Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Is the Movie Star Vehicle dead?

Is the Movie Star Vehicle dead?

Tonight, I am going to pick at all your brains a little bit. I am dying to know what you readers think of this particular topic.

During the weekend that just ended, "After Earth," the new film with Will Smith and Jaden Smith, bombed at the box office. It was predicted that the movie would flop by the late afternoon last Saturday, and the prediction was correct.

Kristopher Tapley at hitfix.com wrote an article this weekend about how trends and norms in Hollywood are beginning to change. I quote Tapley: "When the top ten domestic grossers are finally sussed...there won't be a Will Smith or a Tom Cruise on that list. Not a Jim Carrey or a Julia Roberts, a Tom Hanks, a Johnny Depp or a Brad Pitt. The list will be dominated by sequels and franchises, yes, but none of them with the added benefit of star power to drive the box office."

I had to do some research of my own but Tapley is on to something with his piece. There was a time when a movie broke box office records just by having one or two A-listers in it. As I do my research, I can see the trends beginning to change. If you go to www.boxofficemojo.com and look at the top ten domestic grossers of the last few years, each list is littered with sequels and movies belonging to franchises. So this leads to one theory. We don't go to watch stars at the movies anymore, we go to watch long winded television shows. Its not about our favorite actors anymore, but our favorite brands.

If you look at the the highest domestic gross of last year, you will see that the top spot went to "The Avengers" and clearly that film is apart of a huge ongoing franchise. In 2011, the top spot went to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," another movie to another ongoing franchise. Even right now in 2013, the highest domestic gross currently is "Iron Man 3," is it true we buy brands now? Do we not care what our big stars do anymore? Think about the heavy A-listers and movies they made that weren't attach to a current franchise. Tom Cruise with "Jack Reacher" and "Rock of Ages," Tom Hanks with "Cloud Atlas," Julia Roberts with "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Larry Crowne," Brad Pitt with "The Tree of Life." All of those movies, whether they were good or not, bombed at the box office. Star power doesn't seem to carry any weight anymore. 

In 2009, "Star Trek" placed number 7 in the top ten highest domestic gross list. Look at the picture above and ask yourself, before 2009, could you have named any other movie that any of the actors above starred in? Apparently with franchises, Hollywood doesn't necessarily need the A-list stars. Just if its a brand people have heard of, people will jump in line to buy the ticket. Hugh Jackman made his career with the branded franchise "X-Men" and Robert Downey Jr. remade his career with "Iron Man."

There do seem to be exceptions to this rule still though. "Inception" in 2010 was a huge hit for Christopher Nolan, and "Inception" was an original idea. But think about it, was "Inception" a hit because Nolan's film prior to "Inception" was "The Dark Knight" in 2008, or did people really just dig the trailers? There are better, more clear examples too. "Ted" in 2011 was not only not connected to any franchises, but was an R-rated comedy and it hit the top ten domestic gross list. Did Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane get butts in seats? It sure seems like it. And "Avatar" was not only the number one highest-grossing domestic film in 2009, but it is also the highest-grossing film of all time right now. "Avatar" might have been a big, exciting, sci/fi movie. But no A-listers of any kind were in any leading roles.

All of this to me begs the question, is the movie star vehicle dead?

All I know is right now, in 2013, films like "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Fast and Furious 6," and "Oz: The Great and Powerful" are all franchise films making bank right now, while films like "After Earth" are flopping. I am already predicting a huge opening weekend for "Man of Steel" on the 14th of June. Even with an unknown as Superman, I bet "Man of Steel" still makes tons of cash. I bet even "World War Z" will fair well, but is that due to the fan-base generated from the book the film is adapted from, or Brad Pitt?

I also wonder how a film like "Pacific Rim" will do in July. A high-concept film that is devoid of big stars. Will it sink or swim?

The box office has never swayed my opinion on a film and never ever will. But I do think it is cool to look at trends and norms of the movies people watch and how they evolve over time. These sort of things change all the time and I will sitting front and center, to see how they change. What are your two cents on all this.

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