Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009

Skip the Stars

From the movies' infancy, when Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin won the world's affection, Hollywood's most precious capital was the face on the screen. That was Rule No. 1 for nearly 90 years — and now it's broken. We're in the poststar era. To see how the movies do without big names, look no further than the top-lined actors in this summer's hits: Chris Pine (Star Trek), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Ed Asner (Up). Now consider the names on two summer flopperoos: Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost) and Adam Sandler (Funny People). What draw audiences today are stories with a touch of fantasy and some cool visual effects. Studio bosses know this; that's why they're so reluctant to pay stars $20 million or more per picture. One actor who got that kind of money this summer: Tom Hanks, whose Angels & Demons survived the shrugs of critics and audiences to earn nearly $500 million worldwide.