Films starring Elizabeth Banks, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Josh Duhamel, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet have a combined lifetime domestic gross of over $10.7 billion. On Jan. 25, "Movie 43" -- which stars all nine of them, plus recognizable actors like Chloe Moretz, Terrence Howard, Kristen Bell, Jason Sudeikis and many, many more -- opened with just $4.8 million in ticket sales.
Over the weekend of Feb. 8, only two weeks after its opening, "Movie 43" earned $279,717 from 777 venues, giving the film a per-screen average of just $360.
"Movie 43" is an omnibus or anthology film -- a collection of short stories or segments, which tie together in a loose fashion. The storytelling technique has been fashionable for Hollywood screenwriters since the 1940s, and yielded such hit films as 1962's "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", 2003's "Love Actually" and 2010's "Valentine's Day." The films -- often comedies, frequently with a romantic slant -- bring together a cadre of Hollywood stars with the goal of getting audiences to the theater.
That worked, to a point: After 2009's "He's Just Not That Into You" (which featured Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper among others) and the aforementioned "Valentine's Day" (which featured Ashton Kutcher, Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts and, yes, Bradley Cooper, among others) opened with impressive tallies, Hollywood studios seemed eager to recreate the magic. "Valentine's Day" director Garry Marshall planned an indirect, all-star follow-up called "New Year's Eve"; Lionsgate put together an all-star adaptation of the baby book "What To Expect When You're Expecting"; "He's Just Not That Into You" star Drew Barrymore was hired to direct and appear in "How To Be Single." None, however, hit like "Valentine's Day" (the film earned $56 million on its opening weekend and $110 million overall domestically, despite terrible reviews).
"New Year's Eve" grossed just $13 million over its opening weekend and $54 million total, half of what "Valentine's Day" managed. "What To Expect When You're Expecting" (which starred Banks, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kendrick and Chris Rock) was similarly disappointing with just $41 million in total ticket sales. Barrymore's film, meanwhile, hasn't been made yet and no other stars are currently attached.
This is to say nothing of "Movie 43," which might be the omnibus' nadir: Before its release, the film -- a filthy comedy as opposed to a cuddly romcom -- was a complete washout that even its stars wanted to forget. (As The New York Post reported, A-listers were cajoled into appearing, with many only starring because of relationships with producers Peter Farrelly and Charlie Wessler.)
"We now live in a world where star power carries less weight with audiences than ever before and that the concept is truly king," Hollywood.com box office expert Paul Dergarabedian told HuffPost Entertainment. "Just look at the recent failures of Sylvester Stallone ('Bullet to the Head'), Arnold Schwarzenegger ('The Last Stand'), Jason Statham ('Parker') and even Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe ('Broken City'). Slapping a bunch of big names together in one giant movie cornucopia is no guarantee of a box office bonanza."
Of course, even without major box office, omnibus films can make sense for studios. For starters, the stars' salaries are prorated to the amount of time that they work. Bradley Cooper made $15 million to star in "The Hangover Part III," but if he works for a few days on the next version of "Valentine's Day," his total pay will be significantly smaller. For stars, the films can represent an easy payday, too: Julia Roberts was famously paid $3 million for "Valentine's Day," a rate that Vulture reported came out to $8,333 per second of screen time. All told, Roberts only worked three days on the film, however, making her salary workable within the film's $50 million budget. ("New Year's Eve" also cost a little over $50 million; "What To Expect When You're Expecting" checked in around $40 million.) It can be cost effective for studios to make an omnibus film; to wit: "Movie 43" only cost $6 million, despite its high-wattage cast.
Which is why despite the fact that "Movie 43" flopped, the genre isn't going anywhere. It just might need some readjustment.
"I don’t think audiences are rejecting the multi-star format altogether," Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com told HuffPost Entertainment, "but they need more on the table than just a bunch of famous names."
Or, as Dergarabedian puts it, "They just want a good movie."
This story appears in Issue 37 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, Feb. 22.