Hollywood Seems Surprised That Highbrow Films Meant To Win Oscars Don’t Do Well

There’s a couple problems with making these films. First, those highbrow films aren’t really that good. They’re no better than lots of independent films that end up going right to streaming. Although, some of those low budget indies are actually good. They’re just missing that certain something (sometimes it’s money, sometimes experience, maybe something else) that makes them great. Second, they tend to be subjects that only attract a small number of people who are interested, and, only a portion of them will show up. Third, there aren’t all that many truly great films being made.

Take 2000. You had a sort of artsy film like “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” A damned good film in “Remember The Titans”. And then blockbusters, like Gladiator, X-Men, and Castaway. There were more than plenty to get people to the theaters. Nowadays, there aren’t many of those really good movies nor blockbusters

Highbrow Films Aimed at Winning Oscars Are Losing Audiences

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.

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.

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.

The NY Times article actually avoids the main problem: they are mostly not making films that people really care about. Even small ones for limited audiences. And they tend to over-add their messages to them, so, they are no longer fun. Godzilla is one of the greatest monster movies of all time, and it was certainly a message about the dangers of nuclear weapons testing. It was subtle, using a platform of “damn, that was a fun and great movie.” Nowadays they’re as subtle as a punch to the nads.

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.

Without the really great films, you won’t be able to do the artsy films. How many are willing to pay to see a lot of what are supposed to be blockbusters? I think people are tired of the constant superhero films. That’s about all we get. That’s not to say there aren’t some really good ones. There are. A goodly chunk seem to be on streaming. But, many of those do not have that certain something to make them memorable. Something you’d watch again and again. That you’d buy on DVD or download. Those which are supposed to be blockbusters, such as Black Adam, just aren’t that good. John Nolte makes a good point

The pattern of failure here is not just woketardery. If you look at the stunning failure of Lady Ghostbusters, Bros., In the Heights, and Woke Side Story, and the underperformance of Wakanda Forever, what you have here is one box office failure after another (I could name a dozen more) that is selling itself as a story about identity rather than character. (snip)

The world didn’t spend $5 billion to see Johnny Depp prance around as a pirate in one excellent, one okay, and three pretty bad movies because he’s white. The attraction was Captain Jack Sparrow, one of the most enjoyable characters created in the last 20 years.

There’s many an actor or actress that seem more like themselves than diving into a character. If you saw a Peter Sellers film, you saw him fall into a character. If you see Dwayne Johnson, it’s just “The Rock being The Rock”, as one review for Jungle Cruise mentioned. Ryan Reynolds is going the same way.

Ask 10 different specialty film executives to explain the box office, and you will get 10 different answers. There have been too many dramas in theaters lately, resulting in cannibalization; there have been too few, leaving audiences to look for options on streaming services. Everyone has been busy watching the World Cup on television. No, it’s television dramas like “The Crown” that have undercut these films.

Too many dramas with Woke, with Race, with Sexual Orientation, ones that patronize the audience, that are written in a way that people just lose the flow of the movie. The few horror in theaters, seem to be retreads. Or just bad. Halloween Ends? Terrible. Where’s the great science fiction? Yes, streaming is affecting the box office. With streaming, they can often do longer shows, rather than several multi-hour movies, and delve deep. Without streaming, would something like Amazon’s “Forever War” done well in the theaters? Probably so.

Others continue to advocate patience. Gross pointed out that “The Fabelmans” will roll into more theaters over the next month, hoping to capitalize on awards buzz — it is a front-runner for the 2023 best picture Oscar — and the end-of-year holidays. Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon,” a drug-and-sex-induced fever dream about early Hollywood, is scheduled for wide release Dec. 23.

“I think movies are going to come back,” Spielberg recently told The New York Times. “I really do.”

Does anyone even know what Babylon is about, if they’ve seen the commercials? I don’t. If I have to get on the ‘net to look it up, your advertising is a fail, so, why would I go? And it sounds rather dumb. A film-maker doing an indulgence film. And will probably crash and burn. I love films. I can look up and see a shelf with dozens of DVDs. And a cabinet with maybe a hundred more. And another which has more, along with a bunch of VHS tapes. And a box in the attic with lots more VHS. I used to go to the actual theater 5-10 times a year. There’s nothing these days that would get me in there. There’s a few released for streaming that would if they were theater only releases. Not that many, though.

Just make better movies. Look at the latest Top Gun. Simply meant to entertain. Was the original Friday the 13th a great film? No. It was good. It was damned fun. Entertaining. Something people could watch many times. That’s what’s being missed. It doesn’t matter if the reviewers and a small number of people think a movie has “quality.” It matters if the money paying audience wants to see, goes to see it, enjoys themselves, and tells their friends to see it.

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15 Responses to “Hollywood Seems Surprised That Highbrow Films Meant To Win Oscars Don’t Do Well”

  1. L.G.Brandon!, L.G.Brandon! says:

    I had an interesting day yesterday. I was asked to do a paramedic run in Tampa because “everyone” was busy (taking time off to shop). I went to a local hospital and received a little girl to be taken to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in SW Tampa.

    This beautiful little 6yo girl was born with a twisted spine and could neither stand nor walk. Her father is/was a fireman (hence the accommodation) but has been crippled in an accident two years ago and is with one leg in a wheelchair.

