NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - "Brokeback Mountain" might not have earned the best picture Academy Award, but with three Oscars to its name, including Ang Lee's win as best director, the gay-cowboy romance may have more impact on Hollywood than any other of this year's nominees.
Having already earned $127 million worldwide, the Focus Features release is expected to pave the way for more gay-themed films, and in its wake, other projects about gay characters that have long languished in development are suddenly looking more viable.
They just don't get it, do they? After the second-lowest ratings for the Academy Awards since 1987, and a pack of movies that delivered at best good (Brokeback Mountain, with ~$80M domestic receipts off a production budget of $14M; Crash, with $53M gross against a PB of $6.5M) to disastrous (Munich, which outlaid $70M to sell $46M in tickets [None of the production budgets include marketing costs, which can and often do outstrip the initial shooting budget.]) returns -- Hollywood figures: Hey! More of the same!
Don't get me wrong -- the profits engendered by Brokeback and Crash are certainly acceptable; much better than the majority of movies which never turn a profit. But compare them to, say, The Passion of the Christ, which turned $55M in production and marketing into $612M grosses worldwide.
If this focus on money seems crass -- well, it is of course only one measure of a film's worth. But it is the only tangible one. The Hollywood studio heads are well aware of that, but their stony little hearts turn to mush when it comes to pushing their pet projects.
So, as the Reuters article spells out, prepare for a deluge of gay-themed movies. The suits have convinced themselves that Middle America craves more "chick flicks without chicks" (can't remember where I read that) and are stampeding to slap their dollars down at the cashier's cage.
Is that true? Brokeback was a) from a critically praised story; b) shot by an acclaimed, innovative director; c) featured magnificent scenery (Alberta, pretending to be
Montana Wyoming); d) something that generated an immense amount of buzz.
The more I look at it, though, the more this looks like a one-hit trend. Let's go to the books. Box Office Mojo (whence the above numbers were derived) also tracks daily grosses. There are no recent figures for Crash, which had dwindled to insignificance by September of last year (it will probably relaunch widely in the next few days). But Brokeback, which is still in wide release, has averaged a pathetic $225,000 (est., and dropping) over the last three days. Compare that to last year's Million Dollar Baby, which went on to rack up $36M in post-Oscar grosses. (It's not an exact comparison, as MDB won for both Best Director and Picture, but we got to work with what we got.)
Clearly, everyone who wanted to see Brokeback has seen it, with few returning for seconds.
Now maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is a great inchoate hunger out there for Brokeback and its successors, but I'm guessing not.
Certainly it wouldn't be the first time that people have thrown good money after bad -- Woody Allen, who seems to have the most patient investors in history, reputedly hasn't turned a profit on any of his films since Annie Hall.
This, however, fits my theory that Hollywood is combatting piracy by releasing movies that nobody wants to steal.