How the Weekend Demonstrated Everything We Love About Hollywood And Everything Disappointing About Its Audiences
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How the Weekend Demonstrated Everything We Love About Hollywood And Everything Disappointing About Its Audiences

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | August 26, 2013 | Comments ()


It’s been a lackluster summer, not in terms of box-office dollars (the summer is expected to be another record breaker), but in terms of the quality of films, although this is not unusual for a summer season more concerned with spectacle than quality. What is upsetting to me, however, is that for all the complaints about the tired, recycled movies, unoriginal premises, and formulaic plot lines, when Hollywood finally provides us with what we want, audiences fail to show up. We will spend the next two years gnashing teeth and showing our terrible claws at the casting of Ben Affleck in a movie that the Internet (including us) will devote 10,000 articles to and that will, in all likelihood, come and go in 2015 and be forgotten — save for the occasional best, worst, or most disappointing superhero film lists — the month after its release, and yet we ignore the very movies that we so desire to see.

Four of the best movies of 2013 were released this weekend, and their collective box-office fell nearly $10 million below what Fast and Furious 6 made in its third weekend. Granted, one of those films was released in only New York City and Los Angeles, while another has been on VOD for a month and only got a token theatrical release, but even if both of those films had been released wide, neither would’ve opened with more than $5 or $6 million, tops.

Over the course of the summer, people have complained loudly that Star Trek: Into Darkness was a weak sci-fi film and that Elysium was hugely disappointing in the wake of District 9, and yet those movies opened with $70 million and $30 million, respectively. The World’s End — an amazing, original sci-fi comedy with heart and humor, and everything that people say they want in a sci-fi movie — opened with $8.9 million this weekend. It scored a 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost don’t have the good looks of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Channing Tatum, so people stayed home and waited around for the MTV VMA’s.

People bitched incessantly about World War Z from the day they saw the very first trailer until weeks after its release, but when a good horror movie comes out like You’re Next, few care. World War Z has made $200 million at the box office; You’re Next opened with $7 million this weekend. Turns out, people would really rather watch and complain about Brad Pitt fighting off piles of wall-climbing CGI zombies while drinking Pepsi than a watch great horror movie made by great horror movie people. I guess there’s less to bitch about when it’s a good movie. Moreover, people have been SCREAMING that Hollywood film’s don’t feature enough kick-ass female characters, and You’re Next has the best horror-movie heroine since The Descent, but she’s not Charlize Theron, so f*ck it.

The Heat ($155 million), Grown Up 2 ($128 million), and We’re the Millers ($82 million and growing) were of varying levels of quality (I liked the first and the third, and hated the second), but none of the three had the creative spark, the chemistry, or the energy of Drinking Buddies, which was made for $47, some belly button lint, and a beer keg. But, you know: It didn’t have Sandra Bullock, Adam Sandler, or Jennifer Aniston, so why bother, right? Sandler and Aniston are two of the most maligned celebrities in Hollywood, but people would still rather pay to see their movies than to see the lovable, adorable Jake Johnson and the cute as a button if a button had sex appeal, Anna Kendrick, as well as the wildly sexy Olivia Wilde.

Short Term 12, which is currently sporting a 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been anointed the best movie of the year by many (including myself) opened in select theaters, and if it’s lucky, at the end of its run, it will make $10 million at the box office, even though the movie essentially has everything that audiences complain is missing in Hollywood: Heart, thoughtfulness; intelligence; great acting; and a good, small scale-story that doesn’t result in entire cities being wiped away. It will also make you cry buckets in a sweet way (rather than the traumatizing way). What it doesn’t have, however, is a comic book hero. Or a zombie. Or fast cars. Or Leonardo DiCaprio.

You’re Next, Short Term 12, Drinking Buddies and The World’s End were made by filmmakers driven by the desire to make great films, and not great profits. That’s what I loved about this weekend: That there are still directors, and actors, and screenwriters out there who prioritize filmmaking over the bottom line, even if the audiences don’t fully appreciate them for it. The World’s End was made by one of the geekiest directors on the planet, and the geekiest folks on the Internet (like Patton Oswalt) were pushing it, but the majority of “geeks” were too busy complaining about Ben Affleck to bother supporting their greatest champion. You’re Next not only had the support of, but starred such cult filmmakers as Ti West, Joe Swanberg (who directed Drinking Buddies), and Amy Seimetz, and it had the support of basically every horror and gorehound in the critical community, but horror geeks had better things to do than support originality. They’ll just wait until The Conjuring 2 comes out, I guess.

