Socionomics Alert: Comedies Aren't Funny

Socionomic theory argues that people consume media in tune with their mood. Happy people listen to happy songs and watch comedies. Depressed people listen to sad songs and watch horror movies. See: Popular Culture and the Stock Market

There are many reasons why the year 2000 looks to have been a higher-order peak in social mood. One of those signs is the rising box office receipts of the horror genre. Horror movies enjoyed two brief spurts of popularity in the 20th Century. The first came during the depth of the depression, when movies such as Dracula and Frankenstein made their mark. The next period was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, coincident with the worst recession since the depression. Since the turn of the Millennium, horror has been on a growth streak that has yet to peak.

Comedies are more popular during rising social mood. We are not in a period of rising mood.

WSJ: Comedies’ Misfortunes Are No Laughing Matter for Hollywood
When adult dramas started to fade at the box office in the early 2010s, most people in Hollywood agreed the reason was a boom in high-quality drama series like “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” on cable and streaming platforms that meant people could get their fix at home. In addition, most dramas aren’t visually compelling enough to qualify as mandatory big-screen viewing.

But many thought comedy and horror were immune to small-screen competition. As evidenced by April’s $186 million hit “A Quiet Place,” many people still prefer to be scared in a dark theater packed with other people. Comedy, proponents argued, worked the same way: Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Julia Roberts were so successful, they figured, because it is more fun to laugh with 200 people than alone on your couch.

Now that is proving to not be true. With stand-up specials on Netflix, pranksters on YouTube and animated GIFs on social media, people can get more than enough laughs on any digital device. In addition, people who want to laugh at the cinema can do so at the same time they watch their favorite superheroes kick butt in movies like “Deadpool 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Thor: Ragnarok” that blend action-adventure with comedy.

...Just five years ago, things were quite different. In 2013, Ms. McCarthy and Sandra Bullock’s “The Heat” and the raucous R-rated “We’re the Millers” each grossed more than $150 million domestically. Another movie with Ms. McCarthy, “Identity Thief,” was close behind with $135 million. “Grown Ups 2,” “Anchorman 2,” “Bad Grandpa,” “This is the End” and even the widely maligned “Hangover Part III” all exceeded $100 million in domestic ticket sales.

Now, the only major comedy hits are those made for children.
Changes in communications technology are having an impact, but not one to cause such a large and persistent swing over the past 5 years. Mood has turned.

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