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The Weekend Movie Takeaway: March 4, 2019

March 4, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World maintained the top spot at the box office over the weekend with a $30 million gross, once again showing how much goodwill audiences have for how franchise writer/director Dean DeBlois has kept this story moving forward, changing up the status quo with each subsequent film.

Opening in second place with a $27 million gross was Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral, apparently the last in the now 11-film (!) Madea franchise. Beginning when Diary of a Mad Black Woman became a box office smash in 2005, Tyler Perry's movies have always upended expectations in the marketplace.

The enduring narrative takeaway is that these films are continuing to tell stories that cater to an underserved African-American audience. Almost 15 years after the first Madea film, the marketplace still hasn't caught up with this fact, and Perry remains one of the few mainstream filmmakers that understands how big an audience this can be.

Last weekend was the first since the OscarsĀ® were handed out, and best picture winner Green Book received a box office shot in the arm, adding 1,388 theaters to earn $4.7 million 16 weeks after initial release.

As we discussed last week, Green Book's Oscar success is an endorsement of a kind of movie that addresses racism in America in a manner that feels increasingly simplistic and outmoded. Yet it also has its fans, perhaps suggesting that some viewers prefer a simplistic, easily-resolved portrayal of the topic. Despite the Hollywood media reaction around Green Book's win being heavily negative, the film continues to draw in audiences.

Following Olivia Colman's upset win for best actress, The Favourite added 454 theaters and drew in $825,000. Bohemian Rhapsody, for which Rami Malek won the best actor prize, added 415 theaters and brought in another $975,000, bringing its domestic total to an astounding $214 million. The buzz around their lead performances has contributed greatly to the success of these two films, perhaps almost more so than their narratives.

Speaking of the Oscars, one of the major stories over the weekend concerned how Steven Spielberg is planning to request that the academy restrict the Oscar eligibility of films made for streaming services, even if they received a token theatrical run.

The news sparked a lot of online debate over the weekend, a debate which has major implications for the future of big-screen storytelling. While some purists agree that a proper theatrical exhibition period should be the baseline for Oscar consideration, most of the reaction to the news has centered around how Netflix is on the whole contributing to the diversity of narrative voices, and allowing certain kinds of films to be seen much more widely than they otherwise might have been.

It's difficult not to see Spielberg as clinging to the past a bit here; we agree that there's nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen, but Hollywood studios seem decreasingly interested in making anything but four-quadrant blockbusters, leaving Netflix and its ilk to fill the gaps.

A wide range of voices is necessary for film culture to thrive, narratively speaking. The Oscars provide the biggest global platform for celebrating film, and Spielberg's desire to restrict access to that platform feels like a step in the wrong direction.

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