June 28, 2009

Movie "star vehicles" flop

Little love this summer for A-list actorsHollywood's movie studios, hopeful that marquee-name actors would push their summer box-office receipts to record levels, are finding that the heavyweights aren't winning over audiences like they used to. With all but a couple of big-budget films already opened, the summer of 2009 is shaping up to be one of the worst on record for Hollywood's A-list talent.

The studios stocked this summer's release schedule with so-called star vehicles, including "Land of the Lost" with Will Ferrell, "Year One" featuring Jack Black, the comedy "Imagine That" with Eddie Murphy, and Denzel Washington and John Travolta in a remake of "The Taking of Pelham 123." But rather than igniting ticket sales, the star-studded movies have dramatically underperformed.

The brightest stars of the lucrative popcorn season--which typically accounts for about 40% of annual ticket sales--instead have turned out to be mostly movies with no-name actors--or no actors at all on screen.

So far, the summer's most profitable film has been Warner Bros.' surprise hit "The Hangover," a $35-million-budget R-rated comedy about a bachelor party in Las Vegas that boasts not a single household-name actor but has reached $183 million in U.S. ticket sales since its June 5 opening and is expected to exceed $200 million. Other summer hits like J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" and Michael Bay's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" showcase eye-popping visual effects along with up-and-coming talent.

And, the highest-grossing summer movie so far? Walt Disney's Co.'s "Up," the Pixar-animated movie starring the voice of . . . Ed Asner.
Comment:  Once again, Hollywood is stupid. Hiring big-name stars such as Johnny Depp to play Tonto is no guarantee of success. Hiring little-known actors such as the Indians in New Moon is the way to go.

If any directors, producers, or financiers think otherwise, they're wrong. The evidence proves it.

The only problem with this analysis is that the phenomenon is nothing new. It's been going on for years, if not decades.

For more on the subject, see Fallacy of the Big-Name Actor.


Anonymous said...

Yes, big names don't necessary mean big bucks for studios. However, the unknown Native actors in the upcoming New Moon won't be the reason for the anticipated big box office - it's b/c of the Twilight and Rob Pattinson fanatics). The Native actors (I guess there are a couple of truly Native actors in New Moon) will potentially get some career boost.

What counts more are huge marketing budgets and the zeitgeist. It would seem films with annoying, schleppy white guys are in - how else can Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow be explained? Pineapple Express was a piece of crap but it made pretty good box office with no movie stars - and the same for Knocked Up.

Would a film about an annoying, schleppy Native guy do as well?

Rob said...

The first New Moon picture Summit released showed the Native Wolf Pack guys without their shirts. To me that says they're going to be part of the marketing push.

That shouldn't surprise anyone. Twilight is all about selling sexy but safe guys to teenage girls.