Weak 'Knight and Day' opening: The fall of Hollywood stars?
As Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz found out with the $3.8 million opening of 'Knight and Day,' audiences aren't so much looking for big-name Hollywood stars anymore.
Frank Masi/20th Century Fox/AP
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
If the $3.8 million Wednesday box office for the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action flick â€śKnight and Dayâ€ť is any sign, this may just turn into the summer that saw movie stars officially fall from grace.
With production costs topping $125 million, itâ€™s hard to see that tally as anything but tepid. Just compare that to say, the Wednesday opening numbers for other popcorn powerhouses such as â€śTransformers: Revenge of the Fallenâ€ť â€“ 62 million, or â€śSpider-Man 2,â€ť which took in $40.4 million on its Wednesday opening. Even Mr. Cruiseâ€™s own â€śWar of the Worldsâ€ť made $21.3 million, while â€śMission Impossible 2â€ť pulled in $12.5 million, both on mid-week debuts.
While Hollywood.com box office president Paul Dergarabedian politely dubs the filmâ€™s performance â€śacceptable,â€ť he notes that the few box office bright spots so far this summer are anything but star-driven: â€śKarate Kidâ€ť made nearly $56 million its first weekend and features the unknown Jaden Smith, while the Pixar family film â€śToy Story 3â€ť stars animated kidâ€™s playthings.
The trend away from big, star-driven vehicles wowing audiences every weekend has been brewing for some time, he points out, but this summer it may reach a new threshold he says, with little buzz building for such star vehicles as Angelina Jolieâ€™s bid to be a female James Bond in â€śSalt,â€ť and Adam Sandlerâ€™s â€śGrownups.â€ť
â€śMoviegoers are less and less looking for that big name,â€ť Mr. Dergarabedian says, adding that these days they are more attracted to a good concept or an interesting plot.
Movie stars are far from extinct, says Dan Hudak, multimedia film critic and creator of hudakonhollywood.com, but they are competing with too many other forms of entertainment to hold consumers' attention the way they used to. Beyond that, he points out, todayâ€™s actors want to stretch and try new genres but they do so at risk to their public persona. â€śBack in the old days if a tried and true star like John Wayne wanted to try something new,â€ť he says, the performer would be careful to extend into a role or genre that capitalized on the characteristics that made him famous.
â€śSo, for instance, Wayne would do a different kind of hero than a cowboy, but he would never stray from the things that drew people to him in the first place,â€ť he adds. These days, if a star such as Ms. Jolie dips into serious drama as she did with â€śThe Changelingâ€ť or â€śA Mighty Heart,â€ť both of which underperformed at the box office, it will be hard to come back to the action roles that earned her so many fans and turned her into a box office draw.
â€śA lot of time has passed since her last action outing,â€ť he adds. â€śFans have moved on.â€ť
The empty ticket lobby Wednesday night at the Pacific ArcLight Cinemas complex in Sherman Oaks â€“ with two more â€śKnight and Dayâ€ť showings to go â€“ tells the same story. Catching up with patrons as they straggled in from the parking garage suggests that everything but star power is at work in this summerâ€™s moviegoing.
â€śWatching the same faces in movie after movie is just boring,â€ť says thirty-something Eldad Sahar, who came to see â€śGet Him to the Greek.â€ť He adds that he liked the film because it doesnâ€™t have any big names but â€śitâ€™s about something â€“ itâ€™s about someone who is lonely and only has his art.â€ť
Nearby, 17 year-old Bella Israel, who is on her way to see â€śToy Story 3,â€ť has little awareness of movie stars. â€śI donâ€™t care about Tom Cruise,â€ť she says, but adds about "Knight and Day," â€śthe movie does look kind of interesting. I might go and see it later.â€ť
Movie-star power may not be as potent as it once was, but film economics researcher Julianne Treme from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, suggests that what matters more today is a sense of connection.
â€śIf fans feel they can relate to a celebrity,â€ť she says, over a sustained period of time, through everything from traditional print media to the most contemporary social media, including twitter, as long as it feels â€śreal,â€ť then they may be more likely to simply go to a movie because that star is in it. What does not help sustain star appeal, she adds, â€śare those quickie, manufactured appearances right before a movie comes out. â€śThey feel false and they do very little to help build star appeal.â€ť