There was a very interesting piece in today’s New York Times on how cinematic superstars no longer guarantee a movie’s success. The article suggested several reasons why this is so, but I have my own conclusion:

Times are tough, and we’re not friggin’ stupid.

Will Ferrell, for example, is funny. But unless you have an IQ lower than, oh, 50, there’s no way you could see the preview for Land of the Lost and think, “I’ve gotta see that!” The same goes for, literally, any film Eddie Murphy puts out these days. His latest—name escaping me—grossed $6 million its opening week. By comparison, I make that much eating a potato chip.

As I write this, I stand 20 minutes removed from seeing District 9 with my father. Truly, truly, truly excellent film—with nary a big-time star for miles. Most people I know don’t need Eddie or Will or Julia or Clooney to make a trip to the cinema worthwhile. We need excellent stories, good drama, a compelling ending, etc … etc.

So keep your stars. Nine out of 10 times, the indie film wins by heart …