Here’s a burning question that still remains unanswered: Is the romantic comedy genre dead?
We could debate that question all day. What’s clear is that the genre was once a tentpole in the world of cinema, and now it barely exists.
Pete Davidson recently tried his hand at the rom-com genre, but the only truly great rom-com that’s been released recently is the under-the-radar Set It Up on Netflix. The romantic comedy, more often referred to as the rom-com, spawned a lot of A-list careers and made plenty of money in the ’80s, ’90s and Aughts. And then the Hollywood winds shifted. Today, true rom-coms are few and far between. With pandemic-era theater closures and more audiences opting for streaming, the rom-com genre is definitely on life support.
The Billy Eichner-produced romantic comedy, Bros, was supposed to be a second chance for the modern rom-com. Not only is the movie a gay love story, but it features an all LGBTQ+ cast. Unfortunately, it had a disappointing box office debut.
Despite receiving positive reviews, the film grossed just $4.8 million during its opening week, coming in fourth place on the weekend chart. Not to mention, the movie was predicted to make 40% more than its earnings, according to The New York Times. Like the rom-com genre itself, Bros lost out to the horror genre, with the low-budget horror movie Smile taking the top spot.
Although the film did pull on the heartstrings of its viewers and currently has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Eichner jokingly blamed homophobia for his movie’s poor showing at the box office, telling his Twitter, followers, “Everyone who ISN’T a homophobic weirdo should go see BROS tonight!”
On Sunday evening, the actor-comedian (who also stars in the rom-com), took to Twitter to share his thoughts on its reception. “Last night I snuck in and sat in the back of a sold out theater playing BROS in LA. The audience howled with laughter start to finish, burst into applause at the end, and some were wiping away tears as they walked out.”
Universal Pictures anticipated Bros — the first gay romantic comedy with an all-openly LGBTQ cast to receive a wide theatrical release by a major studio — to earn $8-10 million in ticket sales, per The New York Times. The studio even went the extra mile to book “Bros” onto 3,350 screens and spent millions on promotion.
Ultimately, Eicher believes that “straight people…just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is.” Eichner tweeted. With a $22 million production budget, it’s possible the gay rom-com will end up losing money.
While there have been a lot of headlines blaming straight people and homophobia for the film’s disappointing debut, the real story is a bit more complicated.
Following the pandemic, enlisting the right star power for the big screen is essential to performing well at the box office. And the same rule of thumb applies to the romantic comedy. It’s one thing to have a great script, but another to assume moviegoers are going to spend cash on a flick with actors they’re aren’t emotionally invested in. Eichner may have a cult-following thanks to his popular Billy on the Street series, but he lacks the traditional star power of a rom-com leading man.
This writer still holds out hope for the rom-com genre, and we’d all like to believe that true love is just one meet cute away.