Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Are movie stars dead?

No, no, I'm not referring to the obituaries or to those morbid celebrity death pools. I'm referring to the notion made in this Guardian article that movie stars don't have the cache they once did.

But is that really true?

No doubt, the appeal of movies these days seems to be based more on concepts than stars. Avatar, for instance, which didn't do too badly for itself, made a lot of its money on its event status - it was the movie that people HAD to see. Sigourney Weaver was probably the biggest "name" in it, but I doubt her fame sold that many tickets. I don't remember the ads ever mentioning her - the one name the ads did mention was the director - James Cameron.

And when every movie that gets green-lit these days seems to be a sequel or a remake, it seems clear that studios are less interested in selling who than selling what.

But are movie stars really THAT irrelevant? Take Shutter Island, for instance. OK, maybe that made some of its money from its twisty ending, but would it have done as well if say, Mark Ruffalo were the lead instead of Leo DiCaprio?

And what about this year's biggest hit so far, Alice in Wonderland? The story of Alice sold a lot of tickets, as did the 3D (however weak that may have been). But would it be as big as it is without Johnny Depp? I don't think so.

And then there are those highly touted "failures" like Duplicity,  often cited as one of the harbingers of the death of the adult movie. OK, it didn't do as well as it could or should have, but would it have gotten the attention it did get without them?

Perhaps the best way to answer these queries is to pose another - when you choose a movie, what question is on your mind? Is it "What's it about?" Or is it "Who's in it?"

Just askin.'

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