Bros, a long-overdue LGBTQ studio rom-com, flopped upon its theatrical release with a reported box office of under $5 million.
The film’s estimated $4.8 million was good enough for a fourth place finish at the box office. It will land on Peacock in just under 45 days from now where it is sure to find an audience. Unfortunately, the film’s box office performance is not good for the future of LGBTQ-centric movies being released by the studios. You have to go all the way back to Happiest Season in 2020 for the last LGBTQ studio rom-com although the film also worked as a dysfunctional family comedy taking place during a holiday, much like Jenna Laurenzo’s Thanksgiving-centered indie, Lez Bomb, in 2018. What makes Bros different from Happiest Season is that this film does not force people back into a closet because it doesn’t play into the not-out-to-family trope.
As I tweeted on Sunday afternoon, there’s one major lesson to take away from this film: Audiences have been trained to wait for streaming as a result of the pandemic. Because of ticket prices, they’re not returning in higher numbers except for studio blockbuster tentpoles. Minus films falling in the category of animation, look at how non-IP comedies are performing. When it comes to the low to mid-budget adult comedy, people are waiting for streaming,. They are not coming back to the theaters, not in large numbers unless it is the right movie. Only one romantic comedy took in over $100 million but it’s a hybrid in the adventure genre. I’m talking about The Lost City. Paramount released the film in theaters on March 25, 2002. It followed to Paramount+ on May 10, 2022 but earned just over $10 million at the box office after this date.
Where The Lost City is a hybrid, let’s look at how the other comedies have done domestically (US/Canada) in 2022:
- Dog – $61.7 million (theatrical only)
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – $20.3 million
- Marry Me – $22.4 million (day-and-date in theaters and on Peacock)
- Easter Sunday – $13 million
- See How They Run – $7.9 million (theatrical only, opened September 16)
- Marcel the Shell with Shoes On – $6.3 million
- Vengeance – $4.2 million
After this, all you get are a number of smaller comedy films, mostly indie releases. But again, the studios have largely given up on the low to mid-budget adult comedy. You rarely see them in theaters anymore. They’re mostly landing on the likes of Netflix as the movie of the week. It doesn’t even have to be a good comedy! I’ve seen some terrible rom-coms that somehow enter Netflix’s top ten because of the casting. While it is performing well enough overseas, domestic audiences are awaiting the return of George Clooney and Julia Roberts to the screen in Universal’s Ticket to Paradise, which opens opposite Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. Will audiences turn out for both or will the comic book movie crush the competition?
One thing to take into account for the weekend estimates is the weather. Hurricane Ian also had an impact along the Atlantic coast. The rain had reached New York City just after midnight on Saturday. This almost certainly having an impact on what people chose to do during the day. Do you risk the rain and go to the theater or just stay home and watch TV? Put it this way: in my return to NYC, I didn’t even take a stroll in Central Park on Saturday morning solely because of the rain!
Even if it doesn’t perform well in theaters, Bros will find an audience once it lands on Peacock. My only fear, again, is what this means for other LGBTQ films. Will another studio ever take a chance on a rom-com again or will we have to depend on indies to raise the financing? As Judd Apatow said during the Bros press conference at TIFF, it is insane that there have hardly been any LGBTQ studio rom-coms. How are we supposed to see ourselves on screen when we’re largely ignored or treated like joke characters? Take it from me: how often do you get to see transgender characters that feel like whole characters and are not forced into being a gimmick? How often do you see transgender stories that are not about coming out?
Bros is now playing in theaters.
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