Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The "King" of the Big Screen?

I suspect I wasn't the only one surprised to see that Paul Blart, Mall Cop earned more than $30 million in its opening weekend. To put this in perspective, this is more than twice the box office returns earned by "King of the Box Office" Will Smith for Seven Pounds or by mega-star Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is also close to what pre-sold Marley and Me earned in its first week out as well.

How can this be explained? Is there a massive Kevin James fan base out there? Has this untapped audience been waiting quietly in the wings, biding its time until James was given the appropriate cinematic showcase in which to display his comedic skills? Does this suggest the potentially powerful (and relatively unexploited) box office prowess of CBS sitcom stars?

Perhaps big screen features should be fast-tracked for fellow sitcom actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine) and Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) -- not to mention the highest-paid sitcom star on TV at present, Charlie Sheen...


  1. I wasn't *that* surprised given the popularity of slapstick comedy and of James' family-friendly TV persona. But I do think that your point about the "powerful...box office prowess" of sitcom stars, however serious, may not be far off the mark.

    James's TV appearances have served as years of free publicity for him, and I'd imagine that something similar *could* work for Charlie Sheen (though maybe not Jon Cryer). Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in the right romcom role, could probably score a minor hit in a Marley and Me type of role.

    I wonder how much these successes "surprise" because of the tendency to ignore shows that aren't critically acclaimed but have popular appeal. Interesting questions, to be sure.

  2. Though I was being a bit playful, I *do* think film execs should take more of a chance on these types of TV stars. Though they may not be "hip" and "cool" like Tina Fey and Seth Rogen, the fact of the matter is that their shows get major ratings and are as close to "mass appeal" comedy programs as there are these days. I also think that it is a major shortcoming in media studies that we often fail to acknowledge or discuss these shows because they don't suit our own tastes.

    Also -- I would suspect that if there was ever a time for the CBS sitcom stars to take off, now may well be it, as many people want this kind of comedy as an break/escape. Haven't we just seen that cynicism is out? :)

  3. Yeah, I caught the playfulness even if my comment didn't reflect it. I don't think I'll ever see the Mall Cop movie, and I still haven't watched an entire episode of 2.5 Men (and probably wouldn't see whatever Charlie Sheen movie came to my local multiplex), but there's certainly a reason that Kevin James can open a movie at $30 million.

    I also think you're right that it is a potential blind spot in media studies when we ignore these shows. Now that our era of cynicism and detachment is over, maybe we can all change that.

  4. I guess I'm skeptical that James "opened" the movie - I think the relative impact of stars is overstated by Hollywood, as star power needs to also fit with genre and good marketing. Pre-sold franchises obviously rule, but a film like Paul Blart (with an effective trailer) seems just to hit that adolescent boy sweet spot enough to get noticed. And that's who goes to movies, especially in the dead of winter...