Is Comedy Dead on the Big Screen?

With all the TV channels, podcasts and streaming services out there, comedy is thriving. However, it is failing spectacularly in one place, the cinema. The latest flop in the world of comedy is The Lonely Island’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. The music mockumentary took in only $4.6 million in its opening weekend. Even with its small $20 million budget that’s bad. But in its defense, it really is only the latest of many failures for movie comedies.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, released a few weeks ago, has made less than a third of what its predecessor. Dirty Grandpa, another Zac Efron fronted comedy, didn’t even take in $30 million, which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming third Zac Efron comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. But Efron isn’t the problem. Some of the biggest stars in comedy can’t get people to watch their movies.

Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2 made $20 million less than the first one, which came out 15 years earlier. Adjusted for inflation, Zoolander 2 didn’t even make a quarter of what Tropic Thunder, the last comedy written and directed by Stiller, made. Even more embarrassing was Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Brothers Grimsby, which didn’t even make $7 million. But both those movies received horrible reviews. So maybe audiences are just smarter and only want to see good comedies. That isn’t so either.


Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is sitting at 90% on rottentomatoes. It has two A-listers as leads. Yet it hasn’t reached $30 million yet. For reference, Black’s last movie made over $400 million. The Coen Brothers put out a new comedy and it barely made any money. Key & Peele was an incredibly successful and acclaimed TV show. The duo’s first movie, Keanu, only made around $20 million.

It appears to me that comedy just isn’t working at the theaters. No comedy has grossed $100 million. Kevin Hart’s Ride Along 2 is the highest earner but even that has made much less than the first Ride Along. The next most successful comedy has been The Boss, starring Melissa McCarthy. And that has only made around half of what her last movie, Spy, made.

Maybe it’s just been a bad year. Last year saw 4 comedies reach $100 million. But 2015 still had some notable under performing comedies like Ted 2, Vacation, Pixels, and Entourage. I think is an indication of a big problem. This is the beginning of the end for comedy movies. People want to go to the movies to see superheroes blow shit up. They’d rather experience comedies at home (maybe enhanced by drugs), than go spend 10 bucks. Who knew Adam Sandler would see it before any of us? His Netflix deal seems brilliant now.

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