    We got the girl to the hospital and her mother and father went with us to her room. There were all kinds of pictures being taken and I looked at the mother. Her face was beautiful, rosy cheeks, smile, freckles, and a precious type of calm not exhibited by most women her age (I would guess around 28-30).

    There I was looking at this beautiful woman and her beautiful child and her average MAGA husband in his wheelchair and I thought how powerful this lady was to be here running the show for a fully dependent family. What an internal strength she showed. What a soul!

    Then I looked at her shirt which stated “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” and realized where her strength came from. Something animals like dowd will never know. LOL.

    As an aside I picked up my cruiser from drydock where it was stored since the hurricane. She’s running like a Scarab. It’s a tad chilly here (70) but later it should warm up so I may pick up a chick and go for a quick ride.

    • Elwood P. Dowd says:


      Is the ‘chick’ you plan to pick up your wife? Wear a condom this time, ‘daddy’. Abortions are becoming increasingly difficult for your victims.

      Millions of people have strengths, including millions with no belief in ‘Baby Jesus’.

      Uber-driver and barely-human animal Lucifer has no appreciation of the internal strength exhibited by millions.

      This ‘animal’ has been agnostic since high-school, married for 50 years to the same woman, grew up dirt poor, paid my way through college, not knocked up any strangers, never been responsible for an abortion, has paid millions in taxes, never been arrested, live in a small energy efficient home, own some 20 rifles, shotguns and pistols… I’m more conservative than you, Lucifer!!

      • L.G.Brandon!, L.G.Brandon! says:

        Don’t have a wife asshole. I have five girlfriends and a vasectomy. You know that so you are being obtuse. And hateful. And lying.

        Where did you get the “Uber driver” meme from? Just makin shit up right?

        I don’t believe one word of that made up biography of yours. Is this where you would call my wife a whore or wish I die from severe respiratory failure like you did Kye?


        • Elwood P. Dowd says:

          You have sex with women who are not your wife????

          And you call yourself a christian?

          Wow. Just wow.

          This is where I would call YOU a whore and a hypocrite. Why can’t you be like the unmarried Teach and abstain from sex?

          Are you sure I wished Kye would die of respiratory failure? It’s possible.

          I didn’t call Kye’s wife a whore, I mentioned “his whore” and he assumed I was referring to his wife. Easy mistake to make.

          You’re all a bunch of whiny babies. LOL. Man up!

        • Elwood P. Dowd says:

          Uber driver… It sounds like when the professionals are busy, they call you to give people a ride.

          You don’t believe my limited biography. So what.

          You history is about as conservative as your hero, trump. You’re both man-whores. And so proud of it! LOL. Pitiful.

  2. Dana says:

    Given that you can get a 60 inch high-def television for the price of about five movie nights at the theater, why go to the movie house for anything other than to get your hand down your girlfriend’s pants?

    • Elwood P. Dowd says:

      Mr Dana nailed it. Reasonably priced big TVs with great pictures and sound trump going to the movies.

      We go a few times a year with the kids to see action blockbusters. Otherwise, not worth the bother.

  3. Dana says:

    Basically, script writers are out of material. Everything is either a remake, or a superhero or action-adventure flick; they’re just out of new ideas.

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy was very well done, for what it was, but it wasn’t what it should have been. The filmmakers had to put together an action-adventure flick to sell it, but the books were about storytelling, and that was completely different. Good Lord, they left out Tom Bombadil completely!

    • Elwood P. Dowd says:

      Right again. Almost always the books are better.

      LOTR, The Shining, Jurassic Park (as great as the movie was, the book was a better story), Hitchhikers Guide, anything with Jim Carrey (Cat in the Hat, The Grinch),
      DUNE. Our granddaughter was disappointed in the Percy Jackson movies after reading the books.

      Some movies go beyond the story, e.g., Shawshank. Some good sci-fi books defy being made into movies, Demolished Man, Stranger in a Strange Land, although HBO is presenting a TV series version of the Three Body Problem next year.

      But some great movies came from original screenplays, Star Wars, LaLa Land, Usual Suspects, Casablanca, Citizen Kane.

      Money rules, and these days the money comes from all the supernatural, superhero movies.

      • Dana says:

        I would argue that the movie, The African Queen, was as good as the book.

        The Grinch cartoon was better than the Jim Carrey movie.

        I haven’t seen the recent Dune film, but I absolutely loved the campy, art deco 1984 film.

        • Elwood P. Dowd says:

          The Grinch cartoon is the classic. Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravenscroft.

          The new Dune was pretty good. Part II due in about a year.

  4. JimS says:

    Here’s my experience… The last movie I saw in a theater was one of the Star Trek reboots. I forget which one, it’s been so long. The over priced tickets and food, plus rude people make the “theater experience” less attractive.

    I haven’t heard of anything on streaming that I’d pay money for. Heck, I’m not even interested enough to resort to the “torrents” for the nuTrek shows, after seeing the samples they provided on Youtube. We have cable, but I don’t see much that interests me there either. I think we only get the movie channels because sis wants TCM and a couple other channels that are bundled in with the package.

    I watch a lot of over-the-air stuff… but not the current network fare. I usually skip over the X.1 subchannels and go right to the retro subs. Now if hollywood wanted to attract audience instead of virtue-signaling and posturing for each other, they’d make some stuff with 30s-70s sensibilities. Lets see some non-preachy entertainment.

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