In today's Times, Brooks Barnes wonders if the failed movies of summer 2009 might finally spell the end for Hollywood's star system. And they might, finally! The same question seems to come up every year, but then some Will Smith stinker earns $700 million in its opening weekend and the studios reach for their checkbooks again. But maybe no more! With disappointing grosses for films top-lined by Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, John Travolta, Russell Crowe, and Will Ferrell this summer — plus no Smith blockbuster to disprove the trend, plus starless movies like Star Trek and District 9 making hiring famous people look wasteful — $20 million paydays might soon be reserved only for more deserving professional athletes.
Barnes speculates that Inglourious Basterds' presumed $30 million take this weekend could help turn things around a little, but nobody's counting on it to do Transformers dollars, and it certainly won't make for one of Brad Pitt's bigger openings. So, next summer, look for tent poles populated by total unknowns — and Zach Galifianakis, who will probably have to drive his formerly famous friends to their jobs as extras and caterers in his gold-plated Lamborghini.
A-List Stars Flailing at the Box Office [NYT]