Comedy films are seriously hurting
By Scott Bowles
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Comedy films have been no laughing matter of late.
Once a staple of summer and one of the most bankable genres, comedies have lost their box-office edge.
According to film tracking site The-numbers.com, comedies accounted for more than 25 percent of ticket sales a decade ago. This year, it's less than 12 percent, the lowest percentage in the modern era.
“It's not been a great bet for Hollywood lately, because studios love their franchises, love their trilogies,” says Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations. “And creating a sequel for a comedy is hard, let alone a trilogy.”
He points to the “Hangover” series as emblematic of comedy's woes. The 2009 original cost $35 million to make and earned $277 million. But the 2011 sequel was excoriated by critics and did a disappointing $255 million. And this year's third installment has stalled at $110 million since opening May 23.
“When a franchise that was that big does those kinds of numbers, studios take notice,” Bock says. “And the impression isn't favorable.”
Other reasons behind the decline:
Potty mouths. Today's comedies require coarse language “to sound realistic,” Bock says. “But an f-bomb is going to get you an R rating, which is automatically going to limit the box office you can do.”
The international market. Overseas revenues are important — they now make up at least 60 percent of a movie's overall business — but comedy takes a backseat to spectacle. “Comedy is harder to translate than special effects,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com's box-office division.
The little screen. As ticket prices continue to climb, “people need a good reason to go to the movies, spend the money, get a babysitter,” Dergarabedian says. “And there's a lot of competition from TV when it comes to comedy.”
There are stars who still shine in comedy, including Melissa McCarthy. She's in “The Heat,” a buddy-cop comedy, opposite Sandra Bullock. McCarthy anchored 2011's “Bridesmaids,” which did $169 million. And she co-stars with Jason Bateman in this year's biggest comedy to date, “Identity Thief,” which has collected $135 million since its Feb. 8 opening.
Analysts expect “The Heat” to do at least $150 million domestically.
“Maybe that changes the trend this summer,” Bock says. “Everything indicates ‘The Heat' is going to be huge. The studio will probably want a sequel, and will get one.”
Scott Bowles is a staff writer for USA Today.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Visit ‘Jerusalem’ on the big screen, if not in person
- ‘300’ sequel prettier, less thrilling
- ‘Elaine Stritch’ still seeks to grab the spotlight
- Fiennes a force in ‘Invisible Woman’
- ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ teach lessons old as time
- ‘In Bloom’ takes look at war without and within teen lives
- DVD reviews: ‘12 Years a Slave;’ ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and 'Oldboy'
- ‘Gravity’ wins 7 Oscars, but ‘Slave’ is best picture
- Pittsburgh-made movies in categories all their own
- Miyazaki fan Gordon-Levitt happy with role in director’s new film
- Ellen’s epic ‘selfie’ sets record, crashes Twitter