The crappier the movie, the bigger the Box Office

Jan 31st, 2009 | By Editor | Category: Anthropology, Movies, The way we live, What's YOUR take on this?

This screencap from RottenTomatoes.com shows a spooky inverse correlation between quality and gross returnsLooking at the list of recently released movies, I see a really ironic trend. It seems that the higher the rating a movie gets on the tomatometer, the lower-grossing that movie will be at the Box Office. The obvious conclusion: Aim for crap! Eskew quality! Run from art!
Makes you think of The Producers, doesn’t it? It also explains, in plain math, why Hollywood keeps embracing projects like Dude Where’s My Car and Bride Wars instead of fostering the Kurosawas.

In all honesty, I don’t think that the public wants crap. I think that the public wants predictability, digestibility and comfort. Old reliable is what Joe Movie-watcher is looking for. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire may eventually get watched by the Dorkins and their kids over in Peoria, but it will not be an early adoption - they’ll be munching on popcorn between guffaws at Blart’s antics this weekend.

Movies continue to be a herd phenomenon. We ourselves don’t pander to our own individual tastes, we comply with the digestibility imperative by choosing movies that will be undoubtedly liked by our dates (years ago I attempted to watch a Claude Lelouch movie during a double-date; let’s just say it didn’t work out), movies that have a chance with our friends, our families, our kids. And that brings us to a dumbed-down common denominator. Box Office numbers are not friends of the long-tail.

Which seems to point at the fact that the individual is a more discerning consumer than the group. But perhaps it points at a deeper social dissonance, that the people we hang out with actually have so little in common with us that we can’t rely on our own taste to appeal to theirs? And that’s a headscratcher in itself.

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