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Old 07-16-17, 08:25 AM   #1
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Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

Spoilered for size from this morning's paper.

Spoiler:
Days before the opening of the Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy “The House,” producer Adam McKay could see the writing on the wall. The box-office forecast for the film wasn’t looking good. In the end, “The House” opened with just $8.7 million, the latest in an increasingly long line of comedy flops. “The House” may have had its problems (Warner Bros. opted to not even screen it for critics) but what stood out about the result was how dispiritingly typical it was. “This has just been happening a lot. If it’s not our comedies, it’s other comedies from friends of ours that just are underperforming very consistently,” said McKay, whose production company with Ferrell makes a handful of comedies a year.

Unless the upcoming “Girls Trip” — promoted as the black, female version of “The Hangover” — breaks out, this summer will likely pass without a big comedy hit. “Rough Night,” “Baywatch” and “Snatched” have all disappointed despite the star power of Scarlett Johansson, Dwayne Johnson and Amy Schumer, respectively. The lone sensation has been the Kumail Nanjiani- led, Judd Apatow produced “The Big Sick.” But that Lionsgate-Amazon release is a specialty one; it’s made $6.8 million in three weeks of limited release.
Laughs are drying up at the multiplex, and it’s a trend that goes beyond this summer. Last year, the shockingly poor performance of Andy Samberg’s “Popstar” ($9.6 million in its entire run) foreshadowed the trouble to come. There have been some successes (“Bad Moms,” “Sausage Party,” “Trainwreck,” “Central Intelligence,” “Spy,”) but it’s been a long while since a cultural sensation like “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” “The Hangover” or “Bridesmaids.”

The downturn begs the question: Can the bigscreen comedy survive the superhero era? As studios have increasingly focused on intellectual property-backed franchises that play around the globe, comedies are getting squeezed. Though usually relatively inexpensive propositions, comedies often don’t fit the blockbuster agenda of risk-adverse Hollywood.
“They really want these movies to work in China and Russia, and comedies don’t always work like that,” says Apatow.

In interviews with many top names in comedy, as well as numerous studio executives, many in Hollywood expressed optimism that a turnaround could and will be sparked by something fresh and exciting — a “Get Out” for comedy. But they also described an unmistakable sense that the era of “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express” and “Step Brothers” may be closing — and that an increasingly restrictive Hollywood landscape is partly to blame. “It does worry me because it feels like the studios aren’t developing as many comedy scripts,” adds Apatow. “In the old days, they used to buy a lot of scripts and develop them. And now it feels like times have changed. Unless you bring them a script with an actor or actress and a director and it’s all packaged, there’s not a lot of chances to get comedies made. We have a nice reputation so we’re able to get our movies made most of the time. But I feel like there’s not as many young comedy writers writing movies. I think a lot of them are headed toward television and I think that’s bad for the movies.” The comedies that have managed to get made have often recycled many of the familiar, previously profitable formulas. McKay has watched marketing departments increasingly dictate which comedies get greenlit. “That’s their whole thing: ‘What’s the formula so we can go to the boardroom?’ ” says McKay. “All of a sudden, I start noticing that people keep asking for comedies to look like other comedies. And we keep saying, ‘Yeah, but comedies have to be original.’ ” But “original” can be a scary word in today’s Hollywood. Thus the “Ghostbusters” reboot, thus “Baywatch.” At the same time, other formats — “Old School”-like party movies, for example — have grown a little stale from overuse. “What I think you’re seeing in the last three years is just fatigue with those structures,” McKay says. “They did the worst thing that a comedy can ever do, which is start to feel familiar. I really think this isn’t permanent. It’s going to break out but what it’s going to require is three or four accidents to happen again, like ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Anchorman.’ ” Both of those films also depended on a long afterlife on
home video; comedies historically have been especially strong sellers after theatrical release. “You can’t really do that now,” says producer Michael De Luca, who championed “Austin Powers” at New Line and produced comedies like “Rush Hour” and “The Love Guru.” “You have to be a theatrical event when you open.”

De Luca recalled the thunderbolt experience of reading the spec script for “American Pie,” which heralded the explosion of R-rated comedy.
“I do feel like these things are cyclical,” says De Luca. “Each generation discovers their punkrock comedy. It may not have happened yet for the generation that’s coming up behind Seth Rogen, who was behind Judd Apatow.”

But the next generation might gravitate to HBO or FX or Netflix instead. That’s where you’ll find many of today’s most exciting comic voices, like Donald Glover (“Atlanta”), Lena Dunham (“Girls”) and Issa Rae (“Insecure”).
The path to a nationwide movie release is more difficult and may offer less creative freedom, unless you have in your corner a big-name producer like James L. Brooks, who shepherded Kelly Fremon Craig’s terrific debut “The Edge of Seventeen” to the screen last year. A large percentage of recent comedies have starred either Kevin Hart, Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy or Ferrell — who are, granted, some of the funniest people alive.

