Have the movie studios forgotten how to market good, heartfelt dramas?
Two of the best films this year, Mike Binder's Reign Over Me and Mia Nair's The Namesake, have been met with general disinterest at the U.S. box office. Reign Over Me, even with Adam Sandler in the cast, has taken in less than $20 million, while The Namesake has brought in less than half that.
Both are examples of the kind of film people insist Hollywood doesn't make anymore: dramas where the conflict is between people and ideas; where emotions are honestly portrayed with a minimum of pyrotechnics; where sex and violence are secondary (if present at all) to the story.
And both, at least judging by the people I've spoken to, are loved by those who bother to go see them. At The Charles, lines have been forming for The Namesake since it opened three weeks ago.
So why don't we hear more about these films? True, there were plenty of ads promoting Reign Over Me, but when it didn't have a killer opening weekend, most of them disappeared. And The Namesake was released by one of the smaller studios (Fox Searchlight), which traditionally doesn't have much to spend on advertising. Still, couldn't the parent company, Fox, have stepped in with a few million to help a quality film find an audience?
If studios would take just one-fifth of the advertising budget they lavish on such flotsam as Are We Done Yet? and Premonition and spend it smartly on quality films, here's betting they'd have a lot more hits on their hands.