Culture

American Sniper and the Billion Dollars That Hollywood Leaves on the Table Each Year

Is it any wonder that American Sniper has dominated the box office? From the Associated Press:

Clint Eastwood’s R-rated Iraq War drama … opened in January like a superhero movie in July, taking in a record $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. four-day weekend.

The film’s unprecedented success obliterated forecasts and set numerous box-office records. It easily surpassed “Avatar” to become the biggest January weekend ever.

Of course it has. This is a film that gives American audiences what they want. PJM’s David Forsmark swoons:

American Sniper lives up to its title. This is an intensely American film. Everything about Chris Kyle’s background, from hunting with his father, to the little country church, to wanting to be a cowboy, is not just Texas, it’s America.

When America gets what America wants, studios make $100 million in four days.

So why don’t more studios make these kinds of films? Why do we instead get inundated with cynical anti-American garbage with anti-heroes espousing an anti-philosophy?

We need not look far for our answer. From The Wrap:

Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”

“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.

And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”

Money may be a store of value, but it’s not the standard. For those holding the reins in Hollywood, the social acceptance of their community can often be a higher value than record profits.

We don’t see more films like American Sniper for the same reason we don’t see more G-rated family films. Movies you can take your kids to earn money hand over fist, for obvious reasons. Conversely, R-rated films have a built-in market limitation which translates to a smaller box office take. That’s why Fox’s forthcoming Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds as a filthy-mouthed mercenary from the X-Men universe is aiming for a PG-13 rating. Gotta get those kids in the seats.

Even so, we see far more R-rated exploitation fare and self-indulgent art house films which critique American culture than we see films like American Sniper. That’s because the former earn kudos from the industry, a currency nearly as good as cash in Hollywood.

Indeed, how many times have you heard it said of a star that he is doing that summer blockbuster to earn a check so he can afford to make an “important” film later? Such importance is not measured by commercial success, but by the accolades of fellow liberal artists.