It’s encouraging to see that people with real talent are still allowed to make original, thoughtful movies that are distributed (kind of), but it continues to be disappointing to me that audiences that crave their movies don’t support them they way they should be supported. It must be so frustrating for guys like Edgar Wright, Joe Swanberg, Destin Cretton, or Joe Cornish (Attack of the Block) to peruse the Internet and see so many people decry the lack of a certain kind of film when they are filling that exact void. “What about my film? What about me?” I hear them screaming into their laptops. “We gave you exactly what you wanted, and you chose to go see Fast and Furious 6 instead.”

Don’t blame the filmmakers. Blame the audiences.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Chris

    Yes, it is annoying and my lack of contribution didn't help. I had been eagerly awaiting the release of "The World's End" and had every intention of giving it my money opening weekend . . . but then my wife begged me to hold off until this Thursday and I obliged after my terms were met. The sad thing here is that success is primarily built based upon opening weekend figures. If a movie doesn't open big enough the weekend it's released, it's at risk of a short shelf life. Fortunately, for "The World's End" and "You're Next" they are backed by strong word of mouth and both seem to be generating cult status. They should wind up doing better at the box office in the coming weeks so long as theaters are willing to give them a shot. One thing's for certain, these films will definitely outlast their peers in the long run and thank God for that!

  • Baphomitt

    First of all, You're Next was stupid. And, borderline slow-burn. Rehashing a home invasion flick with a dash of sarcasm doesnt really make a huge case for audiences to show up.

    Nothing but love for the Cornetto crew, but rehashing a bodysnatchers story (which was originally supposed to be the Shaun sequel) doesnt make a huge case for audiences to show up either.

    I ended up seeing WWZ to much chagrin after The Conjuring (also stupid, but listening to everyone else scream was fun) was sold out. I ended up really liking it despite it's slightly lackluster ending.

    Also, I was super excited to see Elysium (even though Blomkamp cribbed the ring world from previous authors) and though I liked it, it still had some pretty glaring flaws which all my friends were complaining about on facebook.

    All of this pretty much renders your article moot.

  • Homestar

    Okay, so, I live in nowhere, Texas. I have two theaters available to me, both 30-minute drive away. Neither of them are playing World's End or Drinking Buddies. At all. One is playing You're Next. I don't even have the energy to check if they're going to play Short Term 21, because it's really, really unlikely.

    If I lived in a real place, I would go see ALL of these movies. Instead I've had to content myself with The Heat (which I liked) and Elysium (which was strictly OK).

    It's a bit short-sighted and insulting to say that I, as an audience member who craves these movies, am not supporting the artists who make them. Fuck you. When they come out on DVD, I will rent them on iTunes or watch them on Netflix. I'm not made of money, so I can't really drive to a big city just to go see a movie, or even buy a DVD. I do what I can, where I can.

  • Dan Brown

    Drinking buddies is available on VOD and iTunes right now so provided you have internet in nowhere, Texas, you have no excuse.

  • Homestar

    Oh, actually, I do. It's too expensive on iTunes. I don't buy anything over $3.99. I am poor and need food for money and to pay vet bills and for gas. So I need to wait till it's on Netflix (which may be never) or the price goes down. I already subscribe to Netflix and Hulu+, so VOD is out for me. I have plenty of valid reasons.

  • Guest

    Saw World's End at 8PM on Saturday (Vancouver, Canada) and it was packed! However I was quite flummoxed by the audience's lack of retort. Two (clearly) stoners next to me gave the "weirdo" eye roll when I lost my shit during Nick Frost's walking-into-a-glass-door-while-drunk-rambling scene. Adam Sandler couldn't hold shit-on-a-match-stick up to this cast. What is wrong with this world?

  • DarthCorleone

    In my defense, I'm seeing almost *nothing* at the theaters these days. Ticket prices are outrageous, and most of the pressing water cooler material that I feel absolutely compelled to see right away is on television.

  • tracey8051

    Maybe it's because I live on a budget, but no matter how much I want to see a new movie, I won't until it shows up in the Redbox. It's too expensive to go to the movies, unless I'm taking my daughter to a matinee with my purse stuffed with drinks, candy, and popcorn we got at the grocery store that cost $3 for a bag that's bigger than my child. Oh yeah, I am that person.

