Hollywood no longer wants to make you laugh

By Toby Manhire In Movie Reviews, The Internaut

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American cultural diplomacy in action.

American cultural diplomacy in action.

The Transformers’ triumph in China has a part in a different sort of transformation for the US film industry.

The “globalisation of box office returns”, writes John McDuling in the Atlantic, means that non-US receipts are proportionally growing year by year – up to about 70% in 2013.

And “emerging economies are responsible for most of that growth”.

All of which is bad news for funny movies.

He writes: “The emerging world enthusiasm for Hollywood films does not extend to comedies, or at least not relative to its love of action movies and animated films. In China, for example, US comedies account for only 10% of box office spending, compared to 25% in the US.”

It is precisely this trend, says McDuling, that is responsible for that fact that “the output of comedies as a proportion of total releases at the biggest Hollywood studios is in structural decline”.

And those they are making, notes The Wrap, are “cut-price”.

And you never know – the comedy downturn could even have implications for international relations, McDuling reckons.

“Over the years, comedy figures (like Jerry Lewis, weirdly popular in France) have occasionally been a useful ‘soft power’ foreign policy tool for the US. At another time of geopolitical uncertainty, if the world doesn’t think America is funny any more, could it actually be a problem?”

Who to blame for all this? Michael Bay, the man behind the Transformers machine, says Matt O’Brien of the Washington Post.

“Bay’s bad plots, even worse writing and explosions galore can’t be lost in translation, because there’s nothing to translate in the first place. It’s a kind of universal language that Hollywood can sell to teenage boys everywhere. It’s capitalist perfection.”

And, by the way, the romantic comedy is dead, according to Andrew Romano of the Daily Beast.


See also: NY Times notices NZ PM’s Hollywood visit

Robots in disguise set new China box-office record

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