As of this year, begin to expect to see fewer romantic comedies at your local theater. There are six telling signs that spell trouble for the future of romantic comedies.
1. Romantic Comedies nixed by foreign markets
American made films are often making most of their revenue from overseas audiences (Examples are the Shrek films, Lord of the Rings series, Avatar). Because it is becoming the major profit center, producers are dramatically dropping and changing scripts to meet foreign tastes. The Wall Street Journal reports on this major trend and notes that the biggest casualty is romantic comedies. The Journal reports, “Studios are cutting back on standard Hollywood fare like romantic comedies because foreign movie-goers often don’t find American jokes all that funny.” Already many scripts are being shelved under this new paradigm.
2. Academy Awards changes doom romantic comedies
The other critical revenue driver in movies is the Oscars and they too do not bode well for romantic comedies. 2010 saw the first implementation the Oscar’s decision to expand the Best Picture category to 10 films instead of five. The idea was to give just credit and spotlight to the many quality films who keep getting shut-out of the coveted final list. The plan worked in 2010 for many ignored movie genres like lower-budget sci-fi (District 9), animated classics (Up), family films (Blind Side), and even violent cult films had their film represented (Inglorious Basterds). What did not make any of the top 10 was an outright comedy – especially a romantic comedy. Think about historic Oscar winners and you realize that comedies seldom win and movies with limited women roles (Hurt Locker? No country for old men?)
3. Cable re-runs not friendly to romantic comedies
Since the DVD market collapsed, the last big money-making part of the distribution chain is cable television re-runs. There is a major cable channel for most film genres where re-runs can live forever. Sci-fi films have the sci-fi channel, guy films have Spike TV, religious films have a dozen channels, and history films have the History Channel. Women channels and the Comedy Channel have to much diversity to give enough room for romantic comedies. The audience is just not there.
4. Women are cinematically flexible, men are not
During the screening of the much heralded Sex and the City news reporters could not help but mention that the premier was filled with 90% of women. Go to a G.I. Joe premiere and you have a majority of men but still would not be surprised to see a quarter of the film goers being women. Women movie goers are more likely to see a movie they do not want to see than most men are. The disparity may be minor, but when spread across all films it leaves box office results that producers refuse to ignore.
These four reasons will continue to put pressure of film producers to not invest in romantic comedies. We may soon see most romantic comedies being made with smaller budgets to survive. I hope the industry pools its creativity minds together to help find a way to keep these joyous and truly lovely movies alive and prosperous – despite looming setbacks.
5. Satisfaction levels plummets
The romantic comedy scripts coming out of Hollywood are not selling with women audiences. In 2010 Fandango issued a study and found out that 83% were “disappointed by Hollywood’s romantic comedy offerings of the year to date.” That is an astonishing number of dissatisfied customers. Some movies can better weather bad scripts such as blockbusters, animated or sci-fi films that hide bad scripts behind special effects. The same goes for kids’ films in which young movie goers see all old recycled movie script ideas as “brand new” for the first time. Male low-brow comedies have never felt the pressure for quality script writing as their counter audience of women targeted comedies. Romantic comedies have less room for error and at 82% dissatisfaction there are lots of errors being made.
6. Attendance sales drop
2010 Summer box office receipts show that there is a 3% drop in actual tickets sold compared to 2009 which was lower than the year before. Now all of the five bad signs working against romantic comedy scripts we have just listed has just been magnified.