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Headline In Search of a Story: Franco’s Oscar Night Did Not Hurt Your Highness Box Office

Headline In Search of a Story: Franco's Oscar Night Did Not Hurt Your Highness Box Office

Thompson on Hollywood

Some online headline-mongering makes me crazy. Basically, the idea is to take a celebrity name and fashion a question around it. In this case, did James Franco’s lousy Oscar hosting lead to last weekend’s weak opening of Your Highness?

Please. There is no relationship between the two, no more than Your Highness co-star Natalie Portman’s Oscar win on the same night lead viewers to want to see the movie. Moviegoers saw the trailer (below), maybe read some negative reviews, and didn’t go. Franco was part of a sprawling ensemble led by Danny McBride and Portman.

Also, lest we forget, Franco hardly qualifies as a marquee star who anyone would expect to open a movie. He has never carried a big-budget feature, only indies. He was a supporting player in the Spider-Man series. I would argue that his appearance on the Oscars (and all the promo videos and tweets leading up to it, which were better received), along with his Oscar-nominated role in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, all served to enhance his TV Q and recognizability. The guy got lousy reviews for his hosting, but in this case all that publicity served to make him more of a name. Believe me, he came out ahead.

Did people watch the Oscars and say, ‘this guy sucks so bad I’ll never go to another one of his movies?’ I don’t think anyone will avoid Rise of the Planet of the Apes this summer just because Franco is in it.

But will The Wrap get enough clicks on that article to justify running something so inane–and wanting to do it again? This is what content farmers do: see what’s trending and stick some popular search terms into the headline: “James Franco,” “Oscars,” “Your Highness,” “box office.” It doesn’t matter if the story makes any sense.

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Thanks for writing this piece, Anne. In an effort to drive traffic, many sites write stories that have nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with wild speculation.

Stories like this also run the risk of becoming bigoted in their logic. If ‘Cloud Atlas’ flops upon release (which I have no reason to think it will), will the headline be that audiences stayed away because Lana Wachowski co-directed the film? It’s a very dangerous game being played for page views, and it’s not worth the cost.

On a side note, I saw ‘Your Highness’, and while it’s certainly not for everyone, James Franco and Natalie Portman both did excellent jobs playing characters who had no idea they were in a comedy–exactly what you want actors to do in that situation.

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