“You see a lot of the big Hollywood comedies have the same people playing the same type of people in the same sort of high stakes but not too high stakes situations,” says Nanjiani, who also stars on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” “The fact that there’s only a handful of people that are deemed worthy of being big comedy leads, it means that you can’t really have that much variance in the types of movies that get made.”

But even the top stars are having a more difficult time. Ahead of the release of Sony’s “Sausage Party,” Rogen acknowledged he’s seen first-hand that comedies are getting harder and harder to make.
“The truth is, you’re now probably better off selling it to Netflix or something. Which is a bummer,” said Rogen. “You look at a lot of comedies and it’s just like: Five years ago that would have made $120 million and now, unless there’s big action, huge helicopters and tanks and car chases, just people talking and being funny is a lot harder to do.”

“Sausage Party” was a gleefully raunchy animated comedy about grocery store food that most studios would have immediately turned down. It went on to make $98 million domestically on a $20 million budget, packing theaters with cackling audiences.
It was a good reminder that even at a time when many doubt the future of the theatrical experience, nothing beats a good comedy.


The article doesn't really address the issue in detail of these comedies not being well received by the people who did go to see them. It makes a quick reference to The House having issues and not being screened for critics.

These comedies have been pretty poor. They don't reach the heights of Hangover because they aren't as funny. I thought Popstar was insufferable. I turned it off. I saw Baywatch because I was traveling on business. Not bad but I wouldn't have paid for it at home.
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Old 07-16-17, 09:35 AM   #2
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

TLDR: There was a fad for comedies. It's over. The new fad is superheros. Comic actors are sad.
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Old 07-16-17, 09:41 AM   #3
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

Yes they can if they are good. Hasn't been a good one this summer.
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Old 07-16-17, 09:44 AM   #4
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

Comedy's are suffering for the same reason you "couldn't make a female superhero movie".

People want to blame the genre instead of the fact that they're making shitty movies, and if they made a good one, people would turn out.
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Old 07-16-17, 09:47 AM   #5
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

Where are all the funny superhero movies? There used to be a lot of them.



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Old 07-16-17, 10:00 AM   #6
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

Superhero movies are taking a massive portion of the market share. And all the resources (money, talent, time) behind the scenes. Not talked about much ... but the internet takes away from comedy too. If there's a finite amount of laughs to suck out of me, I give a lot of them to random people on Twitter.

And TV makes me laugh more than movies. Give me Always Sunny, Louie, Netflix standup specials. And Arrested Development seasons that take five-fucking-years to produce. I will go see The Big Sick, because it's the first trailer in awhile that actually make me giggle. Off the top of my head, I can't remember the last time I really laughed at a new movie. Think that's a bad thing?

There's only a handful of movies that I can watch and actually laugh at. It doesn't mean that I don't like the comedies I don't laugh at. But only some movies elicit that response.
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Old 07-16-17, 10:02 AM   #7
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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Originally Posted by Obi-Wan Jabroni View Post
Comedy's are suffering for the same reason you "couldn't make a female superhero movie".

People want to blame the genre instead of the fact that they're making shitty movies, and if they made a good one, people would turn out.
Precisely. Also, comedies are really hard to get right. They require a very precise alchemy. I'm not trying to diminish other genres, but melancholy biopic or tear jerking family drama, I'm not saying they're easy to make, but they're a lot easier than comedy. That's why there's 10 best picture nominees but there may only be one great comedy every 3-5 years.
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Old 07-16-17, 10:03 AM   #8
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

i dunno, some have made money and surprised. Bad Moms comes to mind, Trainwreck, Bridesmaids,...
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Old 07-16-17, 10:28 AM   #9
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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People want to blame the genre instead of the fact that they're making shitty movies, and if they made a good one, people would turn out.
This simple concept is completely lost on Hollywood. They seem to believe all movies are equal and can't figure out what didn't work since they followed the precise formula.

I've given up on Hollywood comedies. They just don't make them anymore. It's the same loud obnoxious party movies where stupid people do dumb things as a shortcut for comedy. Thank God there is enough creative freedom on other platforms nowadays that it's not necessary to go to the movies for a laugh.
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Old 07-16-17, 10:45 AM   #10
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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This simple concept is completely lost on Hollywood. They seem to believe all movies are equal and can't figure out what didn't work since they followed the precise formula.

