Is the era of the movie star over?

Twenty years ago, a leading actor or actress would guarantee the success of a film. Nowadays, star power has dwindled – but are their days numbered for good?

Warning: Contains flash photography

When Talking Movies first aired 20 years ago, A-listers like Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts had enormous clout; they were able to command huge box-office numbers just by appearing in a film.

Nowadays the landscape is very different. Although big stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio exist – they’re far from infallible.

“I don’t think that there’s anyone who can be guaranteed to open a movie anymore,” says Alison Willmore, Buzzfeed’s film critic. “Even people like Will Smith, or The Rock or Jennifer Lawrence – they still have ‘off’ titles.”

“The movie star’s power has been supplanted by the franchise’s power,” explains Ben Fritz, author of The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies. “Consumers consider themselves loyal to a certain franchise and brand rather than to a movie star.”

Some savvy actors such as Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr have aligned themselves with successful franchises, which has helped them retain their influence for longer. And there are still a handful of exceptional stars who prove a big draw at the box office.

Stardom, Willmore explains, hasn’t died altogether. “I think that we’re seeing celebrity morph in ways that speak to the idea of internet stardom… but I think there’s something to being this larger-than-life figure on screen that still carries a huge amount of weight for people.”

Watch the video above to find out more.

This video is part of the Talking Movies 20th anniversary series, which airs on BBC World News on Sat 19 Jan at 12:30; Sun 20 Jan at 00:30, 07:30, 19:30 (23:30 Latin and North America); Mon 21 Jan (01:30 Latin and North America) and Tue 22 Jan at 09:00.

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