Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is your basic 'one step up, two steps back' scenario.

In these challenging times, we need to find our bright spots wherever we can. For me, one of those bright spots came when I read the revenue numbers for the new Owen Wilson film, Hall Pass. (Disclosure: I haven’t seen it. This is one of those ‘wait for it and if you come across it on TV while you’re on the treadmill one night it may be watchable’ movies.) The reason for my delight was this: after six weeks in release, as of March 25 it had earned about $42 million at the box office.

Don’t get me wrong. That’s not completely terrible. I adore Owen Wilson and have enjoyed many romantic comedies for men, like Wedding Crashers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Failure to Launch. They’re hilarious. But the diminishing return on this particular movie tells a story. More than half of the revenues earned on Hall Pass came during the first two weekends of release. That’s not uncommon but a great movie builds its box office and opens in even more theaters before running its course in first run houses.

Take Wedding Crashers. Released in July, 2005, it earned more than $200 million at the box office. It started strong, with $10 + million in sales on July 15. On August 15, it took in another $1.5 million. On September 17, it earned another $1.2 million. Hall Pass took just one month to fall from a high of $4.6 million to $514,000 on March 25. I’m pretty sure it won’t be showing in many places a month from now.

What does this tell us? Perhaps that as movie-going public, we’re more discerning than we think. That a mostly charming but dated “we’re having an affair” movie like Same Time, Next Year holds some appeal as we secretly cheer for the happy albeit adulterous couple; but a ‘free week granted to husbands to be single and score chicks’ movie doesn’t quite give us the same warm fuzzies.

Then again, it may tell us that women choose which film to see every weekend and that few of us are anxious to pay to see the ‘I’ve allowed my husband to act like a skank’ shenanigans found in Hall Pass.

But not everything is rosy these days. To balance out my contentment about our collective good sense, I offer the tagline I heard on an Ashley Madison.com commercial recently. (AM.com is a dating website designed specifically for people who are married or otherwise in committed relationships…but want to meet someone new. The whole premise makes little sense to me but let’s table that for now.) Here’s the closing line of their radio commercial: If you’re not cheating, you just might be cheating yourself.

Let’s take a look at that again, shall we? “If you’re not cheating, you just might be cheating yourself.” In other words: don’t be pathetic and cheat yourself out of the opportunity to find your one (untrue) love! Or your second or third untrue love as a matter of fact. Why remain committed to a spouse or partner if you’re bored or feeling sad or lonely or unloved? Meet the other half of your (lying) self on AM.com! And don’t worry: your new partner is just as slimy, just as deceitful, just as delusional as you are.

Here’s the thing. Marriages break up. People sometimes have affairs and leave a spouse behind as a result. I’m apparently stuck in the twentieth century because I thought an affair begins because two people meet, finds they share many things in common, spend time together and then choose to act on their mutual attraction. One or both of them risk a relationship/marriage because the allure of that new found partner is simply too much to resist.

It happens - and it makes me sad for everyone involved.

What I don’t get is why anyone would seek out an affair on AM.com and somehow feel superior about it. People who apparently have no problem identifying themselves as liars sign up “looking for same” online. That doesn’t make them honest liars, does it? Is it simply that everyone has something to lose and therefore the site offers a kind of ‘honor among thieves’ flavor to the whole thing?

I’ll go on record here and admit to the following: I’m not cheating and no, I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself. I go you one better and say I’m a two-time winner. After all, I didn’t pay to see Hall Pass and I don’t pay a membership fee to Ashley Madison.com.

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