Prestige Films, Made for Oscar, Fail to Impress
A year ago, Hollywood watched in despair as Oscar-oriented films like “Licorice Pizza” and “Nightmare Alley” flatlined at the box office. The day seemed to have finally arrived when prestige films were no longer viable in theaters and streaming had forever altered cinema.
But studios held out hope, deciding that November 2022 would give a more accurate reading of the marketplace. By then, the coronavirus would not be such a complicating factor. This fall would be a “last stand,” as some put it, a chance to show that more than superheroes and sequels could succeed.
It has been carnage.
One after another, films for grown-ups have failed to find an audience big enough to justify their cost. “Armageddon Time” cost roughly $30 million to make and market and collected $1.9 million at the North American box office. “Tár” cost at least $35 million, including marketing; ticket sales total $5.3 million. Universal spent around $55 million to make and market “She Said,” which also took in $5.3 million. “Devotion” cost well over $100 million and has generated $14 million in ticket sales.
Even a charmer from box office king Steven Spielberg has gotten off to a humdrum start. “The Fabelmans,” based on Spielberg’s adolescence, has collected $5.7 million in four weeks of limited play. Its budget was $40 million, not including marketing.
What is going on?
The problem is not quality; reviews have been exceptional. Rather, “people have grown comfortable watching these movies at home,” said David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office numbers.
Ever since Oscar-oriented films began showing up on streaming services in the late 2010s, Hollywood has worried that such movies would someday vanish from multiplexes. The diminishing importance of big screens was accentuated in March when, for the first time, a streaming film, “CODA,” from Apple TV+, won the Academy Award for best picture.
This is about more than money. Hollywood sees the shift as an affront to its identity. Film power players have long clung to the fantasy that the cultural world revolves around them, as if it were 1940. But that delusion is hard to sustain when their lone measuring stick — bodies in seats — reveals that the masses can’t be bothered to come watch the films that they prize most. Hollywood equates this with cultural irrelevancy.
文／Brooks Barnes 譯／羅方妤