The Hollywood Reporter recently published an article warning of an “existential crisis” in Tinseltown, as domestic box office sales remain more than 20 percent down compared with 2019, the last year before the great COVID-19 panic decimated moviegoing. The report read:
One out of every five moviegoers has vanished since the pandemic, according to research compiled by one Hollywood studio. Whether they’ll ever return to see a film on the big screen is anyone’s guess— and, if they do, when.
It’s an alarming stat that offers some explanation as to why the box office turned on its head in 2023, leaving the film industry bewildered and befuddled.
Disney did especially poorly in 2023, ceding its seven-year-running box office crown to Universal.
The comprehensive, 1,700-word report provided a laundry list of excuses for the Silver Screen slump. I counted seven such justifications: pandemic recovery, “the same old franchise fare,” changing audience tastes, “superhero fatigue,” a lack of consumer interest in moviegoing, an “abundance of streaming product,” and no idea really.
Every reason under the sun, in other words, except the one staring all of us in the face: Hollywood went woke.
It should be no mystery that Americans no longer want to pay good money to be preached at by elites with proudly reprobate values.
Indeed, in a scathing reply to the report, writer and film reviewer John Nolte offered this uncurbed analysis:
Hollywood’s insane crusade against decent people (and decency) hit warp speed after the murder of George Floyd with a legion of movies where no one behaves or interacts normally. In order to push its social and political agenda … Disney is now ‘queering’ our children. Indiana Jones is criticized as a colonialist. Luke Skywalker is a child murderer. Buzz Lightyear is a GLAAD crusader. Thor learns to wear an apron.
On top of that, movie after movie tells us sexual deviancy, mental illness, and narcissism are virtues. Worst of all, our heroes, the very characters that made these franchises golden geese for decades, are deconstructed, portrayed as bigots, and replaced with girls and racial minorities for no good reason other than tokenism.
The excuses offered by The Hollywood Reporter might serve to coddle the egos of actors, directors, and studio CEOs, but they do nothing to explain the great success of the movies Americans did venture out to see on the big screen.
As John Nolte noted:
The answer is right here: Spider-Man: No Way Home, Barbie, Oppenheimer, John Wick 4, Top Gun: Maverick, and Sound of Freedom. Those titles were monster hits during and after the pandemic for one very simple reason: people wanted to see them.
The idea that the reasons behind this drop in moviegoing ranks is a whodunnit is absurd. The titles above prove that people will still turn out in droves if they find something appealing.
The last film highlighted by Nolte above provides the most insightful response to Hollywood’s great non-mystery.
Sound of Freedom—the movie starring Jim Caviezel and featuring a powerful anti-sex-trafficking storyline and message—cost $14.5 million to produce but grossed $248 million globally and became the 10th most popular film in America in 2023.
Audiences gave the film a whopping 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, Sound of Freedom is the film that almost wasn’t.
Filmed and produced independently and completed in 2018, Sound of Freedom was set to be distributed by Fox Latin America until Disney acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019 and dropped the movie—presumably for reasons John Nolte outlines above.
But then a miracle happened.
In a recent episode of Fox and Friends, the film’s producer, Eduardo Verástegui, explained that he spent years “knocking on doors everywhere. And all the experts in Hollywood told us that ‘This is not a good film. … Nobody will go see this film.’”
Nevertheless, Verástegui was determined not to give up and began “praying to God for an angel to come and rescue this film.”
While a literal angel did not appear, a studio by that name did. Crowd-sourced Angel Studios, with its “Pay it Forward” platform, picked Sound of Freedom, trusting that their largely Christian audience would get behind it.
The rest is history.
There is a great lesson here for Hollywood—if Hollywood is willing to listen.
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