It's looking like next week's big watercooler subject in Hollywood will be the surprising failure of Grindhouse at the box office. Tracked to bring in about $25 million in its opening weekend, the uber-hyped Tarantino and Rodriguez double feature will almost certainly limp into Monday with a much smaller take; it opened Friday with a paltry $5 million, a total that puts it squarely in fourth-place, behind Will Ferrell's skating movie Blades of Glory, Meet the Robinsons (whatever that is -- sorry, I just can't tell kids movies apart anymore) and the most recent Ice Cube crapfest, Are We Done Yet?, which had already been playing since Wednesday. In fact, it did only marginally better than The Reaping, which opened on Thursday and is so bad that it was called "unreleasable" by many. Let's leave aside for the moment the implications of Grindhouse's flaccid opening for the fledgling Weinstein Co.; I think it's worth considering what kind of ripples this might send through Hollywood.

For a while now, America has been holding Hollywood by the ears and screaming in its face that it only wants completely pointless, souless, painless, recycled comedy and kiddie fare at the box office, and Hollywood has happily bent over backwards to comply, turning out more and more nothing-movies each year and fast-tracking the careers of nothing-directors like Brian Robbins, who can be relied on to turn in 'critic proof' garbage with a smile. Pointless sequels to pointless originals continue to climb higher and higher into the box-office record books, bringing us ever closer to the day when an objectively worthless film that's been scientifically engineered to meet all 'quadrants' will probably crack the top spot. Meanwhile, senile industry butterflies like Peter Bart snark that it's in fact the critics who need to get with it and start praising the crap in order to stay 'relevant.'

I don't have any conclusions here, other than the one offered in my headline. It seems that the prospects for talented filmmakers who take some chances and try to create quality films that also appeal to the mainstream movie-going audience are going downhill faster than Chevy Chase on that sled in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. How long before quality films of any stripe simply become a bad investment? Obviously I'm a little worked up over this, so you'll have to allow me a little exaggeration.