Feature film comedy is going through a best of times/worst of times period right now. On the one hand, Bridesmaids just became the highest-grossing film under the Judd Apatow umbrella, and The Hangover Part II has raked in a quarter of a billion dollars in the U.S. alone. In spite of those successes, studios are apparently getting wary of producing higher-budget comedies with big-name talent. The L.A. Times traces the decline from the days of $20-million-a-movie paychecks for comedians like Eddie Murphy to Cameron Diaz making $1 million this year for Bad Teacher, which was critically lambasted but is about to cross the $100 million mark worldwide.
Essentially it boils down to two big things: DVD sales and international box office. Live-action comedies don’t do as well overseas, with the most popular theory being that cultural comedy just doesn’t translate, whereas the broad family comedy of Rio, Kung-Fu Panda 2, or other animated films transcends all languages. As for the DVD sales, the Times article reports “DVD revenue for the average comedy plummeted 63% from 2006 to 2010,” which already sounds bad, but “compared with a 39% decline in the overall market,” is even worse.
The one bright spot could be that “Comedy is the No. 1 movie category for video-on-demand rentals,” although the hideous silver lining to that stat would be that “the most popular on-demand title of all time for Universal Pictures is the 2009 Vince Vaughn comedy Couples Retreat,” which technically fits the bill of an expensive comedy with top-billed talent—though again, that part about it being terrible...
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