movies into these first two months of the year. By consistently releasing sub-par, only-somewhat-scary movies in January and February, Hollywood is conditioning film goers to stay at home. At a certain point, people wise up to the lack of quality. It took them a while with the “____ Movie” movies, and according to the above results, the horror genre is now seeing similar diminishing returns in January and February.

The reason that studios haven’t minded settling with the smallish figures is that these movies are ridiculously cheap to make. They usually make up their small production budgets by the end of their theatrical runs, and it’s pretty much the DVD revenue that earns the studio money. But, oh you foolish movie executives- you could make so much more!

How can the problem be fixed? Start by getting someone to make a really good horror movie, and/or do something truly innovative. Then, release that film whenever you want. It really doesn’t matter. Actually, at this point, it’s probably a little bit better to not release it in January, because people are starting to realize how bad January horror movies usually are. Bottom line: If the movie is good n’ scary and has a solid advertising campaign behind it, people will go see it. (Ex: The Ring)

As far as the 2009 films go, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans has a small legion of fanboys, Friday The 13th‘s release date plan will probably generate some business, and both films will get a boost since they are part of franchises. As far as the rest of the films go, they’ve all had surprisingly strong advertising campaigns, but 3-D is becoming kind of cliche, and The Uninvited‘s psycho woman plot isn’t as flashy as The Unborn‘s evil dead twin story. Because it’s coming out before the horror glut, I’m giving the slight edge to The Unborn, but I don’t really see any of them breaking out. If they fail, I blame the scheduling completely.

Here’s a good comment question: If you were to combine the RottenTomatoes T-Meter for all five of the horror films debuting in the next two months, what do you predict the total score would be? Will they collectively break 100%? Let me know what you think.