What Happened To Rom-Coms?

The Film Industry

If you’ve read our previous blog post about the history of horror movies, you know that the popularity of movie genres comes in cycles. Many genres have had declines and comebacks over the years. One of the most relevant examples of that is the rom-com.

What is a Rom-Com?

A rom-com is typically a humorous and lighthearted story where the main source of conflict stems from the relationship between the two romantic leads.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, rom-coms were at their peak of popularity. Unfortunately, as we entered a new century, this beloved genre began to recede from theaters until finally it almost seemed nonexistent in the 2010s. That is, until 2018 when Crazy Rich Asians proved that rom-coms could still be box-office hits.

The History of the Modern Rom-Com

Modern rom-coms did not become a Hollywood staple until When Harry Met Sally was released in 1989. The film was a critical and box office success, and it even got nominated for an Academy Award.

The humor, romantic story, and chemistry between the two leads provided the perfect formula for a successful rom-com. From there, studios began to churn out more and more romantic comedies, leading to the genre’s peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Nora Ephron, the writer of When Harry Met Sally, was the driving force behind many of these successful rom-coms. She created many hits in the 90s such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail which both starred Meg Ryan.

Rom-coms were also known to be the launching pad for many of Hollywood’s most talented stars. Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Hugh Grant were propelled to stardom in the 90s by starring in Pretty Woman, While You Were Sleeping, and Nine Months.

The rom-com formula was established going into the 2000s and even more huge hits would be released like Bridget Jones’s Diary, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Devil Wears Prada, and How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

By the mid-2000s, however, rom-coms underwent a remarkable shift. The vintage formula of casting beloved rom-com actors in a predictable storyline was beginning to lose its appeal among moviegoers as well as production studios.

Rom-coms were beginning to flop at the box office despite doing everything they did before. Did You Hear About The Morgans, No Reservations, and Leap Year underperformed, signaling the end of the rom-com era. 2011 was the last huge push of rom-com movies with films like Crazy, Stupid Love, and No Strings Attached. From that point on, rom-coms dwindled in theaters as studios prioritized other genres.

Why Are Rom-Coms Not Popular Anymore?

So, what happened to the rom-coms? There are a few reasons why rom-coms are not as popular anymore. In this blog post, we are going through these reasons and why the genre may make a comeback.

1. The Rise of the Blockbuster

In the late 90s, Hollywood began to realize that big-budget blockbusters and franchises make a lot more money than mid-budget films. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Titanic, and Avatar were quickly breaking records at the box office and were becoming cultural phenomena.

Studios began to invest more money into producing these big-budget movies instead of investing in rom-coms. The 2000s also mark the rise of the superhero film. The Marvel Universe was just starting up and other superhero franchises were beginning to dominate the box office.

2. Mid-Budget Movies Were Dying

It wasn’t only romantic comedies that were suffering but comedies in general. With the rise of epic blockbusters, studios were losing interest in mid-budget movies. Rom-coms were the main casualty of this shift but comedies would follow suit. The mid-budget movies that studios wanted to create were more focused on Oscar bait, romances, dramas, and coming-of-age films.

3. Lack of Diversity

Romantic comedies from the 90s and 2000s lacked diversity in race, class, and creativity. Instead of showing different cultures and characters, these films presented limiting stereotypes that failed to reflect the beauty and intricacies of real human relationships.

Even more, these stories fell short when it came to showcasing an interesting or fresh take on relationships, and they reinforced tropes far from reality. Rom-coms eventually felt contrived and did not reflect what the modern audience wanted to see.

4. Rom-Coms Were Replaced With Coming of Age Stories

Although rom-coms were dying, audiences still craved romance and comedy on the screen. That’s where coming-of-age stories stepped in. These films presented real-world problems for a relatable audience, all while mixing in meaningful romance and funny moments.

Coming-of-age stories were also free from the traditional rom-com formula, making room for much more variety in the narrative aspect of filmmaking. Audiences wanted to see more earnest complexity in their stories and themes rooted in realism.

The Return of Rom-Coms

Even though rom-coms were not able to compete with big-budget blockbusters at the box office, they did find success on streaming services. Streaming services regularly take risks on small or mid-budget films like rom-coms. Netflix focused on the teen audience with their rom-coms and in 2018, they released The Kissing Booth which was one of the most popular films of that year.

2018 also marked the year that rom-coms made a strong return to the movie theaters with Crazy Rich Asians. The film was embraced as a fresh take on the rom-com genre and a modern improvement to the formula. There seemed to be a small resurgence of rom-coms in theaters until Covid hit in 2020, but with the pandemic came a wave of new movies released for streaming.

Are Rom-Coms Making a Comeback?

A lot has changed since the 2000s. 2018 proved that rom-coms still have a place amongst studios, but not the same rom-coms from the 2000s. Love, Simon, Bros, The Big Sick, and The Lovebirds show us that diverse perspectives are important to the modern audience when it comes to humorous love stories.

Along with diversity, audiences are looking for fresh stories and a more truthful representation of relationships. It’s unclear if rom-coms are here to stay, but for now, it looks like the genre is slowly making a comeback.

Watch Rom-Coms For Free on Reveel

Reveel is a streaming service that offers unlimited access to rom-coms at no cost. With hundreds of dedicated films spanning different genres, there is something for everyone on the platform. All you need to access these films is an internet connection and an email.

Reveel also offers curated playlists and recommendations for your watching pleasure, ensuring that users are able to enjoy the best films available.

Check out Reveel Here

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