Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Hurt Locker Isn't Doing So Hot

uhm, isn’t The Hurt Locker an independent film? And wasn’t it Filmmaker Magazine that featured Katherine Bigelow on its cover last month? Or was that the cover of Nickoledeon or Star Magazine I saw her on? I’m pretty sure it was Filmmaker.

I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon reading countless articles, blog posts, and comments to blog posts about the humorless generation war started by Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott, and Jeffrey Wells, and other critics who are apalled at how poorly the box office and the response from the youth market has been for Hurt Locker.

These diatribes were then countered, very intelligently (and sometimes humorously), by Glenn Kenny, Drew McWeeny, and Steven Boone.

But no one has mentioned, as far as I know, the fact that thoughtful independent films Never make more than summer blockbusters, even if they’re thoughtful action films. So why are Ebert, Wells, and Scott singling out this year in film and ringing in the era that will see the death of intelligent film audiences?

As for the lack of interest on the part of kids for Hurt Locke, even independent horror films don't do as well as studio films. Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, two independent films that appealed to the audiences that Ebert and Scott wish would flock to Hurt Locker, combined, and to date, have made less than 75 million. The original Terminator, a brilliant action indie, has made $38,371,200. The original Rambo (First Blood) has grossed $47,212,904 in 29 years.

It is true, if not amazing, that Slumdog Millionaire has made 141 million bucks so far, but it cheated: It got the Academy Award. The Reader and Milk, both nominated for Oscars last year and box-office runners-up to Slumdog combined made 68 million dollars.

As for past generations of intelligent film audiences, Il Postino, Miramax’s film that ran, unbelievably, for over a year starting in 1995, has made, to date, domestically, under 22 million dollars. The most theaters it ever ran in was 430.

And Full Metal Jacket (1985), not exactly an indie per se, but a thoughtful war film made by a genius, has grossed $46,357,676 to date. It was made for $30 million and it made 2 million dollars its opening weekend (215 theaters). The Hurt Locker has made 1/5 of that in 7 weeks. Are film critics not also film historians? Maybe not all of them.

The real problem is not with the intelligence of film audiences, the intelligence of films, or even the intelligence of film editors (as Boone brilliantly argues). The real problem is that distributors, investors, and production companies are supporting intelligent, original, artistic, independent films less and less. And this is truly the most depressing and only downward spiral independent films have actually been caught in since Cassavetes made Faces. Thank god for the internet.

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