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Judd Apatow Says It’s ‘Wrong’ to Think Comedy Movies Are Dead in Theaters: ‘It Just Requires Another Hit’ Since Hollywood ‘Will Chase Anything That Does Well’

Judd Apatow does not believe comedy movies are dead in theaters. While the genre has largely moved to streaming in recent years (Apatow’s last two directorial efforts debuted on streaming, while the Please Don’t Destroy movie he produced last year, “The Treasure of Foggy Mountain,” skipped theaters and debuted on Peacock), Apatow recently told Vulture that all it will take is one comedy blockbuster in theaters to swing the pendulum away from streaming. Actually, that may have already happened in his eyes.

“I would say that’s wrong because the highest-grossing comedy last year made over a billion dollars,” Apatow said when asked about movie theaters no longer being a venue for comedy movies. “‘Barbie’ was a comedy, you know?”

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“But isn’t that like saying a Marvel movie is a comedy?” Vulture asked.

“I don’t think so. It’s not a drama,” Apatow responded. “There are some emotional moments in it, but it’s just wall-to-wall jokes. There’s something about it where I feel like no one wants to give comedy the win there. Like, why can’t we say ‘Barbie’ is a comedy? What other category would it be?”

“I assume it’ll swing back,” Apatow added about comedy films returning to movie theaters in bulk. “The industry does follow the leader…for comedy, it just requires another hit or two. If a movie like ‘The Hangover’ came out and it was a big hit, suddenly everyone would want five more of those. Here’s the thing that most people don’t understand because they’re not in any of those executive suites: There’s a hit and then they just go, ‘Oh, people like that. Make more like that.’ The thinking is not deeper than that. They will just chase anything that does well because people generally are averse to risk-taking.”

Apatow, who has been a fixture at Universal Pictures ever since his feature directorial debut, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which grossed nearly $180 million worldwide in 2005, pointed to Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” as what the comedy genre needs to bounce back in movie theaters.

“Donna Langley, who runs Universal, who’s supported us in our comedies, took a bet on ‘Oppenheimer,'” Apatow said. “Like, who would think that anyone cared about ‘Oppenheimer’ like that? ‘Oppenheimer’ is going to make almost $1 billion. Like, is anyone talking about the inventor of the atom bomb in their lives? We don’t, but the people have to take big risks, and then you realize, ‘No, people want to be challenged. They want smart movies. They want original cinematic experiences.’ You do need a comedy equivalent of that. You need people to say, ‘This is a need that is not satisfied just by sitting home alone, watching a streamer comedy.’ There’s a place for that, surely, but what’s more fun than being in the theater, watching one of the great comedies?”

Movie theaters weren’t completely devoid of comedy films last year. The Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell-starring romantic comedy “Anyone but You” opened ahead of Christmas and has emerged as a box office hit with $216 million worldwide. Jennifer Lawrence’s “No Hard Feelings,” widely publicized as the return of the R-rated comedy in theaters, pulled in decent business with $87 million worldwide last summer.

Head over to Vulture’s website to read Apatow’s interview in its entirety.

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