Brands, Not A-Listers, Now Rule Hollywood

Here’s a tale of the tape that should frighten every movie star.

Box office results for “Finding Dory”:

$177 million in less than two weeks in theaters


Box office results for “A Hologram for the King” starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks:

$4 million since its April 22 release

Hanks is one of our best actors, a versatile talent who evokes Jimmy Stewart in his prime. Yet his latest movie barely drew a crowd.

He shouldn’t feel too badly. He’s not alone.

Most actors today can’t guarantee box office success. Remember “By the Sea,” starring real-life couple and A-list superstars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt? It made $538,460 according to

These are anecdotal results, but they point to a far bigger Hollywood trend. Brands rule. Actors … help, but that’s about it when it comes to commercial clout. A few stars enjoy fleeting box office success. Right now, both Kevin Hart and Melissa McCarthy will score with even their weakest film releases. But that rarely lasts.

What endures?

Pixar. Marvel Comics. James Bond.

Brands, the recognizable kinds we’ve grown to trust, draw us in. In our media-saturated age, seeing a familiar face on a movie poster isn’t enough. We need more.

“Dory” crushed the competition because we have such fond memories of “Finding Nemo.” The studio behind it, Pixar, always delivers solid, family-friendly fare. So it didn’t matter that the new film adds Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell and Eugene Levy to the cast.


The brand sold it.

Actors are partially to blame for their decreasing clout. Too many stars insult their potential audiences in the media, on Twitter and in other public venues. They rant against the GOP, making movie goers less eager to support their work.

They misbehave, either in rants caught on video (Alec Baldwin) or more serious indiscretions (Hugh Grant).

And, thanks to our bulky cable lineups, we see too much of them anyway. Stars push their products on every platform imaginable. That sense of movie star mystery is all but gone in 2016. We know how they vote, what they eat for brunch and what schools their kids attend.

We even know who wore it best, thanks to US Weekly.

It’s no wonder the A-listers now flock to proven animated brands like Pixar and Disney. They know that’s the best way to ensure box office success. Their faces alone no longer do the trick.



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