Stars: They Ain't What They Used to Be

"The Judd Apatow laugh factory is sort of a powerful box office draw even though people aren't going to see Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill per se," said Steve Zeitchik, senior writer for The Hollywood Reporter. "It's not just actors anymore; there are people behind the camera and at the writing table who are driving the box office. It's just a lot more complicated than it used to be."

Maybe if Clooney had stripped off his bygone era football garb and suited up next to a co-star like Brad Pitt (sorry John Krasinski), he'd have a hit on his hands. Though he won an Oscar for "Syriana," Clooney's biggest box office success has been with the "Ocean's" franchise and its ensemble cast. Even if one star doesn't have much pull these days, it's still hard to compete with half a dozen. And a sexy plot never hurt anyone. (Look at the film that took the No. 1 spot at the box office over "Leatherheads" — clearly, gambling's a winner.)

"I think if Clooney had done something that had a greater appeal to younger audiences, it would've done well," said Paul Dergarabedian, head of box office analysis firm Media by Numbers. "If you look at 'Leatherheads' objectively, it's a period piece. It's a screwball comedy. It wasn't something that inspired audiences to go out to the theaters in a big way."

To be fair to the former "ER" hunk, the entire movie industry is wondering how to bring increasingly ambivalent audiences back into theaters. If it were as simple as mixing Clooney's good looks with Apatow's comedic genius and a dash of "Cloverfield's" viral buzz, studio executives would be putting out hits like Willy Wonka churned out chocolate. But, alas ...

"Right now, all movies are suffering from a marketplace that's really in a malaise," Dergarabedian said. Last year at this point we had three movies that had grossed over $100 million, this year we only have one. To the detriment of all movies, the audience just seems uninterested."

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