Box Office Poison or Box Office Proliferation?


Tammy Bruce is quick to finger the real culprit in Hollywood's bad B.O.:

Hollywood honchos continue to wring their hands over why you've stopped going to the movies. They blame ticket prices and DVD availability. They had better start considering the fact that filmmakers are so disconnected, so nihilistic, that the hopelessness and hostility they feel toward the world now permeates their work. Americans will no longer go see movies which are nothing more than the manifestation of the backwash of malignant narcissists. We're also sick and tired of listening to actors lecture us about how awful the US is, and more recently, why a cold-blooded mass murdering gang founder should have been given clemency. Enough is enough.

For Bruce, flicks like the gay cowboy joint Brokeback Mountain (Same Time Next Year meets The Boys in the Band!) have poisoned the box office. Let's leave aside the rather obvious point that all cowboy movies are gay cowboy movies and that John Wayne hisself sashayed like, well, Gary Cooper, fer chrissakes. Bruce links to this AP story at the excellent aggregator site,, which in part notes:

The last in the "Star Wars" series raked in a whopping 380 million dollars in North American box office, "War of the Worlds," starring Tom Cruise took 234 million, the comedy "Wedding Crashers" notched up 208 million in ticket receipts and Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" took 206 million.

But the successes were few and far between in 2005.

Ron Howard's 88-million-dollar biopic "Cinderella Man," starring Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger, took only 61 million dollars, while Ridley Scott's crusade epic "Kingdom of Heaven," which cost 130 million dollars to make, reaped only 47 million at the all-important domestic the box office.

Other fizzlers that did not recoup their budgets included the much-touted sci-fi flop "The Island," which hauled in only 35 million dollars, while Jamie Foxx's military drama "Stealth" bombed with a US and Canadian haul of 31 million dollars. It quickly disappeared from screens.

"Movie goers are very picky and they want the price of the ticket to be worthwhile, the studios had to offer more," said Gitesh Pandya of movie industry tracker Box Office Guru.

"There should be more creativity and new ideas, not just sequels and remake. Let's hope Hollywood listens to the audiences," he added.

While conservatives are quick to point to the success of ideologically simpatico films such as The Passion of the Christ and Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (which is kicking Anglican ass at the box office), they tend to be silent on the failure of simpatico bombs such as Cinderella Man.

More to the point, these stories tend to conflate Hollywood's bottom line with something those of us not in the movie industry should really give a shit about. The real question for the vast majority of us whose personal wealth is not tied to Paramount Pictures is whether we've got more choices to pick from. It's not a great week if alternative lifestyles offend you (and that goes equally for right-wingers who hate gays and left-wingers who hate Christians). But the point of a semi-free society is that your right to live your life is predicated upon my right to live my life, not that you get to reorder the entire world to suit your own personal preferences.

And in that sense, it's a pretty great week in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave when you can pick between a Christian allegory such as Narnia (distributed by gay-friendly Disney, the same studio reviled by right-wingers for releasing the "nihilistic" mega-hit Pulp Fiction a few years back) and a love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name-saga such as Brokeback Mountain (a movie considerably less gay than director Ang Lee's previous effort The Hulk and, by all accounts, infinitely more watchable).

I wrote about the upside of Hollywood's slumping sales earlier this year. That's online here. And Michael Valdez Moses took the measure of the post 9/11 action hero for us here.