Ahead of this weekend's 'SCARY MOVIE 5', we take a look at the sub-genre's box office decline.

Analysis: What Happened to the Spoof?

on April 09, 2013 by Shawn Robbins

sm5.pngRemember when Austin Powers dominated most summer movies at the box office? How often do you find yourself getting sucked into Spaceballs or Airplane! on TV?

Now, ask yourself the same question about BASEketball, Disaster Movie, and MacGruber. Even if you do remember those, you likely don't want to. There's an even stronger likelihood, based on their own box office results, that you never even saw them.

Granted, the spoof genre has never been a consistent success. Even during the heyday of the legendary Mel Brooks, his success with films like History of the World, Part I (one of the two original modern-day spoofs and earner of a solid $31.7 million in 1981), Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men In Tights spawned a number of imitators that many never heard about.

Ditto goes for the monopoly of laughs produced by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker. Their original Airplane! grossed a huge $83.5 million in 1980--thus signaling the beginning of the era of comedy farces at the box office. It's sequel didn't fare nearly as well, but that team went on to produce other hits like Leslie Nielsen's Naked Gun franchise (the first taking in $78.8 million in 1988) and 1991's Hot Shots! ($69.5 million).

Picking up the torch after them was Mike Myers, whose two Austin Powers sequels stand as the highest grossing in the history of spoofs (ditto when adjusted for inflation). Combined, those three movies grossed over $473 million domestically and $675 million globally.

The Wayans brothers (Keenan Ivory, Marlon, and Shawn) next struck gold in 2000 with Scary Movie. That film banked a stunning $157 million and upset several big summer blockbusters. The series hit a low point one year later when the sequel disappointed with $71.3 million domestically. In stepped the veteran David Zucker himself for the third and fourth entries: they grossed $110 million and $90.7 million, respectively, in 2003 and 2006.

That's where the line ends (for now). In the decade since Austin Powers and Scary Movie generated strong returns for the spoof genre, the number of imitators multiplied even more--and the degree of success dropped. Films like Meet the SpartansEpic MovieDate Movie, Disaster Movie, Superhero Movie, Dance Flick, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story all failed to generate the event-level status of the aforementioned movies.

It's not that most of these aren't profitable (they look cheap because they are cheap--literally). Some still are. But none of them even reached $50 million in North America. Some struggled to make half that. The end result: when reviewing the most-attended spoof movies, the most recent entry in the last decade among the all-time top 25 is Scary Movie 4. 22 of the top 30 were released prior to 2002.

While even the most popular spoofs have never been for everyone, recent efforts in the sub-genre have lacked the creative originality and audience respect that made past hits so successful. Believe it or not, low-brow humor has an art to it. Just ask Mel Brooks and Mike Myers.

What does all of this mean for Scary Movie 5 this weekend? The franchise is long past its peak of relevance and January's A Haunted House likely dampened the chance for it to break out. Moreover, the age of Redbox, Netflix, and On-Demand has seriously hampered the ability of non-event movies to attract big crowds. Scary Movie 5 is thus expected to lose a big portion of the franchise's previous audience.

The BoxOffice.com team is currently predicting a $20 million opening with a $42 million domestic haul for Scary Movie 5. Check back on Wednesday for our final opening weekend prediction.

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