The box office this weekend saw one huge hit (The Croods opened with $45 million, and another $62 million overseas, and after watching it with a five year old, I think it deserves every goddamn penny), one surprise hit (Gerard Butler’s generic seeming Olympus Has Fallen scored a whopping $30 million), and one flop. Admission, starring two of the most well liked celebrities on the planet, in Paul Rudd and Tina Fey, opened at number 5 with a meager $6.4 million, barely edging Harmony Korrine’s Spring Breakers ($5 million) despite being on over 1,000 screens more than Admission. Likable stars don’t mean a lot, it seems, when it comes to a feature film’s success, and that’s doubly so for television stars. Tina Fey had been lucky up until now, starring in a string of solid performers (Mean Girls, Baby Mama and Date Night), but that luck finally ran out.
It is not unusual, however, for a well-liked television star to embark on a feature film career and fail. That television star’s likability, in fact, seems almost irrelevant. It’s almost like a blogger — who may get millions of page views per day — that goes out and tries to write a book. Typically, those page views just don’t translate into book sales.
Here are ten examples of well liked television stars failing to translate that likability into box-office coin.
Kristen Bell — She did well as the ex-girlfriend in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but the beloved “Veronica Mars” star has not done well in leading romantic comedy roles, from Hit and Run ($13 million) to You Again ($25 million), to When in Rome ($25 million). She’s back on TV where she belongs, and it remains to be seen whether that beloved television show will do well at the box office.
Andy Samberg — Well liked on “Saturday Night Live,” mostly because of his hugely popular Digital Shorts, Samberg could not translate that into a big screen career, starting with Hot Rod ($13 million) and ending with Celeste and Jesse ($3 million), with Adam Sandler’s biggest flop in years (That’s My Boy, $36 million) in between. It’s no wonder Samberg is headed back to television this fall.
Adam Scott — Maybe it’s unfair to include Scott on this list given how few lead credits he has to his name, but considering how loved he is on “Parks and Recreation,” he should’ve had more chances than Friend with Kids ($7 million), Bachelorette ($447,000), Lovely, Still ($127,000) and the still unreleased See Girl Run, all of which featured Scott in leading man roles.
John Krasinski — It looked like Krasinski would be “The Office’s” break-out star (instead of Steve Carell), but thanks to a mixture of bad choices and television audiences refusing to follow him to the big screen, Krasinski’s feature film career has stalled: License to Wed ($43 million), Leatherheads ($31 million), Away We Go ($9 million), Brief Interviews with Hideous Men ($33,000), Something Borrowed ($39 million), Nobody Walks ($25,000), Promised Land ($7 million) and Big Miracle ($20 million) all underperformed.
Zach Braff — The “Scrubs” star looked well on his way with his directing debut Garden State ($26 million), but his leading man efforts faltered from there: The Last Kiss ($11 million), The Ex ($3 million), and The Hight Cost of Living, which went straight to DVD.
Alexis Bledel — So beloved for her years’ long turn as Rory Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls,” Bledel crashed and burned on the big screen with Post Grad ($6 million) and The Good Guy ($100,000), which is why — after an arc on “Mad Men,” Bledel is heading back to television with a pilot for Fox opposite Jason Ritter.
Bill Cosby — One of the most beloved television actors of all time, Cosby could not convince anyone to see his forays into film. Leonard Part 6 ($6 million) is one of the biggest busts of all time, and Ghost Dad ($24 million) didn’t fare much better.
Ricky Gervais — I don’t know that Gervais is someone we “like,” but we do love his television shows, from “The Office” to “Extras” (although, “Life’s Too Short” was kind of crap), and yet, as a lead film actor, Gervais has not done well: Ghost Town ($13 million) and The Invention of Lying ($18 million) failed to break $20 million, and his stab at directing and starring in Cemetery Junction didn’t even cause a blip stateside.
Matthew Perry — The most loved actor from friends, Matthew Perry tried and failed to launch a film career with such duds as Fools Rush In ($29 million), Almost Heroes ($6 million), Serving Sarah ($16 million), and Three to Tango ($10 million). He did land decent numbers with 17 Again ($64 million), but most of that can be attributed to Zac Efron at the height of his popularity.
Timothy Olyphant — Beloved in “Deadwood,” Olyphant has mostly kept himself to television since “Justified,” which is smart considering how badly his films underperformed: I Am Number Four ($55 million), Hitman ($39 million), The Perfect Getaway ($15 million), Catch and Release ($15 million), High Life (unreleased) and The Crazies ($39 million) never managed to turn Olyphant into a film star. That’s been our good fortune.
Elizabeth Banks — Banks is a prolific movie actor, but she’s most beloved on television (where she belongs), from “30 Rock” to “Scrubs” to “Modern Family,” but when she’s asked to help carry a movie as one of the leads, no one turns out for her. See What to Expect When You’re Expecting ($41 million), Man on a Ledge ($18 million), The Details ($63,000), Idiot Brother ($24 million) and People Like Us ($12 million). In fact, she and Paul Rudd should star in their own sitcom. They’d be perfect on television, where audiences will turn out for an attractive, likable face.