After the scripts got bad, many actors fled the romantic comedy lest they, too, be labeled box office poison.
58. The actor made his film debut with "Flying," also called "A Dream to Believe."
Who can blame them? All five are currently nominated for Academy Awards. The stigma against romantic-comedy roles is real. Just look at the patronizing surprise that McConaughey can actually act, as though every time he stripped off his shirt for Kate Hudson, he lost 10 IQ points. Accordingly, once-bankable rom-com stars like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks haven't touched the genre in years.
Streep's success at straddling both worlds should make them reconsider — though she is, of course, Meryl Streep. A massive romantic-comedy smash was once a sure-fire way for a starlet to become America's sweetheart. Yet today's young ingenues have avoided the genre, choosing instead to play the girlfriend to an inexhaustible supply of men in tights.
An equally big problem is that the kind of star who can open a movie — any movie, not just one based on a comic book or board game — is expensive. That's another reason that romantic comedies, which should be among the cheapest of genre films, are perceived as a risk. Brooks romantic comedy that banked its fortune on big names. But audiences aren't dumb.
Who Killed the Romantic Comedy?
That the major studios haven't funded another splashy romantic comedy since implies that they've once again drawn the wrong conclusion: If Reese and Jack can't make bank, why bother with the genre? The studios took a risk on unknown leads, and not only did they make huge profits but also launched careers that would go on to reap major dividends.
So what if the adage that stars sell romantic comedies is wrong? Or, more specifically, what if it has been exaggerated and misapplied? What if, instead of two stars or four stars — or, in the case of Valentine's Day , 14 stars — you need only one: the Richard Gere to your raw, red-haired beauty, the Billy Crystal to your untested blond soap actress? I think those actors help men feel more comfortable with the genre.
Perhaps, instead of an actress shortage, romantic comedies are experiencing an actor crisis.
But who would they act against? As counterintuitive as it is to suggest, what if the key to a successful romantic comedy isn't the actress but the actor? Deeds and Just Go With It — Adam Sandler has proven that men will buy tickets to romantic comedies that offer a male perspective. In fact, the last decade has seen as many male-driven hit romantic comedies as traditional female ones. The definition of a romantic comedy has stretched so much that the line where it stops and the R-rated sex comedy begins has become blurred: For every escapist stiletto flick, there's a raunchy Zack and Miri Make a Porno ; for every wedding-centric Made of Honor , there's a freewheeling No Strings Attached.
We all try to have relationships and keep things together. So why not do it in such a way where you can say 'fuck' 50 times and have a guy realize that he's falling in love? Call it evolution or devolution, but the change in tone dovetails with larger cultural changes: Both young men and women increasingly prioritize friends and careers over marriage and family.
People are dating longer, settling down later and seeing relationships less as a one-shot attempt at a soul mate and more as another chapter in their biography. Now, bittersweet — or at least ambiguous — endings are expected. In pursuit of emotional truth, love stories that could have been comedies have sobered up and become winsome romantic dramas like The Spectacular Now , Blue Jasmine and The Best Man Holiday. Even on television, you're seeing more shows with couples counselors as a character, so you're getting more of a sense of people working through things, as opposed to fate swooping in and making everything happen.
For Frost's clients, the glossed-over good cheer of romantic comedies can be depressing. It's not so romantic. They drink and sleep together on the first night, and it's, like, 'Whoa! How do we deal with that? The we-all-have-sex-and-drink-and-talk-dirty-and-swear romantic comedy, that sort of worked for a minute, but it seems to have gone away as quickly as it came. Recently, Barrymore took a four-year break from the genre. In May, however, she and Sandler return to romantic comedy with Warner Bros.
Still, by last decade's standards, Blended is unusual: Barrymore and Sandler play divorced parents on a blind date with their children in tow. By betting only on proven stars, the genre has been forced to age up; that, in turn, means fewer films about first weddings and more about middle-aged adults old enough to know that love might not last. It's much more about the how-to-make-it-work functionality of it all, and can that be joyful. If you can find happiness in your day-to-day life, that's far more valuable than a happy ending, because that's not the way reality works. Maybe the system is in overdrive, and people aren't just allowed to make a lot of throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks kind of romantic comedies.
