‘She said’ bombs: Why do awards season movies fluctuate?

Quentin Tarantino has been outspoken about the state of filmmaking. on me recent episode From the “Video Podcast Archives” of the director, the man who helped usher in the golden age of independent film with “Pulp Fiction,” declares that this is the “worst era in Hollywood history” matched only by the 1950s and 1980s.

“The good thing about being in a bad era of Hollywood cinema is (the films) don’t fit together [are] The ones that stand out from the packaging.”

And that may be the case. The problem is that this crop of non-conformists may not have a commercial reason to exist, at least as theatrical propositions.

Takes “She saidA strong look at A pair of crusading New York Times journalists Who helped expose decades of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse. The film garnered strong reviews and awards, but Universal Pictures’ release bombed last weekend, bringing in $2.2 million from 2,022 theaters. This is considered one of the worst results of a major studio launch in history.

Part of the problem, observers say, is that the film’s searing look at the abuse of power may not have been what audiences were hoping to see at a time when the headlines were — let’s be honest — so bleak. From Ukraine to the economy, there is much to worry about.

“It’s a tough sell,” says Sean Robbins, Senior Analyst, Boxoffice Pro. “People are looking for escapism now. Even masses of adults are looking for something to take them away from reality.”

She Said has great company when it comes to well-reviewed films that have collapsed on shoals of audience indifference. One by one, the tally of this year’s Oscar contenders has slipped, or at best, underperformed. Tár, a drama about sexual harassment in the world of classical music, took in $4.9 million in its seven weeks of release. “Armageddon Time,” a new movie that only made $1.8 million after a month in theaters. and “Triangle of Sorrow,” a satirical look at The One Percenters that has crept up to $3.8 million since opening in mid-October. “The Banshees of Inisherin'” and “Till” did slightly better, earning $7.1 million and $8.5 million, respectively, but their results didn’t quite ignite the box office; Both will likely struggle to make a profit on their theatrical shows.

“Across the board, it’s a scary time for prestige films,” says Jeff Bock, an analyst with exhibitor relations. “We may be witnessing a radical change in cinema. In the end, the audience decides what is being made and the audience is not currently choosing to see these films in cinemas.”

Privately, studio executives point to a number of culprits. They say this year’s awards films are too extreme, too underwhelming, and lack the A-list talent to convince audiences to turn up. They noted that there had been success stories earlier in the year — notably the adult-targeted “Elvis” that grossed $286 million worldwide, and “Everything Everywhere at the Same Time,” a major multiverse trek that garnered $103. Million dollars people all over the world while being seen as technically daring. But those films haven’t had to compete with a glut of other prestige fare, which could further crack an already shrinking audience base, which may be wary of hitting cinemas during COVID.

“There are a lot of haunting movies out there with an audience that might be a little reticent about returning to theaters,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “It might be too much of a good thing.”

Not everything is bleak and doom. “,” A horror comedy set in the world of haute cuisine, debuted this weekend with a steady $9 million. But it benefited from being connected to a genre that’s doing well at the box office (just look at the latest horror flicks like “Smile” and “Barbarian”), and had a much younger audience. Most “The Menu” ticket buyers were under the age of 35, while the majority of the “She Said” audience was over 45.

There are many films that border on this harsh environment for prestige fare. Among those hoping to defy the odds are Bones and All, a cannibal romance with Timothée Chalamet that opened with a limited release; “Fablemans,” Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical exploration of his childhood; and “Babylon,” a sprawling examination of the silent era of Hollywood boasted by Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. “The Fabelmans,” for example, It might just be heart-warming enough becoming a must-see for families during the holiday season, but even this movie, from one of the entertainment industry’s most successful filmmakers, faces major headwinds. As for Bones and All, crowd pulling might be too idiosyncratic, while Babylon might suffer from split reaction She received early offers.

Movie studios have always been risk averse, but their appetite for taking big flops has only waned in recent years. First, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon got in on the game, providing homes for passion projects by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Cuarón and conditioning consumers to watch these movies in their own homes. Then, a wave of corporate mergers, some caused by the pressing need of traditional media players to increase the streaming wars, led to fewer independent studios producing theatrical releases. I left too Parents of companies with a lot of debt, which makes them even more reluctant to greenlight the next historical drama or mystical Bildungsroman at a time when they need to clean up their balance sheets. All of this coincided with the pandemic Closed cinemas for nearly a year And they still refuse to die, as well as record inflation and a looming recession that have left people making hard choices about what to do with their dwindling discretionary resources.

So unless films like Chez Said start to do better at the box office, an entire segment of the theatrical film industry could be in jeopardy. Something needs to change quickly.

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