Good Movies Aren’t Helping Movie Theaters, Mediocre Movies Are Saving Them

Films like The Fablemans and Avatar 2 may get the headlines, but movie theaters have been saved thanks to the smaller, mediocre movies like Ticket to Paradise and 80 for Brady finally returning to the cinema.

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

julia roberts
George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Ticket to Paradise

In our education system a “C” is considered passing and while not great, it’s certainly better than a failing grade. Not everyone is an “A” student that scores a perfect one very test and not every movie is a blockbuster event. Variety shares this opinion that the missing middle class of Hollywood, the trope-filled generic “B” movie with one or two bankable stars, is what’s truly helping to keep movie theaters in business.

For every record-setting film in the past year, there’s been three solid hits that were quietly profitable. Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, all three made hundreds of millions in profit but by themselves are not enough to keep movie theaters running week to week. That’s right, James Cameron and Tom Cruise didn’t save the cinema this year, but Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Jane Fonda sure did.

Already forgotten from the Spring of 2022 is Sandra Bullock’s The Lost City, co-starring Channing Tatum and Daniel Radcliffe. The tale of a romance writer that finds out what’s been writing is real managed to earn $190 million at the box office. There’s been no talk of awards for the film, no social media campaign for a sequel, and yet movie theaters would love to have six more films just like it every year.

Purposely playing with classic cliches and nostalgia for old adventure-romance films like Romancing the Stone, The Lost City blew past all box office projections. Why? Because it was a rare film today aimed at the older movie-going audience, it didn’t have a laser shooting up into space, and what little CGI it included equaled about one second of a superhero film. The films that aim for that “feel good” spot between low-budget horror and CGI-filled blockbusters with a budget higher than the GDP of some countries are what we need more of today.

sandra bullock channing tatum
Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock in The Lost City

Ticket to Paradise starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts is a perfect example of the type of movie needed, week in and week out, to keep the audience going between blockbusters. Or even to reach an audience that doesn’t care to know who the next Black Panther is, or whatever Chris Pratt has been up to since Parks and Recreation were canceled. This lost sector of the audience used to have countless options every single week at movie theaters across the country and now, finally a few years removed from the Covid pandemic, Hollywood is finally catering to adults that just want to be entertained and feel good.

Clooney and Roberts are movie stars that appeal to those old enough to remember when they ruled the box office, from Pretty Woman to Erin Brockovich, Up in the Air to Ocean’s 11, seeing both on the screen again is an absolute delight. Will they win awards for the film that everyone knows just how the plot is going to go from the first trailer? Of course not, but it’s a great way to kill 90 minutes inside when the weather’s horrible.

Most recently 80 for Brady filled this niche of a pleasant film that didn’t try to be anything more than a sitcom-level plot stretched over an hour and a half. As with The Lost City and Ticket to Paradise, 80 for Brady over performed at movie theaters and is on pace to earn $50 million. Check on social media and movie theater forums for any discussion about the film and it’s usually comments ranging from “Who will see this?” to “My grandmother is stoked to go with her girlfriends.”

Streaming has taken away most of these “B” grade mediocre movie, 20 years ago Shotgun Wedding would be in theaters, but with more time and more films aiming for that demographic sweet spot maybe the tides can turn once again. Broad films with no agendas, no deep messages, simple to follow plots, and starring classic celebrities are what movie theaters need more than a movie about Kite Man.