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Maybe it's only going to be the much better ones that make it through. For now, however, she has embraced the bromance, even though it leaves actresses like her mulling their next movies. I feel like there's better chemistry between men right now than [between] males and females.
No love burns brighter than that between a superhero, his super-buddies and the studio that scores with their billion-dollar beer bash — especially when they can go back to the keg for another round. What made money in ? The ninth was a Disney cartoon; the 10th was Gravity — the sole stand-alone, adult-driven film.
Romantic comedies don't launch franchises. Where do you go after a happy ending? Stasis or divorce. With The Proposal 2: Propose Harder off the table, studios lack the incentive to fund films that are one-and-done.
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These days, they'd rather spend money repeating a proven hit. But the obsession with franchises comes with a high — and literal — cost. Blockbusters don't always make money, but they definitely spend it. Sequels seem to be the obvious answer when you scan the box office winners, but in terms of return on investment, they're a riskier bet.
Let's crunch the numbers. Spider-Man made more cash, but it wasn't as profitable. If studios shelved their weakest blockbuster, they could fund five to 10 additional midprice films a year. Even if every one of those didn't hit, enough would make their money back to compensate. Yet between and , the number of studio releases plummeted 37 percent. Two equalizers explain why studios prefer to release a handful of blockbusters instead of a large, diverse slate of midbudget flicks: merchandising and marketing. But you won't find an action figure of Bradley Cooper in sweatpants and a trash bag.
Then there are advertising costs. Even cheap films have to add on a whopping extra tax. So when Warner Bros. Tellingly, the Weinsteins were willing to spend money on Silver Linings Playbook primarily because of its tie-in Oscar campaign. The industry no longer has the energy for midlevel wins — it's gotta be all or nothing. In reaching for riches, it must embrace the world. In , the international box office was 51 percent of total movie sales.
Ten years later, it was 69 percent, and it continues to climb. The common wisdom is that international audiences shun romantic comedies — they're too wordy and culturally specific. If you want to sell abroad, make a cartoon or an action spectacular. In truth, foreign audiences like romantic comedies. Way back in — the prehistoric era of global promotions — Pretty Woman made Until , the No. Growing markets such as Russia have made local hits of lesser romantic comedies, like Gerald Butler's Playing the Field and Ashton Kutcher's Spread , which was never even released domestically.
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However, the growing giant is China, which last year edged out Japan as Hollywood's No. The reason for its increasing clout? Not so good for love stories. Still, even now, China imports only a quarter of studio releases. The vast majority of Hollywood films have zero need to please Chinese tastes: Three-quarters of them can't hustle for yuan. So while China appears to be a culprit, it's just an accomplice.
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- Who Killed the Romantic Comedy?!
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What killed the American comedy is closer to home. The truth is, like the murder victim in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express , the romantic comedy was slain by several assassins. While the growth of franchises and marketing budgets loaded the gun, it was expensive, slapped-together films like How Do You Know that underestimated the adult female audience and pulled the trigger.
But the bigger problem is that studios misread every clue that could have saved their damsels in distress: Instead of hunting for smart, modern scripts, they doubled down on wooing teenage boys. Instead of finding the next Kristen Wiig blockbuster, they punished Katherine Heigl. No one cross-examined the conventional wisdom, so Hollywood became convinced that romantic comedies can't sell.
The fact is, we've been here before. From the s through the late '70s, the romantic comedy was dead — in that era, a victim of the sexual revolution which made all plotlines seem obsolete and male auteurs too serious for light-hearted romance until happy surprises such as Annie Hall convinced them otherwise.
Even after Splash and Romancing the Stone proved the clout of a good rom-com, it took years for Hollywood to trust the messenger. When Harry Met Sally… and Pretty Woman were actually brave risks: studio-funded films with unknown leads, which also happened to be the only major romantic comedies released those years. Bold changes come from vacuums. We're seeing it happen now. If the major studios won't make romantic comedies, independent companies will. Only one studio offshoot seems to have figured out how to make it work: the Sony affiliate Screen Gems.
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