Reel Talk: So October was a disaster


Jillian Leiby, JagWire opinions editor

October was supposed to be the start of three months of great movies destined for the Oscars. When films announce releases in the later months of the year, usually they are highly anticipated, both critically and commercially. Except, no one went to see movies this month. And while I have a few theories as to why, this doesn’t bode well for the upcoming movies in the next two months.

If you, recall last week I wrote a blog about how great “Steve Jobs” is and how sad I was that no one saw it. It had a great cast and relatively large promotion. It was about a popular figure in modern history. I’m still upset that the film had such a unsuccessful wide release.

Then, this weekend, two strong prospects came out. “Our Brand is Crisis” featured American sweetheart Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-baity role that was completely different than her public persona. I figured adult audiences would eat that up. If not, “Burnt” featured audiences’ seemingly favorite things, food and Bradley Cooper (him and frequent co-star Sienna Miller were in “American Sniper,” after all). Plus, cross-promotion with food-based channels seemed to ensure a successful wide release.

Yet, both movies have been widely labeled as bombs. For what seems like the 10th week — but is probably closer to fourth — American audiences have decided to see “The Martian” again. Could it be the lukewarm reviews that critics gave both films listed above? Or are audiences revolting against edgy dramas?

Think about it. The last successful movie to come out in October was “Bridge of Spies.” Drama? Yes. Edgy? Absolutely not. Steven Spielberg is a fantastic director, but “Bridge of Spies” is very similar to many other dramas.

The promotion of films like “Burnt” or “Our Brand is Crisis,” or even “Crimson Peak” (which underperformed and was received just well enough with critics) seemed to promise a different kind of film: darkly comedic, or just dark. It seems audiences are gravitating toward eternally optimistic dramedies, shown primarily through the success of “The Martian” — and even “Goosebumps,” a fun semi-horror comedy that no one expected to do well.

What does this mean for the future? Well, next week, the semi-anticipated James Bond film, “Spectre,” comes out. The promotion of the film has been awful, with Daniel Craig trying to get out of the franchise by talking bad about it. Plus, the film has to make over $650 million in order to break even. So “Spectre” may not see much success.

Still, popular franchise movies such as “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” or “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” promise box office success, if not award season buzz. It seems that wide releases are recipes for disaster when it comes to award chances. If strong films want to make a mark, the smaller the release, the better. It was “Steve Jobs” after all that received a fantastic limited release but a terrible wide one. The irony that a critical success has to be a commercial failure is a little tough to take for this movie lover.

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