What happened to studio comedy?
There was a time, not so long ago, when theatrical studio comedies dominated the box office and influenced the comedic tastes of countless fans. In the mid and late 2000s and until the early 2010s, studio comedies were the “hot” thing; movies like The hangover created franchises, while stars like Seth Rogen, Steve carell, and Will ferrell were brand names. Over the past few years, theatrical studio comedies have almost become non-existent, streaming has dominated the conversation, and almost every big comedy star has taken to streaming services.
Going back to 2011 and 2012 and you will find that there have been a lot of hit comedies, most of them R rated, that have become influential. Movies such as Bridesmaids, 21 rue du saut, Ted, and Horrible bosses were huge hits that seemed like more than just a typical comedy. These were films of lasting power, with plenty of gags perfect for discussion and discussion about water coolers before class started. Not only that, but these movies were big box office hits; Bridesmaids went on to make $ 169.1 million at the domestic box office, 21 rue du saut made $ 138.4 million, Ted collected $ 218.8 million, and Horrible bosses grossed $ 117.5 million and all of those films except one have had sequels. The budgets for these films were not high, with the most expensive film of the four listed being Ted to $ 65 million. These films were inexpensive to make and made a profit for the studio.
Looking at the late 2010s, one will find that highly regarded studio comedies were very rare. Game night was a huge hit with critics and audiences alike, but it only grossed $ 69.1 million at the domestic box office, about half of what Jason bateman‘s Identity thief received with a similar release date and less than stellar reviews. Blockers was another comedy that debuted not even a month and a half after the release of the Bateman vehicle which also received high critical ratings but didn’t make much money at the domestic box office. While Game nightAs the popularity of grew upon its home release, it would be easy to think that if the film had been released even four years earlier, the film would likely have done well enough to land a sequel. In fact, the only R-rated studio comedies to earn more than $ 100 million at the domestic box office between 2016 and 2019 were Bad moms and Girls travel. As the typical big studio comedy has become almost non-existent, the obvious answer would be that in reality these comedies don’t make the same profit as before.
The age of the movie star is slowly fading away and many of comedy’s biggest stars such as Adam sandler have made comedy films almost exclusively for streamers, with varying levels of success. Kevin hart and Melissa McCarthy were actually the only two comedy stars who could sell tickets with their names alone. After a while, audiences grew tired of McCarthy’s comedic vehicles, with diminishing returns on his comedies. The life of the party and The Happytime Murders. This led McCarthy to go streaming with his last two comedies. Super intelligence and Thunder force landing on HBO Max and Netflix respectively. Hart, in recent years, has been one of the only comedy superstars in Hollywood, but even he decided to leave the cinema behind and sign a multi-movie deal with Netflix starting with Me time, in which he will play alongside Mark Wahlberg.
The path to streaming is marked with an asterisk, because last year studios had no choice but to ship their movies on VOD or sell them to streamers. That being said, Borat Post Moviefilm was the first major comedy in years to become a national phenomenon when it hit Amazon Prime Video last October and later even garnered multiple Oscar nominations, which is pretty rare for a studio comedy, not to mention a sequel. The sequel had the huge advantage of being part of a well-known intellectual property, big marketing campaign, and being released in time for the 2020 US presidential election. Coming 2 America, another high-profile comedy sequel found itself sold by Paramount to Amazon, and while it certainly didn’t receive the same success as Borat Post Moviefilm, it still managed to attract a large number of viewers.
Studio comedy sees a change. Theatrical studio comedies are becoming less and less common, and now streaming services are getting into the fun. It’s hard to say how a movie like Eurovision Song Contest: The History of Fire Saga Where Murder Mystery would have done if it was released in theaters, but they dominated in their streaming release. Comedy has always been a difficult genre to pull off and in the years leading up to the pandemic, even top R-rated theatricals suffered not only financially but also critically; movies like The Happytime Murders, The spy who dumped me, and Stuber couldn’t make ends meet in either department. Meanwhile, similar movies like Spenser Confidential turned out to be giant hits for Netflix.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the comedy genre is dead in the water, and it would be hard to find anyone who would go so far as to say that. Comedy still finds its way into most of the best box office movies, from superhero movies to genre fare. But can we really consider films like free guy and Jumanji: the next level be simple comedies when in reality they look more like event films? The broad comedy genre is still alive and well, but it is making its streaming debut compared to theaters. Holiday friends, a comedy produced by 20th Century Studios exclusively for Hulu, is said to have broken records during its opening weekend.
While these streamer-released comedies may not fully qualify as true studio comedies, they are still very similar to the films that hit theaters 9-10 years ago. While it has become more common for large companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple to release blockbuster movies with budgets over $ 100 million on their streaming services, there is also no sign that their comedy films directed by stars are leaving anytime soon. It seems like every two years Sandler renews his Netflix movie offerings and time will tell if Hart takes a similar path.
The theatrical releases now seem to be more focused on event films; films that deserve to be seen on the big screen. While it’s really fun to see the latest sizzling comedy with a big interactive crowd, sadly that’s not what audiences flock to see. There is always the possibility that a bona fide studio comedy will make waves at the box office in the future, but the more streaming continues to dominate, the more that possibility diminishes.
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The “Premise” Episode 2 star also gives some information about her role in Netflix’s “The Sandman”.
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