LOS ANGELES, June 14 – An urgent meeting got under way in Universal City on Tuesday, as the executives who made the star-crossed film Cinderella Man mulled the miserable question of the day: What went wrong?
So begins this unintentionally revealing article from the NY Times. I haven’t seen this Manbiscuit wannabe yet, but I find this line of reasoning from an exec at Universal to be particularly troubling:
Mr. Shmuger noted somewhat bitterly that he repeatedly heard the complaint from cinephiles that there are no serious, adult dramas on studio schedules. Now that there was one, he said, moviegoers did not go.
“Despite all protest to the opposite, that audiences are clamoring for an alternative, I guess what they’re really looking for is what their behavior shows,” he said. “That’s terribly concerning.”
This takes for granted that the re-warmed meatloaf marketing campaign for Cinderfella somehow translates to cinephiles (hardcore or lightweight) as “serious, adult drama” and that just because audiences didn’t respond to their pandering, they necessarily desire more Mr and Mrs. Smiths. Perhaps optimistically, I like to think that most people don’t blow $10 on Mr. and Mrs. Smith out of of strong desire to see Branjelina go at it, but rather because its a better, less stultifying option than, say, Cinderfella. Is one really less insulting to the audience than another? Self-seriousness is only saleable up to a point.
Though Mr. Shmuger’s (and what more perfect name could we give to a studio exec?) comments just lead me to believe that the boxes containining “creative” executive imagination continue to shrink, the article did have this nice tidbit that made me smile:
“There are hardly words to describe how we all feel,” Mr. [Brian] Grazer said. “I feel like crying.”
Watching him with an Academy Award in his hands was pretty much the same thing for me.