Hollywood Psych

By Sean Collier

April 17, 2009

More like Hollywood Psycho.

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In Hollywood, people do things. Actors do things. Directors do things. Producers do a great many things, and few of them make much sense. Executives do things, and writers do things (quietly, and alone.) Outside of Hollywood, people do things, too. Distributors do things, then in turn and according to specific directions, movie theaters do things. Critics do things, but sadly, very few people notice. Most importantly, we, as the collective moviegoing public, do things. Here at Box Office Prophets, we are proud to tell you who did things, when and where they did them, and just how much money was involved. In Hollywood Psych, I'm going to wait until these things are done, and then tackle the tough question: why.

In late March, celebrity gossip blogs (which are to journalism what McDonald's is to nutrition) began to report that embattled starlet Lindsay Lohan was flat broke. No money, no offers, nothing. Some even reported that sources had claimed Lohan was beginning to entertain offers from high-budget porn directors. Is that true? Probably not. (Sorry.) But it's not hard to believe that everyone's favorite Mean Girl is hard up for cash.

In theory, at least, Lindsay Lohan's job title is "actress." Take a look at her recent list of releases, however. The last film she wrapped, Labor Pains, was bumped from a theatrical release and headed straight to cable. And not even good cable. Labor Pains was slated for a theatrical release, which means someone decided that the movie would make more money if it weren't released into theaters. Think about this – Lindsay Lohan, one of the most talked about stars in the world, can't even make a budget back hypothetically.

Before that? I Know Who Killed Me. Budget of $12 million, debuted to $3.5 million (that's less than Dragonball opened to last weekend, if you're keeping score,) and a final tally of $7.3 million. Not to mention eight Razzie awards, including Worst Picture and Worst Actress. That one followed Georgia Rule (budget $20 million, final tally $18 million,) Chapter 27 (never really got a release, final tally under $100,000,) Bobby (budget $14 million, total $11 million,) and Just My Luck (budget $28 million, total $17 million.) Lohan hasn't been a film that turned a profit since A Prairie Home Companion in 2006, and that film's small profit simply cannot be attributed to her; the last time she starred and turned a profit was in 2005, with Herbie Fully Loaded.

Noticing a trend here?


Despite Lindsay's constant media attention and uncanny ability to sell copies of Us Weekly, she is not a valuable commodity at the box office. Four years without a hit is forever in Hollywood terms, and it would take a lot for filmmakers to take a risk on her at this point – especially with all the potential for negative press. All publicity is good publicity, unless that publicity is that your star desperately needs rehab and her mom won't shut up.

This trend continues through the world of tabloid super-celebs. Paris Hilton, another leading candidate for most famous American not named Obama, fancies herself something of an actress as well. Once again, though, let's go to the scoreboard. Repo: The Genetic Opera? Gross under $1 million. The Hottie and the Nottie? Worldwide gross under $2 million, domestic gross under $30,000. National Lampoon's Pledge This? Worldwide gross under $2 million, domestic gross of $0. Yes, that's right – a Paris Hilton movie that literally no theater in the US would bother with. It made $2 million on the strength of releases in Russia and the Ukraine. That's it.

It's no grand claim to say that some people are famous simply for being famous. That's always been the case, and it always will be. We've had socialites as long as we've had society. It stands to reason that if the public at large can be fully intrigued by a celeb's personal life, they have no need to see that star's "legitimate" (I couldn't possibly use the term more loosely) work. We don't look at Paris Hilton as an entertainer – we look at her as a train wreck, as cautionary example, as an amusing diversion. We could all care less about her day job.

The case of Lindsay, however, is more interesting. After Mean Girls, she was slated for stardom. Not only was it a legitimately good movie, she was pretty darn good in it, and certainly showed signs of serious potential. Thus, the roles in ensemble pieces A Prairie Home Companion and Bobby; let her find herself as an adult actress, but keep the focus off of her. She ruined all that, though – and make no mistake, it was her that ruined it.

The lesson with Lindsay is that even if the public first knows you for what you've done – in her case, Mean Girls and her work as a child actress – but you present them with a life worth gossiping about, they can and will abandon any other interest in you. Lindsay could show up in a dozen well-received films, and we'd still want to know more about Sam Ronson and her DUI arrest. Try as she might, she may not be able to get anyone to take her seriously again. Reality TV awaits, Lindsay. And hey, I'm pretty sure those porno offers are still on the table.



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