So, a Hollywood studio has shelled out some $30M in guaranteed publicity spending and distribution rights for Don Jon’s Addiction, a film in which Joseph-Gordon Levitt plays a porn-addicted lothario who gets together with Scarlett Johansson. Tony Danza and Julianne Moore are also in the mix.
From a business perspective, this strikes me as a weird move, no? The last R-rated porn comedy to come down the pike, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, grossed just $31M. Joseph-Gordon Levitt is pretty far from a surefire bet at the box office: his biggest hits (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) aren’t really “his” hits at all. Looper is the closest thing he’s done to carry a picture, and he costarred in that with Bruce Willis. In smaller, indie-style films like 50/50 or 500 Days of Summer he has managed grosses in the $30M to $35M range. Premium Rush bombed out with just $20M. There’s really nothing in his resume to suggest he can carry a film like this to the $60M mark.
Same goes for costars Johansson and Moore. ScarJo‘s biggest hits have come as a secondary or, hell, a septenary star; Moore has been in just one film that grossed more than $60M since 2004 (and she got third billing in that picture).
Now, here’s the thing: I really like all of these actors. They’re obviously talented, they bring a spark to the screen, and I think it’s a shame that so many of their films have gone underlooked. And there are ancillary revenue streams that will help bridge the gap if it falls short at the box office (DVD/Blu-ray sales are cratering but television rights are still pretty valuable). I just think it’s also fair to point out that it’s at least a little weird that Hollywood is willing to bet tens of millions of dollars on an R-rated porn comedy that will have trouble selling overseas and features no real domestic stars. I dunno. Maybe it’s just me.
(As an aside: This post is going to look really dumb when Don Jon’s Addiction grosses $150M at the box office.)