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When a film ‘flops’, always blame the actress

By Scott Mendelson When a film ‘flops’, always blame the actress. If a film doesn’t flop, call it a flop and blame the actress. If a film is a hit, blame the actor.

The Huffington Post linked to the AP box office analysis piece yesterday with their own headline, titled simply ‘Gwyneth flops’. It wasn’t a surprise, as Huff Post (which I of course contribute to) and other entertainment websites and publications never miss a chance to trash any given actress for anything whatsoever. Never mind that Country Strong was a $15 million picture that opened with $7.3 million in the first three days, guaranteeing long-term profitability. Never mind that the opening weekend of Country Strong was nearly double the single-largest weekend ($4.2 million) for last year’s Crazy Heart. It’s no fun to merely report that Paltrow’s small picture had a modest opening that was relatively successful in regards to its budget and Paltrow’s long untested drawing power. It’s so much easier (and more fun) to just proclaim the film a flop and take the bitch down a peg or two. Because it’s always the girl’s fault, even when there is no fault to be had.

When The Tourist opened slightly below expectations, the headline everywhere was ‘Angelina Jolie BOMBS’. If you didn’t know better, you’d have no idea that Johnny Depp was the co-star of said movie and thus shared at least partial responsibility for the film’s relative under-performance over its first weekend. And the following week saw the very disappointing opening weekend for the James L. Brooks romantic comedy How Do You Know? The film starred Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson. Do you think the headlines all screamed about the box office failure of the all-star cast? Of course not, the blame fell entirely on the shoulders of Reese Witherspoon (who received $15 million for the film), as if Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson had no star power that justified their (respectively) $10 million, $3 million, and $12 million paydays for the $120 million comedy.

And let’s not forget Nicole Kidman, who got tagged as ‘box office poison’ after a series of uber-expensive (and sometimes troubled) genre pictures only opened to ‘just’ $15-30 million. Did Will Ferrell’s career take any real damage after Bewitched opened to a ‘mere’ $20 million? Of course not. Did Daniel Craig take any of the blame for the disappointing opening numbers posted by The Invasion ($7.9 million) or The Golden Compass ($25 million)? Nope, he’s got a shiny new franchise this summer with Cowboys and Aliens, plus a starring role in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake (and if that tanks, it will fall entirely on the shoulders of virtual unknown Rooney Mara). Did Hugh Jackman share any of the responsibility when the $120 million Australia opened with $15 million over Thanksgiving 2008? Nope, he still was able to star in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and got to host the Oscars to boot. But Nicole Kidman is of course box office poison.

But what if the film is a hit? Well, if at all possible, find a way to give credit to the male lead. Sandra Bullock had her (at the time) biggest hit ever with The Proposal in June of 2009, but if you read much of the press that followed, you would have sworn that most of that $33 million opening weekend and $164 million total came from fans of co-star Ryan Reynolds. And The Ugly Truth opened with $27 million later that summer on the strength of Katherine Heigl and Gerald Butler. He may have deserved some of that credit, but much of the press acted as if Gerald Butler was a known entity when it came to opening romantic comedies. So if he gets half the credit for that solid hit, why did he get none of the blame when it was falsely reported that The Bounty Hunter was a flop upon opening with ‘just’ $20 million? Because his costar was Jennifer Aniston, and no one, I mean no one, misses a chance to trash Aniston (notice how Jason Bateman escaped unscathed for the The Switch).

Call it sexism. Call it laziness. Call it a crass knee-jerk reaction to appeal to the baser instincts of uninformed readers. But pay close attention after this year’s Oscar ceremony. If it goes well, then more power to everyone involved. But if it fails as entertainment, who do you think the press will aim their swords at, James Franco or Anne Hathaway? As always, we’ll see…

To read more about this article go to Mendelson Memos

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  • January 10, 2011 | Permalink |

    Great article – and so true.

  • January 10, 2011 | Permalink |

    I like you Mr Mendelson. Your point of view is great and SO true!!!!
    I’d like to see the whole world to read this article and especially the film industry world!!!!

  • January 10, 2011 | Permalink |

    Thank you for writing this article – it’s been infuriating reading all the Gwyneth bombs articles with no mention of how many screens it was on or the budget of the film. Very enlightening and much needed response to the sexism in this industry. Thank you again for the responsible journalism.