  • Ditto. I have a movie budget and everything else is via Redbox.

  • Bothari

    Do rental numbers count anywhere? I know they track DVD sales and Netflix numbers and stuff, but does The (Movie) Man know that tracey8051 goes to Redbox, or that I rented Stoker and Upside Down from Hastings this weekend? Surely there are other ways to support filmmakers?

    I did go see World's End yesterday, and the theater wasn't packed. But I tried to do my part!

  • laylaness

    The World's End was fan-fucking-tastic. Edgar + Simon + Nick 4EVR

  • Classic

    The World's End was fantastic and heartbreaking when you get to the end. I loved it. I went home and promptly watched Hot Fuzz all over again :-)

  • DonnaSaurus

    I did my part and saw TWE Saturday. I would have seen it again in the theater but I ran out of free time this weekend. I told my hubby that we are going to see it together next weekend. I think it is one of the best movies I have seen in years.

  • I would love to see Short Term 10. Unfortunately it's not playing within 100 miles of my house. Is it supposed to open wide(r) in the next few weeks?

    Edit: nevermind i see it opens nationally 8/30

  • Uriah_Creep

    I would love to see Short Term 10.

    Is that an abridged version of Short Term 12, the movie Dustin likes so much?

  • yocean

    Talking with a friend of mine, it seems that general audience feelings are that if it does not have spectacles, it can wait till it becomes available in other forms. I do kind of understand in light of movie tickets getting more expensive, economy is bad, TV content is getting better and people are increasing better at finding ways to watch movies in their comfort. So maybe for the way for movie industry to survive is to do what Olivia Wilde said. Take away the stigma associated with direct to TV or video model and fill it with many many great movies that don't need to have bigger screens, although personally I believe movies are meant to be seen in a big screen. It does not seem like many filmmakers shares that ideal anymore anyways though.

  • Paultera

    Also, I've never even heard of Drinking Buddies. I've never seen any promotion for it at all. And You're Next isn't exactly promoting it any different than any other shitty horror film. The only way I heard it was actually decent was from people on Facebook saying it was.

  • PDamian

    I saw World's End in a theatre and loved every minute of it, but frankly, I really had to force myself to shut out the smartphone lights, whispering (and even conversation-level voices), and nasty little brat in the front row (why, oh why, must parents bring toddlers to movies the poor kids don't have a snowball's chance in hell of enjoying/understanding? They'll just whine and cry, anyways!).

    I don't have hard evidence to support this other than what I read here and in other movie-oriented blogs, magazines and other press, but I'm thinking that people who really love film are investing in good home theatre systems, leaving the multiplexes to teenage boys, raging adolescents, and parents looking to park the kiddies somewhere. There's no theatrical-release market for smaller, quality films, even in the so-called art house theatres, because movie lovers are staying home. Quite a few smaller movies have crashed and burned at the multiplex, only to make back the initial investment in DVD sales and video on demand. I can see a time coming when quality films will get only a VOD release, and the multiplexes will chase after the 13-year-old market. Anna Kendrick and Simon Pegg types will have their careers in the former, and Megan Fox and her ilk will dominate the latter.

  • GDI

    Alamo Drafthouse and it's kin need to be the national standard in theater viewing experience. I spent six months one night in San Antonio, and I must say, it was glorious to have all the obnoxious elements (smartphone lights, loud patrons, crying children) absent, plus the inclusion of beer and food delivered to your seat. Glorious I say!

    This is made greater when the ticket prices were still at the standard rate, while the food and beer delivery are hella pricy (but that should be expected).
    So, no one really loses here. Expect the shit heads.

  • mats19

    This is what is happening to the movie industry. Unless it's a blockbuster worthy of a giant screen why not wait to just netflix it... dvd it at home? not bother with the masses... people more and more don't want to deal with the shitty nature of others.

  • Paultera

    Exactly. It's a rare occasion that I want to see a movie bad enough to deal with an actual theater instead of waiting for DVD. Of course the one I DO want to see immediately isn't playing here.

  • Paultera

    I'm willing to go see The World's End 5 damn times if it was even fucking playing here. As of right now though, I have to either drive 3 1/2 hrs or wait until the local theater MAYBE brings it here. If the numbers are that bad I don't know if they will. I hate everything. Including Discus. Fuck.

