Romantic comedies always had a prominent place in filmmaking; that is, until a few years ago when it became obvious that the genre had taken a backseat to action, fantasy, animated, thriller, drama, slapstick comedy and virtually every other category of film. From Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 silent film City Lights to When Harry Met Sally in the 80’s to the 2009 Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds farce The Proposal, romantic comedies were a Hollywood staple for over 75 years. So, why have they suddenly become an endangered species?
When there’s a dramatic drop in the number of films being made in a particular genre, it usually means that those types of films simply aren’t making a big profit for the studios. This is at least one of the reasons that rom coms have been so few and far between as of late. But why have romantic comedies suddenly fallen out of favor with audiences?
Most likely it is a multi-faceted problem. The biggest issue seems to be the audience itself. The changing demographics of moviegoers has led to a barrage of action, sci-fi and horror films, mostly catering to teenagers and young adults, especially young men who often return to theaters to see the same film multiple times.
Another problem is the substandard quality of the romantic comedies that are currently still being made. Somewhere along the way, it’s as if people forgot how to make these films. Poor writing, nonsensical plotlines, along with amateurish producing and directing, has insulted the intelligence of many a romantic comedy fan. Even some of the genre’s biggest stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Hugh Grant, or Reese Witherspoon have failed to make many of these films worthwhile.
Some would also argue that audiences have grown weary of the fairly predictable formulas that these films are often based on and that today’s moviegoers are too sophisticated for traditional romances.
Whatever the reason for the decline, chances are these films will eventually make a comeback, but in what form? One trend in the few romantic comedies that are being made is that they are less about the romantic storyline, with a bigger focus on the comedy or on subplots. There is also much more sex in the newer films as opposed to many previous rom com’s, in which the entire film might take place before a physical relationship between the onscreen couple had been established.
The good news is there is reason to hope that there is a future for quality romance comedies. Although the hit Silver Linings Playbook is typically referred to as a drama, it is also being categorized as a romantic comedy. There are also several promising humorous romances on the horizon including two with the very popular Amanda Seyfried: Wonderful Tonight, and the April 2013 release, The Big Wedding, featuring an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, and Katherine Heigl.