Will Smith Says Prestige TV Has Raised the Bar for Blockbusters: People Don’t Want to ‘Leave Their Homes’

Will Smith knows any theatrical release is automatically in competition with TV.

The Oscar winner and “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” actor said during First We Feast’s “Hot Ones” series that it’s “harder” than ever to land a box office “hit” nowadays.

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“You used to be able to put some explosions in the trailer and a couple of good jokes and people were there,” Smith said. “And television is so good, there are things that people just aren’t going to leave their house for anymore. There’s definitely a higher demand for a certain type of film for people to leave their homes.”

Smith added that while “the definition of a hit is still pretty much the same,” it’s simply “essentially it’s just harder to get one” in theaters.

Smith’s career has spanned from his personal favorite feature “The Pursuit of Happyness” to huge franchises like “Men in Black,” “Bad Boys,” and now an “I Am Legend” sequel. The actor won an Oscar for the biopic “King Richard.”

Smith said in 2021 that it’s too easy to get caught up in the competition of box office numbers, recalling how his obsession with the “I Am Legend” grosses was indicative of the “subtle sickness of material success” as a movie star.

“I’m excited for 30 seconds, and then my mind drifts and I say to [producing partner] J [ames Lassiter], ‘Hey, why do you think we missed 80?’” Smith said during “The Oprah Conversation,” after “I Am Legend” had a $77 million opening weekend. “He said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘No, it was 77, do you think if we would have adjusted the ending? Because I wanted the ending to feel more like “Gladiator.”‘ He’s like, ‘It’s the biggest opening in history, ever. What are you talking about?’ I’m like, ‘J, I get that, I’m just asking why do you think we missed the 80?’ And it’s the only time he ever hung up on me.”

But now it’s even tougher to get films in theaters in the first place, let alone top an opening weekend at the box office.

Auteur Richard Linklater recently told IndieWire that even high concept film “Hit Man” had trouble landing a distributor. Netflix eventually picked up the feature and granted the film a limited theatrical release before its streaming premiere.

“So the real question here is, the studios need to explain: ‘OK, well, so what do you want?'” Linklater said, citing how “Hit Man” was from the established IP of being a sensationalized version of a true crime story. “The times bend against whatever originality we have, that scares [studios]. To me, that’s what’s changed, that they’ve really figured out what they don’t do, and that’s the world we knew. It’s a reduced world, for sure. You need that middle to step up, but right now, it’s Netflix, and the streamers are in that space.”

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