Billy Eichner isn’t backing away from his assessment that the poor box office performance of his gay romantic comedy “Bros” was due at least in part to homophobia.
Speaking at the 2022 New Yorker Festival on Friday, Eichner reiterated his point that in many parts of the country, anti-gay sentiment is a powerful social force. “Homophobia is a bigger problem than how it pertains to this silly rom-com. But do I think it’s has factor? Yes, in certain parts of the country, I think it was a factor,” he said.
In its opening weekend, “Bros” made just $4.8 million, despite a 3,500 screen wide release; most of that money came from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On Sunday Oct. 2, after that grim box office prognosis was pronounced, Eichner caused a stir with some tweets that said in part, “Even with glowing reviews and great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore etc., straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for ‘Bros.’ And that’s disappointing but it is what it is,” he said in part on Oct. 2.
The comments provoked a fairly strong backlash; conservatives widely mocked him, while even Los Angeles Times writer Matt Brennan described his reaction as a “sense of self-importance” and “entitlement.”
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But on Friday, Eichner made his first public comment since then, and stood firm on the matter — though he also acknowledged multiple factors played a role first.
Eichner for instance noted that the romantic comedy genre isn’t quite the cinema powerhouse it once was, and that the biggest recent successes have all been via streaming. “That seems to be where people want to watch these movies,” he said. “I still love seeing these movies in the theater. I grew up going to see all these romantic comedies at the movie theater with my parents. Obviously things change over time and the way we consume evolved culture.”
Eichner said the film’s wide release, despite not featuring any real movie stars, was “a bold swing,” considering that “for some audiences,” “Bros” contains “challenging subject matter.
But he credited the film’s studio, Universal, for being “very bold in how they framed them movie in trailers; there was a lot of gay sex in the trailers, and some people love that, some people aren’t shocked by that at all, it seem like something they look at every day on their phones.”
But, he added, “in some parts of the country, like I said in my very controversial tweet, there literally was a theater chain in the south and in the midwest that called Universal over the summer and said ‘we’re not playing this trailer.’ We live in a divided country in that way, and it depends on where you live.”
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“Homophobia is a bigger problem than how it pertains to this silly rom-com,” Eichner continued. “But do I think it’s has factor? Yes, in certain parts of the country, I think it was a factor.”
“Though to be honest, we really didn’t make the movie for homophobes anyway. This is an R-rated gay romcom. It was never intended as a movie to try to convince people who don’t like gay people that we’re normal and soft and cuddly and okay to love. It’s so not that movie. So it’s complicated, and I honestly find the whole thing to be very silly when you take a bird’s-eye view of it all—it’s just a comedy,” Eichner concluded.