The All Star flops of 2007

Sunday Times:

THE stars are failing to shine in Hollywood and it has nothing to do with smoke from the Californian wildfires. A series of recent box-office flops involving some of the film industry’s biggest names is worrying bankers and producers alike.

After a summer of expensive failures, Hollywood is questioning the wisdom of building projects around Oscar-winning superstars who command £10m or more per film. Of the 15 most successful American films this year – in terms of cash receipts – only one was a traditional star vehicle featuring an Alist actor: Wild Hogs, a motorcycle comedy with John Travolta.

Among the stars whom audiences ignored were George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry and Jodie Foster.

“Here’s the new benchmark for predicting box-office performance,” declared Peter Bart, editor of Variety, the film industry bible. “If a movie star heads the cast, downgrade the forecasts.”

Part of the problem, some insiders argue, is the increasing political activism of many Hollywood stars and the recent flood of “message” movies about the war in Iraq and the broader war on terror. “Not since the days of the [anti-communist] blacklist have politics figured so pervasively in Hollywood’s daily dialogue,” said Bart.

Yet the box-office evidence suggests that audiences seeking inspiration, laughter and escape are turning their backs on politically motivated films, however much the critics like them.

“Many of these recent dramas fail [to offer an escape],” said Brandon Gray of the website boxofficemojo.com. “They are too heavy-handed in their presentation.”

...

That is what happens when true believers make films for us unbelievers. This should mean less Hollywood cash for Democrats in 2008 and evidence of a rejection of the MoveOn Democrats and their message. We need more good news like this at the box office.

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