Star power permanently dims at BO?

By Robert Marich

   Aug. 21, 2009 – Star power is still fading at the box office, notes a New York Times article that suggests the norm of $20 million paychecks for top actors is under threat.

   “Never have so many [films] failed to deliver, resulting in some rare soul-searching by motion picture studios about why the old formula isn’t working,” notes the article by Brooks Barnes. At the start of this decade in 2000, the top summer films belonged to stars such as Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible), Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and George Clooney (Perfect Storm).
   This summer, a succession of star-fronted films bombed or underperformed: Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost and youth idol Jack Black in Year One both tanked. Meanwhile, other star vehicles underwhelmed with Julia Roberts in Duplicity, Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons, Johnny Depp in Public Enemies, and Denzel Washington and John Travolta (two stars!) in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.
   The most insightful comment in the article comes from Marc Shmuger, chairman of Universal Pictures, who said, “Stars will always be important, but the industry is definitely seeing a transformation in their ability to open movies.”
   The New York Times article continues: “Talent agents argue that stars are not to blame, faulting script concepts that fail to translate to the screen, poor release dates, awkward marketing or ill-advised efforts by popular actors to stretch in new directions. But many people think a new phenomenon has popped up in recent months to undercut stars. The surge in social networking services like Twitter and Facebook, not to mention text messaging, has made it much harder for studios to persuade consumers that the movies are worth their time.”
   Marketing to Moviegoers: Second Edition would chime audience tastes go through hard-to-understand shifts in the pendulum. Westerns are out, and then Clint Eastwood hit the jackpot with Unforgiven.  R-rated young adult comedies are considered a bad bet but then The Hangover and Tropic Thunder surprise. After a while, what is favored – at the moment it is loud, action-packed PG-13 special effects extravaganzas -- experiences burnout and old favorites return to prominence.

   For full text, click link below: