Like the bizarre series of similarities found in the Lincoln/Kennedy assassinations, the box office “assassinations” of 1985 and 2005 share some eerie similarities and coincidences. Both slumps began in a year following the November re-election of a president who was despised by the coasts, the media, and Bruce Springsteen. Both of these re-elected presidents liked to wear cowboy hats and boots. Both presided over ambiguous, hard-to-define wars: the Cold War, the War on Terror. During both campaigns the who’s-who of hip Hollywood actors (who now probably need hip replacement) such as Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda, Barbara Streisand and Ed Asner came out in support of their guy (hint: not the one in the cowboy hat). The cowboy candidates, then and now, had Chuck Norris. During both campaigns, Bruce Springsteen took a tour on the road to encourage people not to vote for the guy in the cowboy hat. The “bad guys” in the world--Godless Russian commies in the 80’s; Our-God-4-Allah-ya Islamic Terrorists in the 00’s--also didn’t want the guy in the cowboy hat to win. But they didn’t particularly care for Springsteen either.
EXCUSES REJECTED; PLETHORA OF SHITTY MOVIES NOT MENTIONED
There are also similarities in the reason given for the slumps. The Hollywood-Know-It-Alls in the panic induced by both the Slump of ’85 and the current Slump of ’05, were quick to finger all the new-fangled home entertainment technology as the culprit. In 1985 videocassettes, VCRs, Commodore home computers, and Ms. Pac-Man were allegedly sucking us away from theaters. In 2005 DVDs, plasma screen televisions, chat rooms, and “Destroy All Humans” are supposedly doing the job. In 1985, this proved to be untrue as Hollywood rebounded and had some of the best years of its life in the tech-filled decades to come. It’s untrue now as well.
RED-STATERS SCORN "GIGLI", HOLLYWOOD DOOMED
So what caused the slump of ’85? And what is causing the Slump of ‘05? The eerily similar political climates preceding the slumps have led some to suggest that moviegoers who liked the guy in the cowboy hat were holding a grudge against Hollywood by staying away from the multiplexes. After all, even in a landslide election, the nation is pretty much evenly split between the reds and the blues. Publicly picking a side is bound to alienate you from half of everyone. If just a small percentage of these moviegoers turned their backs on Hollywood, it could have a devastating effect on the bottom line.
AMERICA EAGERLY AWAITS NEW ACTION FILMS STARRING PATRICIA HEATON, TED NUGENT, BEN SHAPIRO
When the Slump of ’85 began, the Top 10 films included Police Academy 2, Friday the 13th Part V, Porky’s Revenge, and The Care Bears Movie. Given a choice like that I’d stay home with Ms. Pac-Man too. The first major breakout hit during the slump was Code of Silence, the first of All-American hero Chuck Norris’s 1985 two’fer. It stayed at the top of the box office for two weeks and proved to be a modest, yet highly profitable, hit despite the slump. Hmmm. Didn't Norris support Reagan just a few months earlier?
LIBYAN SOCIALISTS = ISLAMIC TERRORISTS
Next on top, one of the films that helped make the Slump of ’85 a thing of the past, Back to the Future. The time-travel film (which, incidentally, had Islamic Terrorists for bad guys) became the highest grossing movie of the year, spent 11 weeks at number one, and grossed $377,000,000 in 2005 dollars. What's even more amazing about Back to the Future is that it was made without any big movie stars.
THOSE WERE THE JINGOISTIC DAYS. AND HEY, WHAT ABOUT "COBRA"?
Our historical field trip back to 1985 reveals that the magical movie ingredients that saved Hollywood’s ass(ets) from the Slump of ’85 were: • Four right-leaning stars (Arnold, Clint, Chuck, and Sly) • Russian communist villains (plus one serving of Islamic Terrorists)• a college Republican in a nostalgic look at 1950’s Americana• a Christian preacher in a cowboy hat• a comedic mockery of snotty Europeans• a gun-loving vigilante• Rocky Balboa proudly displaying Old Glory
UH...THE MOVIE ABOUT THE CAREER CRIMINAL WHO TRIES TO STEAL THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE?
The good news: if they came back in 1985, they’ll come back now. All they need is the right stuff. Just look at the first big hit after the election of ’04 (and one of the last big hits before the Slump of ‘05 began): National Treasure.
Now, this is all very salutory, but here's something to think about: Craig Titley, who wrote this piece which eagerly urges Hollywood producers to embrace jingoism and studiously avoids blaming crap movies for the current slump, is himself a Hollywood screenwriter. His credits: See Spot Run, Cheaper By the Dozen, Scooby-Doo, and that immortal TV classic, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?.
Yep. It's the lack of patriotism, that's why there's a slump. And not at all because of movies like those.