When we first theorized about the exploding popularity of films in the genre we deemed the Blart, we had no idea that its burgeoning popularity would wreak so much havoc on one of our favorite genres, the highbrow adult drama. But as the Los Angeles Times points out today, State of Play (see David Edelstein’s review) is likely to be trounced at the box office this weekend by decidedly lowbrow escapist fare like the body-switching comedy 17 Again and the totally insane fanboy spankbait pic Crank 2. And while some will try to place the blame on the rotund midsection of the unkempt Russell Crowe, Universal production chief Donna Langley realizes that the market for films like this is not commensurate with the budgets that it takes to make these type of star-driven projects.
And she should know; Despite a boatload of press, her studio’s recent release of the Julia Roberts comeback vehicle Duplicity flamed out at the box office with a domestic gross of only $37 million (on a production budget of $60MM). It certainly didn’t help the studio’s margin that $20 million of that budget went to pay Julia Roberts, an actress whose star power is diminishing (Crowe got the same fee for State Of Play). “It will be awhile until there are a lot of really smart [studio] dramas,” Langely conceded. Don’t feel too bad for her, though; Universal was also the studio that funded Fast & Furious.
So what say you, VultureWatchers? Good riddance to films like this? Should big stars take smaller salaries to work in films like this? Is the indie-movie business model a better route to get “smart” stories on screen? Let us know what you think in the comments!