Movies & TV / Columns

Is Netflix Killing Comedies at the Box Office?

June 29, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Adam Sandler Cowboy

When was the last time you went to the theater to see a pure comedy? Not an action comedy or dramedy. Speaking for myself, it’s been years.

I usually go to out to see something that really needs the theater to enhance the movie watching experience. I found that watching a comedy at home was actually better for me, and I haven’t regretted that decision once.

Looks like I’m not alone.

Looking at box office numbers, the comedy, including the romantic kind, have been declining for the past decade. “Ten years ago, comedy was king at the movie theater, and now comedy is having a terrible time getting traction,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Comscore.

In fact, last year was a great year for movies, bringing in over $11.9 billion domestically but comedies accounted for only 8.4% of that.

This is not to say that Hollywood hasn’t churned out a worthy funny movie in a while. But we are hardly getting the same output we were getting not so long ago. “The hope that Crazy Rich Asians would single-handedly revive comedy has been dashed, with none able to gross over $100 million domestically, other than the January release The Upside,” says Dergarabedian. “Since the beginning of the summer, none of the wide-release comedies have reached the $35 million mark, and even the well-reviewed ones have struggled.”

Another reason for some, myself included, is Netflix’s constant churning out of comedy specials and original options.

While movies seem to lean to either towards the Independent scale or big budget juggernaut, the mid-level budget has been shrinking for a while. Comedies have suffered because of this. Studios now have the option to weigh the pros and cons between theatrical release and putting on a streaming service.

I was surprised to find out that the last comedy blockbuster franchise in theaters was The Hangover series. With the rise of streaming, why would a studio dabble in a smaller budget for a small payoff when they can go big and earn bigger?

Now we have Adam Sandler getting a four movie deal from Netflix for between $30-40 million. The reviews haven’t been kind but it was reported that viewers spent more than 500 million hours streaming his stuff.

“I think one of the issues is, there are a lot more opportunities for comedy writers in television, so many of the best writers who might have written feature screenplays in the past are just staffing or creating television series,” remarked writer-producer Judd Apatow. “The same is true for comedic acting talent. Many would rather develop a show they can do for many years than develop one screenplay, which might take three years to get right.”

The last factor is the growth of the international market, where American humor sensibilities are difficult to translate. Pretty straight forward there.

Is comedy dead at the movie theater? Of course not. It only takes a couple inspired actor/director/script combos to bring about a articles saying the comedy is back.

Until then, happy streaming!

article topics :

Adam Sandler, Netflix, Steve Gustafson