Spoofs seek proof of life at box office

Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:02am EDT
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By Jay A. Fernandez

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Is the joke on spoofs?

Historically durable and profitable, the laugh-a-minute genre is showing signs of exhaustion. With Fox-based producer New Regency's latest effort, "Vampires Suck," opening in theaters Wednesday, audiences will another chance to see if there's still blood coursing through those comedic veins.

But some spoof boosters are not optimistic. "Right now, spoof is creatively dead," writer-director Craig Mazin ("Scary Movie 3," "Superhero Movie") said. "There's a big quality problem, and there needs to be a big shift."

The creative team behind "Vampires Suck," which takes its inspiration from the global popularity of the "Twilight" movies and the current obsession with vampires generally, is seasoned with the newest, 21st century-style of spoof movie. Writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have had a hand in "Spy Hard," "Scary Movie," "Date Movie," "Epic Movie," "Meet the Spartans" and "Disaster Movie" (that last one proved far too true to its name).

Almost all are concept-driven projects that don't hold to any real story line and are nothing more than grab bags meant to survey the year in pop culture. In the days before its release, "Suck" is tracking best among young women (again, the "Twilight" connection) and might at best gross in the high-teen millions during its first five days.

In all but the rarest cases, spoofs make money, which is why studios and producers seem ever ready to produce another one -- creative integrity be damned. The vaunted history of the genre might derive from the inspired creative lunacy of Mel Brooks, the David Zucker-Jim Abrahams-Jerry Zucker troika and the Wayans clan, but the new iterations are more mercenary affairs.

The most successful releases in the genre caught the zeitgeist organically. Mike Myers and New Line Cinema's "Austin Powers" trilogy grossed hundreds of millions worldwide on budgets that never were more than $63 million.

Dimension and Keenen Ivory Wayans' "Scary Movie" scared up $278 million worldwide in 2000 with a budget in the $20 million range. Although budgets for sequel installments eventually climbed to $60 million, grosses for "Scary Movie 3" and "Scary Movie 4" still landed above $130 million worldwide. The Leslie Nielsen "Naked Gun" franchise doubled or tripled its investments.   Continued...

<p>A scene from "Vampires Suck". REUTERS/20th Century Fox</p>