‘Bros’ director backs star in blaming straight people for film flop

“Gay men are the only people who saw the movie,” says the filmmaker

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Director Nicholas Stoller thinks Bros star and co-writer Billy Eichner wasn’t too far off the mark when he blamed the movie’s box office failure on straight people not showing up to watch the movie in theaters.

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After the gay rom-com flopped in its opening weekend, mustering just $4.8 million against a $22 million production budget, Eicher tweeted: “Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore etc, straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.”

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Eichner then urged “everyone who isn’t a homophobic weirdo” to see the movie.

In its second weekend of release, Bros continued its free fall, adding just $2.15 million to its total gross.

In an interview with The Hollywood ReporterStoller weighed in on the box office disappointment and Eichner’s comments.

“Gay men are the only people who saw the movie. It’s not like he said something that was a lie or incorrect,” Stoller said THR. “I think the industry has trained people not to go to the theaters for comedy. But I also think people saw it and thought, ‘That story’s not my story. Why would I go see that?’”

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Stoller went on to predict that the film will enjoy success when audiences can discover it at home. “That’s what’s happened with most of the movies I’ve directed, with the exception of Neighbors, is people discover it as it gets out in the world. I think a lot of people are still afraid to go to theaters and a lot of people will get it on streaming,” he said.

Bros producer Guy Branum praised the film’s distributor, Universal Pictures, for taking a risk with the project, but acknowledged it wasn’t going to be an easy sell.

“The fact that this was a gay comedy that went out to 3,000 theaters — in Birmingham, Alabama, and like Gary, Indiana, and everywhere in America — it created the possibility for a different kind of success and a different kind of failure. And we experienced the failure.

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Despite being embraced by critics and audiences, Bros has been a turn-off at cinemas, grossing a meager $8.9 million at the North American box office since its opening weekend.

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But its tough sell might have been less about homophobia and more about how we are changing the ways in which we consume comedy nowadays, says Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations.

“With big names like Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, Melissa McCarthy and even Ryan Reynolds lending out their talents to streamers, the theatrical marketplace for comedies has cratered,” Bock tells the Toronto Sun. “I think anytime a studio releases a comedy — regardless of content — aimed for a very specific demographic, they’ve limited their box office potential. That’s true of any genre, really, but especially applies to Bros. Comedies that work in theaters are action/comedy hybrids — like Jumanji, Sonic the Hedgehog oath Bad Boys For Life … The small studio comedy may become a thing of the past — at least for now.”

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Eichner seemingly concurred with those sentiments during an appearance at the The New Yorker Festival on Friday, admitting that many comedy stars are taking their projects to streamers because that’s where the audiences are.

“That seems to be where people want to watch these movies,” he said PEOPLE.

Eichner maintained his stance that homophobia played a part in the film’s financial failure in certain parts of North America, but also said that the film was not made to try and change the minds of bigoted people.

“We really didn’t make the movie for homophobes anyway. This is an R-rated gay rom-com. It was never intended as a movie to try to convince people who don’t like gay people that we’re normal and soft and cuddly and OK to love. It’s so not that movie. So, it’s complicated, and I honestly find the whole thing to be very silly when you take a bird’s-eye view of it all — it’s just a comedy,” he said.

In the lead-up to its release, Bros was billed as the first gay rom-com from a major studio, and the first studio film of any genre both written by and starring an openly gay man with a cast that was almost entirely LGBTQ.

mdaniell@postmedia.com

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