The concern of the moment is that recently opened critical and film-festival favorites (Widows, Green Book, Boy Erased, The Front Runner, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Beautiful Boy) are underperforming or limping along while generic family-friendly sludge movies (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Creed II, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Bohemian Rhapsody, Instant Family, A Star Is Born) are making all the dough.
The general social-pledge attitude of the moviegoing audience used to be that (a) they would pay to see low-rent, mass-appeal popcorn fare (horror, CG-driven, superheroes, stupid comedies) all through the winter, spring, summer and early fall, but that (b) they’d willingly shift gears and pay to see prestigious, well-reviewed, award-contending movies in November and December.
The new general attitude seems to be “fuck the prestige human-drama movies…we’ll watch them on Netflix or Amazon when they come around in three or four months.” Even in the case of a feel-good flick like Green Book, which audiences are completely in love with (I heard yesterday that it got a standing ovation in Hartford from a regular paying audience)…even with Green Book they seem to be going “ehh, well, maybe not…I can wait.”
What’s happening here? What’s happened to the good old “okay, we’ll pay to see well-made, adult-friendly movies during the year-end holidays” contract? The willingness to engage with adult, semi-complex, reality-reflecting movies seems to be dwindling.
Question: Imagine if Sidney Lumet‘s The Verdict had never been made and released in ’82, but had been made by, say, Steve McQueen or David Fincher or David Gordon Green and released over the Thanksgiving holiday. If the McQueen-Fincher-Green version has been just as good as the Lumet, would it also be getting the bum’s rush from audiences? Or would it prove the exception to the rule?