January 25, 2022

The Oscars Want Crowd-Pleasers, but Where Are the Crowds?

It’s true that many of these Oscar contenders are aimed at older moviegoers, who have proved difficult to lure back to theaters during a prolonged pandemic. A smaller film like “Belfast” used to debut in a handful of cities, carefully building word of mouth with that core demographic as it expanded to new theaters every week. Now, distributors are so skittish about the absence of older audiences that many specialty films are shoved into hundreds of theaters right off the bat, expected to draw huge crowds from scratch.

Still, the underwhelming performance of these movies can’t be blamed on older moviegoers alone. Over the past few weeks, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has earned a staggering $621 million domestically, a total you simply can’t reach without every available demographic turning out in record numbers. If older adults are willing to go see “Spider-Man,” it becomes harder to make the argument that they can’t be wooed at all.

Marvel’s rising tide, though, has not lifted any boats: Instead, every other title is drowning. Are audiences really so skittish about seeing the most acclaimed films of the year? Or have these movies simply struggled to make the case that they’re worth watching?

I believe the latter issue bedeviled “West Side Story,” which seemed to have so much going for it when it debuted in December: Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie received rapturous reviews and is adapted from one of the most famous stage musicals of all time. Though “West Side Story” was originally intended to come out last winter, Disney executives delayed this exhilarating film a full year, expecting a four-quadrant smash.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/05/movies/oscars-box-office-spider-man.html

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