The Box Office Sweet Spot -- Your Favorite Directors Aren't Very Popular
In other words, these directors are "pop-niche." They're not obscure, but they're not huge money-makers, either. They make films that appeal to a certain limited audience, and that limited audience tends to be readers like the ones here on Pajiba. In many cases, the directors themselves are more famous than their movies, and while many (most/all) have received critical acclaim, their box-office ceiling is probably around $20 - $25 million, with a few outliers that put that average in that sweet spot.
Now, of course, Whedon obviously won't be on this list very long -- The Avengers will rocket him off, although I suspect he'll be replaced by Edgar Wright, whose overall average box-office right now is $18 million. My guess is that Scott Pilgrim will make around $40 million and put Wright in the sweet spot. Spike Lee usually makes enough low-earners to average out his occasional hit, so he's likely to remain in the sweet spot, as well. As for the other eight: My guess is that they'll exist in this sweet spot for most, if not all, of their careers. I kind of appreciate that, if only because I'd consider seven or eight of these directors to be among my very favorites, and their films do well enough so that they can continue to make (low-budget) movies for years to come, but not so well that they'll likely be co-opted by mainstream America.
Here are the ten pop-niche directors whose average overall box-office gross rests in that $20 - $25 million Box Office Sweet Spot.
Wes Anderson -- $21 million average gross
Paul Thomas Anderson -- $21 million average gross
Kevin Smith -- $22 million average gross
Joel and Ethan Coen -- $25 million average gross
Sofia Coppola -- $21 million average gross
Terry Gilliam -- $24 million average gross
Mike Judge -- $21 million average gross
Spike Lee -- $20 million average gross
David O. Russell -- $22 million average gross
Joss Whedon -- $25 million average gross