  • tiny_bookbot

    Here's the thing, these movies aren't always playing in small-town Texas, or similar parts of the American Nowhere. I want to see Short Term 12 badly, but I would spend more time driving than I would watching it, and that's kind of where I draw the line. We've got theatre owners in some small towns who fight hard to get these movies out here, but they can't if the audiences in big urban centers don't turn out.

    I saw The World's End this weekend, and for an early afternoon showing, the theatre was pretty full. Bet it was packed out later in the evening. (Not bad for small-town Texas, I think.) I'm sure the film will do just fine overall--it's one of Wright's best opening weekends, and good word of mouth will probably give it staying power that will let it more than make back its $20 million budget on its American grosses alone.

  • alwaysanswerb

    Can we also blame marketing? I live in Los Angeles, so I'm arguably in a "high exposure" market, but I would have never heard of The World's End and You're Next and Short Term 12 without Pajiba. (Caveat: I don't have a TV. But I am on the internet for approximately 100 hours every day so there are definitely opportunities to reach me)

  • James

    No TV no Marketing. In the DC area I saw tons of TV commercials for The World's End. Still didn't see it. Not a fan of Shaun, never seen Hot Fuzz.

  • alwaysanswerb

    "No TV no Marketing"

    Yeah, I mean, I guess that's kind of the point. I'm not, by any stretch, the only "cord-cutter" out there, AND when you take into account all of the people with DVRs who fast forward through commercials, it seems very silly to still put so much focus on traditional TV marketing.

  • junierizzle

    I was surprised You're Next didn't do better. I also saw The World's End and to be honest I didn't think it was that good. But hey, I saw it.

  • Mike D Dubs

    The justification for your tirade is within the tirade itself. It's an old adage, but true nonetheless. Big studio movies are good for Hollywood, because they bring in the big bucks (or tax shelters as your recent article noted) and allow studios to take a flyer on movies like Short Term 12, World's End and the like. Even if they don't, it's not like there is a lack of great unappreciated gems being made.

    It actually confuses me when people get so up in arms about this. There are GREAT movies out there, and we get to see them. Does it really matter that Joe Shmoe pays to go see Grown Ups if we get what we want too? And in fact, isn't it a good thing if the shit movies help to subsidize true art that might not be understood at first as great? I guess if you work for a movie review website it would be frustrating to have to watch the shit, but luckily, I don't have to! So

  • marigi

    Exactly! Also, it's not "audiences" that ask for better movies, it's a part of the people within the general audiences. You're (we're) the target for many such movies and you/we anwer the call (except those that never go to theatres and wait for DVDs, which I'll never understand) while most people love Fast and Furious 6 and Grown Up 45 and they all line up to see that. Hollywood produces crap, both for cinema and tv, because that's what most people like to see. Then they reserve their gems for us, superior beings with superior taste so we can feel superior. I'll just add: we are superior. Like cats.

  • BWeaves

    I hate to say this, but I'm waiting for the good movies to come out on DVD or instant, so I can watch them at home, with my own chair, and my own food, and my own toilet, and I don't have to listen to other people breathe, or eat, or text, etc. etc.

  • marigi

    I really don't get this. I just love to see a movie on the big screen, the darkness, the keen attention that you reserve for the movie since you most probably can't get up anyways, the laughing or gasping with 100 strangers, trying to hide your tears, the trailers before the movie starts (sadly the best part, sometimes), waiting for the credits to end to see if there's an extra, the really big faces... I admit to feeling a certain satisfaction at scoffing if someone talks. But in general I love it! I've never been happier than when I saw Close Encounters on the big screen! It was as if I had never seen it before.
    Edit to add: I didn't mean any criticism. I meant I don't feel the same way. I hope I didn't sound snarky!

  • BWeaves

    I used to like seeing movies in theaters, back when my TV was 15" with huge pixels, and the theaters were really cool looking, and the audiences were polite, and they showed 2 or three shorts instead of 20 minutes of whatever that crap is they show now. Now I'd rather stay home with my big screen high def TV. I agree that some movies are better with an audience. I just don't like the theater going experience nowadays.

  • Kyle Robinson

    Plus the dread of handing out $12 for a movie. I usually wait for the local library to get the dvd/blu-ray.

  • Uriah_Creep

    You shouldn't hate saying it, B., you're speaking for a great many of us.

  • weetiger3

    "Don’t blame the filmmakers. Blame the audiences." It is this thought that compels me to venture to the art house theaters even when most of what is on offer is also on VOD and when the multiplex is more convenient. We get the movies we deserve.
    Btw, Ain't Them Bodies Saints was ethereally beautiful. Like Malick if Malick cared about narrative. Loved The World's End. Had to go home and watch SOTD and Hot Fuzz AGAIN.

