Larry Crowne and Ageism: Enough Already!

July 7, 2011

Earlier this week, Eric Anderson, one of our Old Hollywood.com community members, posted a link to an article on our community site that outraged Eric and also made me shake my head in disgust. The Hollywood Reporter article focused on the average age of the audience that showed up last weekend to see Larry Crowne.

The article itself (which was simply reporting on audience and studio reactions to the film itself) is not the issue.

The problem is the prevailing New Hollywood ageist attitude about people over 30.

The whole thrust of the article is that the audience that showed up opening weekend for Larry Crowne was overwhelmingly over 50 years old. In The New Hollywood, such a result is so completely off-the-charts undesirable that there is no current frame of reference. In fact, the audience age was so much older than any recent models that a nameless (of course) studio executive commented: “My goodness, there are bristle cone pine trees younger than this movie.’ He should have said “audience” rather than “movie” but he’s nameless so what can we really expect? The whole attitude in the article toward the age of the audience was snarky and derisive to the max.

To which I respond:

“If you would just take off those $17  3D glasses, movie industry, you would see how remarkably wonderful this result actually is. People over 50..you know, those of us that you wrote off about 20 years ago?….will indeed show up, even on an opening weekend in the heat of summer, if you put a product on the screen that attracts us. You folks are so myopically focused on your Burger King tie-ins that you are completely ignoring the great news that all your theories about older people not showing up just blew out the box office window. Actually, maybe that’s why you just want to dismiss the Larry Crowne results. Kind of makes you look a little foolish, doesn’t it?”

If the over 50 audience liked the film, the film will be around for a while. If those people didn’t like it, the film will disappear quickly. What’s relevant is that the film grossed $15 million in its opening weekend by appealing to people in Acts 2 and 3 of life.

As I say in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:

The New Hollywood: Act One

The Old Hollywood: Acts Two and Three

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.” (Away From Her, 2006)

The New Hollywood is almost exclusively focused on Act One of the human condition. Much as the youth-obsessed culture of Southern California in which The New Hollywood is centered, The New Hollywood primarily makes and markets films to people under the age of thirty.

The Old Hollywood used to make films for all audience segments because it recognized that, like movies and plays, our lives also include second and third acts.

Every generation feels somewhat left behind and even abandoned when their time in the sun (the California metaphors just keep coming) is over.

Baby boomers (those born roughly between 1945 and 1965), however, have a relationship with movies and media that is unprecedented. We were the first generation to be raised with both movies and television and have no interest whatsoever in abandoning them or, perhaps more succinctly, in being abandoned by them.

Generations X (born roughly between 1966 to 1980) and Y (born roughly between 1981 to 2000) followed the baby boomers and have the same movie and television orientation as well; consequently, they will likely have the same desire to not be abandoned by movies when they move past Act One.

In fact, even the youngest members of Generation X are now moving into Act Two while much of Generation Y is still in Act one.

People who are in the second or third act of life (age thirty and over) still want entertainment that appeals to them and their interests, and these generations now have the power to guarantee that those desires are fulfilled.

The New Hollywood is not structured to do that.

The Old Hollywood is being called home to do just that.

By the time we hit thirty or so, most of us have lived through at least a few dark nights of the soul and, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we probably will face those kinds of challenges again. We have, that is, looked into our own personal abyss and made adjustments that changed our lives forever.

But, as the curtain rises on Act Two or Three of our lives, we’re still here, aren’t we?

And so is The Old Hollywood.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana Segal July 7, 2011 at 10:08 am

I went to “Larry Crowne” last weekend in Tucson. I was surprised and delighted to find the theater full. The crowd was over 16-21 and was made up of equal parts of men and women. To me, that is a hopeful sign. If you make a movie with stars they identify with, adult viewers will come.
Wishing you movie blessings!
Jana

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lauren simon July 8, 2011 at 8:38 am

If YOU build it,
they will come.

XO

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dondig July 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm

You have the generations wrong.
Boomers are 1945 – 1960
Gen X 1961 – 1981
Gen Y 1982 – 2000
Millennials 2000 – 2010
In any case, ageism sucks but I see it turning around as the leading edge Gen X moves into its 50s.

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Stephen Simon July 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Not to nitpick but the baby boom did not begin until 1946 when soldiers just home from the war (that ended in 1945) and their wives started having children….I was one of them….and the baby boom ended in 1964…
ww.u-s-history.com/pages/h2061.html

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Wendy Heilig July 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm

If only the New Hollywood would have understood they set the stage for their own extinction (since everyone eventually ages – if they’re lucky), maybe they wouldn’t have created the monster to begin with. Thankfully, there are those absolutely wonderful beings who care enough to help lead the tide of change in movie making (that’s you, Stephen!), so that true community, sharing, and compassion can reign again. Bravo!

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Stephen Simon July 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Thank you so much, Wendy–and welcome!!

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