In the New York Times today (Well, tomorrow, actually - aren't the internets great?), Sharon Waxman offers an in-depth exploration of Orlando Bloom's crappy year and, in the process, considers the role of stars in movie making today. In an effort to get to the bottom of both Bloom's approach to his career and the reasons for his succession of failures in 2005 (he's probably not THAT upset, since his salary rose steadily, from $2 million for Troy to almost $12 million for the two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels), Waxman finds herself examining what the presence of "bankable" stars now means to movies - and she reaches an interesting conclusion.

Whereas a decade or two ago the presence of a Star often meant a movie, no matter how lightweight, would be a success (witness, for example, Cocktail, and Julia Roberts' post-Pretty Woman successes), things today are nowhere near as predictable. According to Waxman, only three of last year's top 12 box office hits succeeded because of their star power: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Hitch, and Wedding Crashers (I'd say that one is arguable - the particular attitude of the movie had as much to do with its success as did the presence of Vince Vaughn). Meanwhile, big stars like Nicole Kidman (Bewitched) and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) flopped at the box office. So what's going on?

Speaking for myself, I'll still rent movies that star people I like, but it now takes actual quality to get me to the theater. I read a lot of reviews, and am rarely willing to pull the trigger for something bad - or even ok, really - no matter who's in it. What's your approach - do stars matter to you any more?