  • ,

    "and has been anointed the best movie of the year by many"

    Jesus, still four months to go, aren't there? What's the fucking rush? You want to call it "best movie of the first eight months of 2013," I'm fine with that. That's accurate. But how do YOU know it's the best of the year? Now you've pretty much locked yourself in, haven't you? So what happens when something better comes along in September? And then in October? And then in November? Can't we wait until December before we start toting up best-of lists? Hey, why wait until the football season's over? Let's give out the Heisman Trophy right fucking now, then there won't be any surprises. Let's just declare the Braves the best team in baseball this year and dispense with the playoffs and World Series. Can't possibly be any team come along that's better than the Braves, so why waste time?

    Man, you've really annoyed me when I'm this bitchy and I'm HAVING my coffee.

  • JJ

    Of course no one is predicting the future. You don't read an implied "so far" in that sentence?

  • Some Guy

    I just want to know who these "many" are and why their opinions get to decide what is and what isn't the best of anything as subjective as what makes a good film that all audiences will enjoy.

  • TomOfTheDead

    I found The World's End abysmal. While Shaun and Hot Fuzz were confident, focused homages that played on the expectations of the genre, World's End was a jumbled mess of two different movies that was unfunny and schizophrenic. Like the filmmakers but this was an over praised mess. I had no rooting interest in anything going on.

  • emteem

    I saw The World's End and You're Next this weekend, and also finally got around to seeing The Conjuring, and enjoyed all of them immensely. I also enjoyed Fast and the Furious 6, World War Z, and Star Trek Into Darkness... so what do I know?

  • Kristin Longley

    I don't understand the griping of The World's End performance: that movie did EXCELLENTLY at theaters this weekend. Sure, it had the fourth highest dollar amount in total sales, but it had the HIGHEST (#1) per theater average!

  • Allijo

    The World's End was so much fun. I have to agree, I went to a 10pm showing Friday night and was surprised it wasn't more full. WTF geeks? Were you too busy signing the "Down With Batfleck" petition and trying to come up with the more witty and hateful Twitter/Reddit post instead of letting yourself smile for two hours? Do you not know what a Cornetto is? WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?!

  • Wednesday

    I saw it as a Saturday matinee and our theater was very full. Not jammed solid packed like the opening night of a Harry Potter movie, but very respectable for the first non-rainy Saturday we've had since May.

  • tmoney

    Out here in Montana, The World's End wasn't even in theatres, so that's my excuse.

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    I missed The World's End in the cinemas here (UK) and am kinda kicking myself, but hopefully won't have too long to wait for dvd. I'm unlikely to see You're Next at the cinema cos I'm a big scaredy cat and I need a cushion I can hold in front of my eyes for that sort of thing. Plus the extra fun that comes with being creeped out in your own home.

    I dunno when we get Drinking Buddies and I've never heard of the other one, but I'll keep an eye out.

  • Kirstini

    The World's End is still out this week in Scotland...

  • BiblioGlow

    Wait wait wait...are you telling us that in England, traveling to Scotland to watch a (awesome) movie is a thing? Like, people could feasibly do that?
    Dammit, I need to move to Europe.

  • Kirstini

    Ha! I suppose it might be technically possible if you're fairly close to the border. People in Edinburgh and Newcastle often go for day trips. No: I just meant that we tend to have similar release dates. I went to see The World's End last night and it's got another couple of weeks to run.

  • $65530708

    I expected The Worlds Ends box office totals to disappoint. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead (and Scott Pilgrim) had poor goes in the Muricas.

    The Worlds End is probably the best film I've seen this year followed by Star Trek: Into Darkness (yeah I know), I love both endlessly.

  • BiblioGlow

    I am upvoting you both for your excellent taste and for your icon picture.

  • $65530708


    When you look at Wright's films T.W.E's total falls inline. The film was poorly marketed and the audience was never going to go beyond those who already familiar and love Wright's past films and Spaced.

    I hope AntMan will finally get Wright the mainstream recognition he deserves but if history proves anything it will have a similar box office run.

  • Really, I *never* would've heard of The World's End if I didn't visit Pajiba every day. Most people have no idea what it is.

  • Good morning, Dustin! I hope you have a terrific week.

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