A quick look through the current box office charts reveals that one of the year's absolute worst films, Good Luck Chuck (125 screens), has grossed about $34 million. It's not exactly a blockbuster, but that's still a huge number of suckers who gave up their hard-earned cash in exchange for a ticket, thinking they were in for some entertainment. It's a hateful, stupid concept presented by two non-talented stars, who most likely got as far as they have based on their looks. On the other hand, one of the year's very best films, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (43 screens), has yet to earn even its first half-million; I'm not even sure most critics got the chance to see this amazing crime drama from veteran director Sidney Lumet. It features great performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman (what Oscar curse?), Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei, and -- even more rare -- a great ending.
OK. So Before the Devil Knows You're Dead comes from a small studio, ThinkFilm, with a tiny advertising budget. I have yet to see a TV commercial or even a trailer or a poster. But Good Luck Chuck had weeks of buildup and advertising, and it opened on 2600 screens. Yet it also comes from a comparatively small studio, Lionsgate. It probably doesn't matter either way; these situations could have been completely reversed and Good Luck Chuck would still be the box office winner. It has always been like this. Experts have speculated that it's because most movies are packaged and aimed at male, juvenile audiences (the ones with the most disposable pocket change). Some have talked about the "blockbuster" era that sprung from the American Cinema Renaissance of the 1970s; starting in the early 1980s, profits became bigger and therefore more important than art.