Monday, June 05, 2006

Moviestar or Us Weekly Queen?

Jennifer Aniston is omnipresent in the culture and she just had a bona fide moviestar launch of The Break-Up--which grossed $38M despite bad reviews and misleading marketing. Give her credit: She opened this picture basically by herself.

But how surprised would you be to learn that this is only the fourth time she's opened a movie over $10M:

The Break-Up-$38M
Along Came Polly-$27M
Bruce Almighty-$68M

Bruce Almighty is a Jim Carey vehicle and Along Came Polly was a Ben Stiller vehicle designed as a pseudo-sequel to Something About Mary. What the success of The Break-Up shows is that, if an actor is forced on audiences enough times, eventually they'll get a hit.

Ben Affleck is another great example of this. After the slow-burn success of Good Will Hunting, Affleck was allowed to ride shotgun alongside Bruce Willis and Michael Bay in Armageddon, after which Hollywood assumed that he was a new leading man. He then bombed five consecutive movies, the biggest opening gross of which was $13.5M for Forces of Nature. He helped Pearl Harbor underperform, bombed again with Changing Lanes, and finally opened The Sum of All Fears to a respectable $31M.

You see similar patterns with Josh Hartnett (who hasn't actually gotten his hit yet) and the former Mr. Jennifer Anniston, Brad Pitt, who after being pulled along by Tom Cruise's coattails in Interview with the Vampire, ran off a string of 8 leading roles without opening a movie above $15M.

Most actors don't get all of these extra chances. But the lesson to studio executives is clear: No matter how many failures a "star" has, if you keep giving them work, eventually they'll have a breakout hit.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't the quality of the film have anything to do with whether it will be a hit.

arrScott said...

"Doesn't the quality of the film have anything to do with whether it will be a hit[?]"

No. I mean, people do remember Forest Gump and Titanic, right? Being so bad a movie as to constitute an insult to the basic dignity of the human soul is no barrier to making unspendably large quantities of money.

It's especially not the case when you're talking about opening weekends, when pretty much every dollar is made from first-time viewers. You can't really reject a movie for its poor quality until after you've seen it, or at least until after people you know and trust have seen it. A heavily promoted movie with a big star or two will open big even if the film represents the lowest common denominator of Spike Lee's cinematography, Michael Bay's taste, Michael Moore's respect for audience intellect, and and Robert Altman's narrative style. It's the second and third week where such a movie will drop off, if poor quality is a deterrent.

jon said...

I worked at a movie theater throughout high school and college. After most 8 years of doing every job in there, I gleened a few lessonns and learned one true fact of life: People will turn out in herds to see shitty movies. Bank on it. It's like Vegas to the travel business. It doesn't matter what's going on, people go. That is, some people just go see movies because that's what they do. They see it all. Doesn't have to be a big blockbuster, or a film-version of their favorite comic book. These people aren't film buffs. They go see Weekend at Bernie's 2. These are people that will pay $6.25 (then) to see Congo or Species 2. I love a good movie. That's why I see maybe 4 a year, if that. Usually on DVD.

Oddly enough, the busiest day at a movie theater is Thanksgiving, followed closely by Christmas. A sad commentary on the American family I'd say: Spending time together, but going to sit in the dark and not look at or talk to one another for a couple of hours. But I'd add that it adds weight to the above: people go because they think that's what they're supposed to do, above and beyond hanging out around a tree and getting loopy on Nog.

jon said...

BTW, Last my friend, you are on to something with in this Hollywood-will-keep-marketing-movies-for-personalities-until-they-get-a-hit-business. This is true.

Travolta was in how many talking baby movies? If I had a dollar for all the old ladies who came and bitched me out for all the cursing at the beginning of Pulp Fiction, then I could've stuffed my ears with them, and stayed to collect more dollars. I.e., a lot of old ladies mistakenly saw that movie.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you forgetting something? A guy named Vince Vaughn was in this thing. I'd bet my left nut that more than half the audience flocked due to his comic appeal (remember Old School? Dodgeball?? Wedding Crashers???), not the former Mrs. Pitt.