I've given up on Hollywood comedies. They just don't make them anymore. It's the same loud obnoxious party movies where stupid people do dumb things as a shortcut for comedy. Thank God there is enough creative freedom on other platforms nowadays that it's not necessary to go to the movies for a laugh.
Comedies on the big screen died (for me) when people decided Adam Sandler and his ilk were funny.
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Old 07-16-17, 11:11 AM   #11
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

I didn't read the article but I rarely, if ever, watch comedies on the big screen. This started LONG before superhero movies were popular.

I'd say it has more to do with movie ticket prices and weighing the cost of seeing a movie on the big screen vs. waiting for home video over anything else. Comedies just don't scream "must be seen on the big screen" like "event" movies.

Many times quality barely plays a role in it. A crappy Transformers will make triple what the funniest comedy of the summer does every time.
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Old 07-16-17, 12:11 PM   #12
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

For me I think the PC police killed comedy, there are numerous youtube videos on the subject, Baywatch wasn't funny because it wasn't what the show was in the 90s. It should have been an update on the soft core porn genre.
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Old 07-16-17, 02:10 PM   #13
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

I think the biggest problem with comedy is the writing isn't nearly as funny as it was years ago (movies, tv, late night).

Where are the Harold Ramis, John Hughes, or even a Mel Brooks out there today for movies? Late Night is no better as the humor is just partisan jabs these days instead of original political skits. Go watch the SNL Presidential debates in 1988 &1992 compared to the past few election cycles. There are very few sitcoms that I watch either as the humor just feels forced in overrated comedies like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Comedy didn't die because of the Superhero Movie, comedy died in Hollywood because there are very few funny comedians and writers compared to 20-30 years ago.
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Old 07-16-17, 02:23 PM   #14
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
Comedies on the big screen died (for me) when people decided Adam Sandler and his ilk were funny.
Yep, once Hollywood decides to get over Sandler, Kevin James and Will Ferrell, then we might get the genre back on track.
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Old 07-16-17, 02:34 PM   #15
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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I think the biggest problem with comedy is the writing isn't nearly as funny as it was years ago (movies, tv, late night).

Where are the Harold Ramis, John Hughes, or even a Mel Brooks out there today for movies? Late Night is no better as the humor is just partisan jabs these days instead of original political skits. Go watch the SNL Presidential debates in 1988 &1992 compared to the past few election cycles. There are very few sitcoms that I watch either as the humor just feels forced in overrated comedies like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Comedy didn't die because of the Superhero Movie, comedy died in Hollywood because there are very few funny comedians and writers compared to 20-30 years ago.
Amen brother. I've said several times, I have no problem with rude humor. But it has to be sophisticated and have a purpose. These days they seem to string f-bombs and just call it a joke. Well it worked for Steve Martin so it must be funny. That Popstar movie was an example. The first profanity laced song was funny. By third time it was stupid and I turned the movie off.
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Old 07-16-17, 03:22 PM   #16
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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Yep, once Hollywood decides to get over Sandler, Kevin James and Will Ferrell, then we might get the genre back on track.
News flash : Hollywood is already over Sandler. That's why his new movies are on Netflix instead. And I don't think Kevin James is making many studio pictures either, that's why he's back on TV.
As far as Ferrell goes, well Daddy's Home made $240M domestically. Judging by the audience response to the sequel's trailer in the theater, he's still got appeal.
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Old 07-16-17, 04:44 PM   #17
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

I will just echo what everyone else on here has said: it's because the comedies that have come out this summer are shitty movies (though I will say Big Sick that I saw today is an exception, but it wasn't a studio one). Of course I have found that comedy is getting to a point that it's in the eye of the beholder. I hated Baywatch and Rough Night, but laughed my ass off at Popstar last summer. One fact to which I will admit is that I am someone who has MoviePass, and if I didn't I doubt I would be catching any comedies in theaters. You just don't need the big screen to do them. Watching a good comedy with a large audience can be priceless, but if you're watching one where the jokes don't land it can be a very awkward experience.
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Old 07-16-17, 04:59 PM   #18
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

Yes but like others have mentioned, none of them have looked good or funny. Comedy is one of those genres in which it's harder to market since humor is subjective, and no trailers recently have really had that feeling of being a must see movie.
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Old 07-16-17, 05:24 PM   #19
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

I just recently watched Police Academy on Netflix, still crazy funny and a movie with a lot of heart, so I will join the chorus in saying if you build a funny movie they will come. Blaming a superhero film because your comedy film tanked is pretty pathetic. It sounds like some heavy hitters in the comedy arena are doing the blaming which is especially sad and not a good look for these folks.

Stop whining and put some renewed effort into making me laugh...I know you have it in you.
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Old 07-16-17, 05:31 PM   #20
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

People seem to like to blame Superhero movies for everything these days. Comedies so far this year have been pretty week, but I usually find a couple movies a year that I find really funny.

