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December 30, 2016

Why Do Progressive Movies Like "Miss Sloane" Keep Cratering?

First, let's get the factual predicate out of the way: the anti-gun, NRA-Are-Big-Meanies film Miss Sloane is an enormous failure.

[T]wo weeks after its national release, it has made only $3.2 million. During its second weekend, it averaged just $102 per movie theater per day. With a ticket price of $10.30 per adult, that comes to an average of only 9.9 people a day seeing the movie in any given theater. At least people had no problem finding a good seat.

And it wasn't for lack of trying to get people to show up. Out of the 200 highest-grossing movies of 2016, only ten exceeded the $15.9 million television advertising budget of Miss Sloane, and seven of those did so by very small amounts. Miss Sloane spent more than the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, Star Trek, Pete’s Dragon, Arrival, Doctor Strange, and Hacksaw Ridge. It had twice the advertising budget of such hits as Sully, The Girl on the Train, and The Secret Life of Pets. For every dollar spent on advertising, Miss Sloane brought in just 21 cents in ticket sales.

By this measure, it came in dead last out of the 200 top-grossing movies in 2016. No one else was even close. Coming in second-to-last was Collateral Beauty, which made 53 cents per advertising dollar. The average movie made almost $2 for each dollar spent on advertising.

Let me propose a theory, which I think is original, as to why progressive movies keep bombing.

The key to any exploitation movie the novel depiction some trend or fad. It has to be novel. Surfing movies were gonzo box office in 1967 but not so much now.

These exploitation films -- progsploitation movies -- seek to exploit a faddish interest in progressive political "discourse."

And it's not that there's no audience for this. There is. Even if you say "Progressive movies alienate half the country" -- so what? You don't need but 1% of the country to see your movie and you've got a hit.

Action movies alienate more than half the country-- the half that just doesn't like action movies or violence in films. Yet they frequently make a lot of money.

That's not the problem, I don't think.

It's not that there is no interest in progsploitation.

It's that the market is already saturated with progsploitation material -- on television.

In the 1950s, Hollywood faced an existential threat. And I don't mean from Joe McCarthy or Richard Nixon or even Robert F. Kennedy.

I mean they faced the existential threat of a new entrant into the market, and one with huge advantages over movies -- TV shows were free (or free-ish, once you got past the big initial investment and once you accepted that the "charge" for TV was permitting your mind to be rented for advertising).

And TV was remarkably convenient -- you didn't even have to leave your couch.

Hollywood responded to this threat by offering up technical spectacles that TV just couldn't. They offered color. They offered even Technicolor, whatever that is. They offered widescreen and Cinemascope.

They began focusing on fare that TV wasn't offering -- fewer movies were set in homes and offices, more were set in great open deserts, whether those of the old American west or the Biblical near east.

Knowing they could not compete on any grounds that TV could compete on, Hollywood did its level best to offer stuff TV couldn't.

Compare that to today.

Are movies like Miss Sloane offering the public things they can't see on easy, comfy-couch TV?

Well, Law & Order notoriously offered progsploitation political themes for 14 or 15 years straight. It was never about the murder -- no, it was about the gun manufacturer who made the gun that wound up in the murderer's hands.

Shows like The Good Wife and Madame Secretary and all the rest of the programming-for-progressive-women offer up progressive political themes every single week.

I'm sure Miss Sloane offers up some rapid-fire (and very dubious) #GunFacts as some progsploitation to make its would-be audience moist in the pants.

But golly gee willickers-- John Oliver offers up rapid-fire progsploitation factutainment every Sunday night.

Besides, John Oliver is "real" and offering "#Science," not some cooked-up pretend drama. And anyone who really #LovesScience will prefer, obviously, the English twit's rapid-fire "facts" over some pretend Hollywood drama.

Ah, but Miss Sloane can give the audience profanity and Some Adult Material and Themes that TV can't, right?

Well. Except for every premium cable TV show, which gives you all the f-bombs and robot-rape you could imagine.

It's not that there aren't progressives who don't want progsploitation factutainment -- it's that this market is so damn well served by tv (is there anything else even on TV?) that no one's going to buy a ticket to see the cow when TV will show them all the milk they could ever want to see.

This type of movie is doomed. It can't give you anything you haven't seen already. Law & Order was, it claimed, "ripped from the headlines." Movies like Miss Sloane are ripped from Law & Order, season 8.

I'm sure Hollywood will keep pumping these movies out, though, because progsploitation is only tangentially about appeasing the public's demand for progressive propaganda.

It's much more about appeasing Hollywood's desire to make progsploitation films, whether they make a dime or not.

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posted by Ace at 01:42 PM

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