When I attended this year’s SXSW, ‘The Fall Guy’ was one of the films that received the most attention and had lines wrapped around the block to get into. Given the cast, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking this would be a surefire hit. You have Ryan Gosling fresh off the massive success of ‘Barbie,’ Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Winston Duke, and Hannah Waddingham as a great ensemble. The premise of a stuntman thrown into this over-the-top action conspiracy while trying to help his ex-girlfriend make her directorial debut the best it can be seemed rife to kick off the summer movie season. (I particularly enjoyed it). To our surprise, only two weeks after its theatrical release will ‘The Fall Guy’ be out on VOD tomorrow to rent or purchase. There has indeed been a backlog of films released since, from Amy Winehouse biopic ‘Back To Black,’ ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1,’ ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes‘, and ‘IF— the latter in, which also takes IMAX and Dolby screens away from ‘The Fall Guy.’ However, a two-week run for a film boasting big stars and a $140 million production budget before prints and advertising is wild. It speaks to a film release climate that still hasn’t steadied itself from the release model of the pandemicwhere studios had to release their projects either on a streaming service or available to rent because theaters weren’t available. 

Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch
Credit: Universal Pictures

Yes, it’s perhaps disappointing The Fall Guy has only grossed $63 million domestically and $64.5 million internationally for a total of $127.5 million. However, you have to wonder if the film was marketed differently if it would have stood a chance against the road of diminishing returns. At the heart of David Leitch’s film is a love story that you could have spun into a feel-good action rom-com. Then, it would have had steady legs like the ones ‘Anyone But You’ had last year, even without being shown in the optimum format. However, there’s still very little rhyme or reason as to what films get a long lead time to have a shelf life in theaters and which don’t. The combination of high prices (IMAX is an almost $29 ticket on average alone), a touch and go theatrical viewing experience, and release strategies have conditioned moviegoers to stay home and wait it out. Let’s consider two of the top-grossing films of 2023, ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie.’

Not only were these great films in their own right, but word of mouth and the sustained success of the box office inhibited Universal and Warner Bros Pictures from keeping the films in theaters and out of the digital ecosystem for a sustained period. Audiences went to see these films twice, even three times, because it felt essential to see Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ in various formats (it stayed in theaters for 122 days) or ‘Barbie’ with that communal energy.

I’m not saying that every release can tap into the organic Barbenheimer movement (in fact, i’m asking studios to not overly try to duplicate lightning in a bottle), but there’s still maybe somewhat a negative connotation when it comes to how people view direct-to-streaming or films whisked quickly to streaming. In the case of Comcast films, they have generally gone to PVOD three weeks after the theatrical release date since the year 2020. If you’re a consumer, you’re probably asking yourself “why would I pay over $20 to see this in theaters when I can wait to justify my monthly cost of Peacock when it eventually goes there?” Thus, there are opposite forces opposing one another in which there is a good collective of movie goers that want to see films like The Fall Guy. However, depending on their financial situations, they may only elect to pay for the “sure thing” franchises they recognize or a more family communal film to justify the overall costs. Hollywood is still much trying to figure this formula out, as streaming as a whole has become less profitable and audience behavior has become more stringent for reasons to go to the movies.

Main Photo Credit: Universal Pictures