An infrequently updated dumping ground for one culture junkie's thoughts on film and whatever else

Monday, March 8, 2010

Some quick mythbusting

Boy, am I tired of the "no one saw The Hurt Locker" meme. I know it's the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner ever, which obviously makes it awesome that it beat the box-office juggernaut Avatar. I understand the David vs. Goliath angle that the media has taken, and I don't have a problem with it.

But every time I hear some variation on the "no one saw The Hurt Locker" line from some media outlet, all I can think of is, just because you didn't see it doesn't mean no one did.

I hate looking at box-office numbers, but let's take a look, shall we?

First, please understand that The Hurt Locker is what you call an independent film, which means it was MADE OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO SYSTEM. At the most basic level, that is what "independent film" means. It was made for $11 million, which isn't cheap by normal human standards but obviously is considered "low-budget" by the standard of Hollywood studio productions. Given that the movie was independently produced and financed, and released by smallish indie studio Summit Entertainment, IT WAS NEVER GOING TO HAVE A SUPER-DUPER WIDE RELEASE. Look, I feel for the Oscar telecast viewers in South Dakota or wherever who were scratching their heads at why they hadn't heard of this year's Best Picture winner. But media folks, you should know better.

OK, now let's crunch the numbers. According to Box Office Mojo, The Hurt Locker has made about $14.7 million domestically, and $21.3 million worldwide, which is, as far as I can tell, really fucking good for an indie in the current climate. By comparison, the similarly mid-level indie A Single Man, which had a budget hovering in the same ballpark ($7 million), made something like half of Hurt Locker's domestic gross with about $8.5 million. Or to really get some perspective, the beloved-by-me indie Humpday, which was a micro-budget affair, made only about 400 grand.

The Wikipedia article on The Hurt Locker is instructive as to how successful the film was: "It held the highest per-screen-average of any movie playing theatrically in the United States for the first two weeks of its release, gradually moving into the top 20 chart with much wider-released, bigger budget studio films."

The Hurt Locker was a smashing success. It's dumb to pretend that it was some out-of-nowhere obscurity that toppled Avatar despite being seen by no one.

The prevalence of that ignorant attitude is just one reason why this victory for independent film is such a necessary and welcome one.

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