The careers of comedic actors is interesting to me, because most of them seem to have a fairly short shelf life and audiences get tired of their "shtick" after a decade of popularity or so. People stopped being interested in Sandler, but the same seemed to happen with Jim Carrey, or even guys in that Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Owen Wilson group. Seth Rogen and the stoner humor stuff seems to be dying down a bit after his popularity. Mike Myers used to be popular! And the older comedians aren't any different, like Chevy Chase.
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Old 07-16-17, 06:19 PM   #21
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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I'd say it has more to do with movie ticket prices and weighing the cost of seeing a movie on the big screen vs. waiting for home video over anything else. Comedies just don't scream "must be seen on the big screen" like "event" movies.
Amen to that- there's a ton of comedies I saw for free as a theater projectionist that I liked, but wouldn't have been willing to pay typical theater prices to see. A lot of theater screens are already hardly bigger than what I have at home, but if I'm going to pay a premium price for a movie it's usually something like Star Wars that at least tries to deliver an "experience". Most comedies have to be seen more than once to get all the jokes anyways.

Funny that "Police Academy" is now considered a "classic" by some- the critics HATED that when it was out. They hated "Vacation" too but it seems everyone loves that now.
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Old 07-16-17, 06:21 PM   #22
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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News flash : Hollywood is already over Sandler. That's why his new movies are on Netflix instead. And I don't think Kevin James is making many studio pictures either, that's why he's back on TV.
As far as Ferrell goes, well Daddy's Home made $240M domestically. Judging by the audience response to the sequel's trailer in the theater, he's still got appeal.
The trailer for DADDY'S HOME 2, specifically the bits with Mel Gibson and John Lithgow, made me laugh out loud, the first time a comedy trailer has done that for me in years. Sadly, I wonder if all the funny parts were put in the trailer.
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Old 07-16-17, 07:07 PM   #23
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

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The trailer for DADDY'S HOME 2, specifically the bits with Mel Gibson and John Lithgow, made me laugh out loud, the first time a comedy trailer has done that for me in years. Sadly, I wonder if all the funny parts were put in the trailer.
Daddy's Home is solid. You should watch it if you haven't. I generally trust movies from the Adam McKay/Will Ferrell/Jody Hill circle.

Maybe The House is why we have this article. I go to movies every weekend. It just didn't look good to me. Not because I went to see Spiderman. I could have watched The House right afterwards. But the trailer didn't make me laugh, the subject doesn't really interest me, and this is a movie to catch on Netflix in six or twelve months.
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Old 07-17-17, 07:29 AM   #24
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

My comedy tastes have changed drastically over the past 20 years, and they aren't on the same wavelength as most of the current Hollywood output. Considering a movie is around $9 in the theater, I'm not going to risk it. Very few of the highly-promoted comedic actors these days do much for me, and the trailers rarely get me interested. It's much harder for me to find a comedy I enjoy than it is in any other genre.
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Old 07-17-17, 09:14 AM   #25
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Re: Can comedy on the big screen survive the super hero era?

The explosion of options with which we consume entertainment has been both a blessing and a curse for non-"blockbuster" entertainments in general, let alone comedies. There are way more options to both create and consume stuff than ever before -- the technological barriers to entry have fallen considerably -- but there's also way more stuff to consume, and it's much harder to stand out from the crowd when your labours are almost instantly "buried" on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Prime, whatever. There's another thread here recently about Netflix and/or Prime bulk buying movies at film festivals that correlates to this one in that most of those pickups will probably bypass theaters and be dumped on the services. I often find myself on the IMDB app stumbling across films made within the past two years -- often with Big Names attached -- that I had no idea existed because they've been buried on streaming services and the few reviews from both users and the handful of 'pros' that actually got to see them in theaters during their festival tours are often middling or dismissive, which tells me that these shows are probably right where they belong. Of course, this in turn creates the (deserved?) stigma that streaming services are where a lot of stuff simply goes to die. There would be a time when these movies would have still been given theatrical releases just to earn back even a fraction of the production costs associated with them, but obviously the days of studios fooling people into seeing mediocre movies on the big screen at $10-$15 a pop are on the wane, and maybe that's for the best. I paid good money to see a LOT of stuff theatrically that, had there been streaming in the 80's and 90's, I would've watched there instead, especially comedies.

One big plus to all of this, I suppose, is the fact that we shouldn't ever have to fear any more pathetically unfunny "movies" toplining "YouTube Stars" getting anywhere near theaters ever again.

Last edited by Brian T; 07-17-17 at 09:19 AM.
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