Besides the overall box office slump this summer (which has been endlessly analyzed and dissected to the point of ridiculousness), Hollywood executives are trying to spin the spectacular failures of specific high-profile movies that were considered sure-fire successes. First, there was Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, which came out in June to mostly positive reviews and audience reaction, but did very weak numbers at the box office and slid off the charts very quickly. In the New York Times a few weeks later, Universal's Marc Shmuger gave this quote, blaming audiences for the film's failure: "Despite all protest to the opposite, that audiences are clamoring for an alternative, I guess what they're really looking for is what their behavior shows. That's terribly concerning." So, apparently the lesson here is: People don't want serious, adult dramas. People love mindless crap! They didn't go see this one movie, therefore we might as well just give up on serious movies about weighty subjects and make more gross-out comedies and horror sequels. Nowhere does anyone consider the idea that, hey, people do like serious, thoughtful dramas, but Cinderella Man was, I don't know, just not a very good movie. Imagine that! Thank goodness Hollywood knows exactly what audiences are thinking based on response to this one movie, and won't be overburdening movie-goers with anything that requires any thought. I was a little worried there.
Then there's The Island, which has gotten a lot more attention for its spectacular failure. Unlike Universal, who only learned one important lesson from the failure of Cinderella Man (audiences hate serious, adult dramas), the producers of The Island apparently learned several. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald tell Zap2it that the problems with their movie included: a bad title, a concept that was too complicated and too original (even though they're being sued for plagiarism), and stars who were just not popular enough. In particular, Scarlett Johansson, about whom MacDonald says, "Even lesser television actresses, quite honestly, would have more connection to that audience."
So how do they learn from these mistakes? "What everyone will do now, though, is you'll probably be a little more conservative in what you spend, the kind of casting you need to feel assured you can open the movie, putting it out in a time you feel it has its own space," MacDonald says. Much like the producers of Cinderella Man, they've learned valuable lessons about what audiences want: titles that spell out in painful detail exactly what the movie is about; concepts that are neither complicated nor original; and lesser stars who may not be good actors but have been on enough vapid TV shows to have a "connection" to their audience (read: stupid teenagers). Again, there's never any thought given to the idea that The Island just wasn't very good. Or, as FameTracker put it in its satirical list of "reasons" for the film's failure: "America's unpredictable and sudden shift toward hating crap." It's enough to make Michael Bay want to punch a few penguins.