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The Changing Landscape of Movie Stardom: Are Movie Stars a Dying Breed?

by Riley Cook

Image Credit: Rodin Eckenroth | Getty Images


In the golden era of the 90s, movie stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis, and Johnny Depp were synonymous with blockbuster hits. These actors had an undeniable magnetism that drew moviegoers to theaters in droves. However, the landscape of stardom has drastically shifted, raising the question: are movie stars a dying breed?


Today's movie industry seems to be defined more by its directors than its actors. Names like Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Greta Gerwig, Zack Snyder, F. Gary Gray, and Ari Aster are now more likely to get people out of their homes and into theaters. These directors have built strong reputations for delivering compelling and visually stunning films, creating a fanbase that follows their work regardless of the cast.

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While a few contemporary actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Zendaya, Margot Robbie, and Viola Davis continue to attract audiences, the list of universally recognized movie stars is shrinking. Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson are among those who receive hefty payouts for their films. For example, each earned $20 million for Netflix's "Red Notice." Despite these large sums, many critics argue that their performances lack the depth and charisma of their predecessors.


This raises a critical question: if these actors aren't true stars, why are they getting paid so much? The answer might lie in the changing dynamics of the film industry and the shift towards streaming platforms, where star power alone doesn't necessarily guarantee viewership.

Image Credit: Ricky Vigil M / Justin E Palmer | Getty Images



The rise of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ has significantly altered how audiences consume media. With easy access to a vast library of content from the comfort of their homes, moviegoers are less inclined to visit theaters. This shift has impacted how movies are marketed and which aspects are emphasized to attract viewers.


Big-name directors and strong storytelling have become more important than star power. Films are now often sold on the reputation of the filmmaker or the uniqueness of the story rather than the actors involved. This shift is evident in the commercial and critical successes of director-driven films like Greta Gerwig's "Little Women" and Christopher Nolan's "Tenet."


BOX OFFICE: 'FURIOSA' NARROWLY OUTPACES 'THE GARFIELD MOVIE' IN DISASTROUS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

In a surprising and underwhelming box office battle, "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" narrowly edged out "The Garfield Movie" over the Memorial Day weekend. This year's holiday weekend turned out to be one of the worst in decades, highlighting the ongoing struggles of the film industry.


On Sunday, both Warner Bros. and Sony prematurely claimed their respective films had taken the top spot, each grossing approximately $25 million over the weekend and an estimated $31 million through the Memorial Day holiday. However, the final numbers revealed "Furiosa" generated $26.2 million over the weekend and $32 million over the four days, while "Garfield" closely followed with $24 million over the weekend and $31.1 million over the holiday period.

Image Credit: Taylor Hill | Getty Images



This year's Memorial Day weekend box office results were particularly dismal, marking the worst in nearly three decades, excluding 2020 when theaters were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures are down by nearly 36% compared to the same holiday weekend in 2023, when Disney's "The Little Mermaid" remake grossed $118 million, one of the best debuts for the holiday. Overall, ticket sales for the summer season remain 22% behind 2023 and a concerning 41% behind 2019, according to Comscore.


'FURIOSA': A DISAPPOINTING DEBUT

"Furiosa," the fifth installment in George Miller's post-apocalyptic "Mad Max" series, was expected to lead the weekend with a $40 million to $45 million debut. The R-rated film stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, but its $26.2 million opening weekend fell significantly short of expectations, especially given its $168 million budget. Globally, "Furiosa" has earned $65 million, and it appears unlikely to match the performance of its predecessor, 2015's "Mad Max: Fury Road," which opened with $45 million (not during a holiday weekend) and eventually grossed $380 million worldwide.


Despite receiving positive reviews, analysts believe "Furiosa" struggled due to its nature as a prequel, which typically do not perform as well as direct sequels, particularly when they lack the original stars. Additionally, the film failed to attract a broader audience beyond its core demographic of older male moviegoers.


'THE GARFIELD MOVIE': A DECENT START

In contrast, "The Garfield Movie" had a decent start for a family film, although it also fell on the lower end of its projections of $30 million to $35 million. Voiced by Chris Pratt, the titular lasagna-loving cat has already garnered $66.3 million overseas, bringing its global total to $91.1 million. With a production cost of $60 million, "The Garfield Movie" is positioned well for its theatrical run, although it did little to lift the overall box office slump.


THE BROADER IMPLICATIONS

The disappointing Memorial Day weekend box office results add to Hollywood's summer woes. The significant drop in ticket sales compared to previous years indicates that audiences are still hesitant to return to theaters in pre-pandemic numbers. This trend raises concerns about the viability of big-budget releases and the overall health of the film industry.


As the summer season progresses, industry stakeholders will be closely monitoring box office performances, hoping for a turnaround with upcoming releases. For now, the tepid response to "Furiosa" and "The Garfield Movie" serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing Hollywood in the current landscape.

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