Another sign on the road to inevitable pop-culture apocalypse was passed this weekend when the abysmal film House at the End of the Street, starring The Hunger Games’ actress Jennifer Lawrence, put an arrow through the heart of Dredd 3D’s box-office receipts.House finished the weekend box-office in second place behind End of Watch, while Dredd 3D came in at sixth-place with only half of House’s weekend totals – a feat that could only be attributed to The Hunger Games fan-base and the popularity of its star, Jennifer Lawrence.
In March 2012, Lawrence, as Katniss Everdeen, gave John Carter a similar stomping in the box-office and caused the Warlord of Mars to be almost completely forgotten, only two weeks into his long-awaited first theatrical run. Who would have thought that a teenage girl with a bow would wield such overwhelming power compared to long-time popular heroic heavyweights like Carter and Dredd.
Last March, I wrote about how hype and marketing waylaid an unsuspecting John Carter, while at the same time smoothing the way for The Hunger Games’ success. But I never suspected how much the Hunger Games hype-machine bump would carry over into drive-in caliber drivel like House at the End of the Street.I’ve never understood America’s fascination with the movie box-office, or the sales receipts of anything for that matter, especially in a product’s first days of life. The only thing that high box-office numbers signify is that a lot of people were suckered into seeing a movie – it speaks nothing of a film’s quality – but it can have a lasting and deadly impact on a movie’s life.
Neither The Hunger Games, Dredd 3D, John Carter nor House at the End of the Street will ever be considered high-art, but the thought that an exceptionally poor film like House being more successful than a very exciting and well-conceived Dredd is mind-numbing. And I’m just keeping genre specific here – I haven’t even mentioned that House also pummeled The Master at the box-office – a bold film that is the definition of artistic achievement.
Whether it’s the movie box-office, television (see the Firefly story) or even our upcoming election, it’s disheartening to see mediocrity so richly rewarded – but as a fan of great genre films, it’s heart-breaking to think that movies like John Carter and Dredd, films that were very well done and extremely entertaining – and by all rights should have been successful – probably won’t get a second chance to thrill audiences.
There are a multitude of reasons this happens and it’s not all poor marketing. Mine is just a subjective view, but I really think Dredd had a better marketing campaign than House did. House played in more theatres than Dredd and another big difference between the two is that House was rated PG-13 and was geared towards the Hunger Games young adult audience, while Dredd was rated R for extreme graphic violence – so House gets the adults and the kids.That’s all fine and the way the world works, but it is upsetting how Dredd is then treated when the weekend box-office results are announced on Monday morning. The film is depicted as a failure without all the factors being addressed, and then that sound-byte portrayal snowballs on itself, dooming an otherwise fine film to the dustbin of cinematic history – and nullifying the chances that fans will ever get to see these characters on the big screen again.
Here are a couple of additional “what-if” scenarios for you. What if Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Dejah Thoris in John Carter and that film was released last week instead of House at End of the Street? I can almost guarantee that movie would have been a smash hit and they would already be talking about a trilogy of sequels and how wonderfully the film brought the 100 year-old character to life. What if we valued movies for their quality and not by how many people paid to see them their first weekend? Then we’d be looking forward to a Dredd sequel instead of The House at End of the Street 2.