  • January 10, 2011 | Permalink |

    Correct. Ive always wondered why Holywood hates women sooo much,

  • January 11, 2011 | Permalink |

    Give me a break . ANiston has had chance after chance. No one starting calling her out until her fifith flop. But let it be ANGELINA jOLIE and the critics and tabloids blast her loudly , even when she has a $162 mill dollar film they call it a flop. SO I do not feel sorry for pathetic Aniston.

  • January 11, 2011 | Permalink |

    Plus if you check Jen’s movies budget and calculate how much they make worldwide and the dvd sales Jen’s movies really haven’t flopped at all

  • January 11, 2011 | Permalink |

    Scott, great article and I agree with much of what you said. However at this point I just want to correct what Cee said about Aniston. A film with a worldwide gross that is 2.5x a multiple of it’s production budget is likely to be profitable theatrically. One with a worldwide gross that is a 2.0x multiple will likely be profitable when DVD/PPV/TV are included.

    Aniston’s recent 2 films The Switch grossed 2.5x its budget and Bounty Hunter grossed 3.4x. That makes them both profitable theatrically. Her recent flops, Love Happens 2.0x and Management 0.3x. Prior to that she had 4 hits grossing 4,0x, 4.4x, 3.9x and 2.8x their budgets. In fact 12 of 21 or 57% of her movies have grossed 2.5x or better than their budgets.
    Jolie on the other hand has had 4 out of 24 movies, or 16.7% gross 2.5x or better. Those four movies are Salt 2.7x, Wanted 4.6x, MAMS 4.4x and the first Lara Croft 2.9x.

    Looking at films that have grossed 2.0x or better: Aniston has 15 of 21 or 71% while Jolie has 8 of 24 or 33%.

    It’s astounding to me how Jolie’s fans go around to blogs trashing Aniston using false information such as Cee did above by proclaiming that Aniston had 5 flops. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    By the way, the highest multiple where they were a star or co-star and had budgets over $10M for Aniston is 4.4x (not counting Bruce Almighty because she wasn’t a co-star) and Jolie is 4.6x. In comparison Sandra Bullock had Speed 11.7x, Blind Side 8.8x, Proposal 7.9x and Miss Congeniality 4.9x. Oh and Sandra had 14 of 30 films or 47% gross 2.5x or better.

  • January 11, 2011 | Permalink |

    does this guy here always defend Hollywood flops?

  • January 12, 2011 | Permalink |

    Thank you both Diane and Scott for pointing out the FACTS instead of going w/ blind untrue and unfair, never mind sexists tirades against all these actresses. Especially Jennifer Aniston. I have never seen so much blind hate for someone simply b/c they had the unfortunate luck to be the woman who got her heart broken by a cheating spouse and his fans and the woman he cheated w/ go after the wife. That’s like all the fans of a thief blindly hating and trashing every chance they get a robbery victim. No, people are not possessions, to be stolen, that was more a case of no integrity on the spouse’s part when they cheat, but to then go after the wronged spouse for over 5 years and to go out there and constantly make up lies about them is just sick and depraved. Thank you guys for bringing facts and reasons back in defense of these great actresses and especially Jennifer Aniston who I think has been totally wronged by the tabloid press and the loonies. I didn’t like The Bounty Hunter and I blamed the story & characters, and was surprised it did so well at the box office, but I was even more surprised that a sweet movie like The Switch got such a bad wrap when it’s such a warm hearted story. I don’t believe in blindly defending or attacking people, but I do believe in giving credit and criticism when it’s truly deserved, not just made up for sensationalism or a vendetta.

  • January 12, 2011 | Permalink |

    Also, I forgot to also thank Scott for shining light on this insidious act of sexism. Though it did bother me on some occasions that only one person got blamed or praised for a multi starring vehicle. that while one person’s career takes a tumble for a movie, their co-star got away completely unharmed. I had never realized how utterly pervasively sexist it was. I will never look at those types of headlines w/ blind acceptance again and I am so grateful for that.

  • January 16, 2011 | Permalink |

    Wow, I really hadn’t realized it, but what you say is so true. Glad you pointed it out. I’ll be looking with a more critical eye to the headlines, although I thought I was pretty jaded already. These days consumers have to be investigative journalists themselves just to figure out what’s true and what’s not. Mostly not. And the sexism in Hollywood is truly astounding. Kind of sickening in this day and age. Thanks for the eye opener.

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