Metro Weekly

Billy Eichner Blames Straight People for “Bros” Dismal Box Office

Critics offer a host of reasons why the gay rom-com flopped on its opening weekend, underperforming industry expectations.

Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane in Bros – Photo: Universal Studios

Actor Billy Eichner is blaming straight people for the dismal box office performance of his gay-themed romantic comedy Bros, tweeting that “straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up” for the movie during its opening weekend.

The Universal film — marketed as the first gay romantic comedy released by a major Hollywood studio — took in a disappointing $4.8 million on its opening weekend, with ticket sales being especially low in the Midwest and the South, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

“That’s just the world we live in, unfortunately. Even with glowing reviews, 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,” Eichner, who also co-wrote the film in addition to starring in it, tweeted on Sunday.

“Everyone who ISN’T a homophobic weirdo should go see BROS tonight! You will have a blast! And it is special and uniquely powerful to see this particular story on a big screen, esp for queer folks who don’t get this opportunity often. I love this movie so much. GO BROS!!!,” Eichner added in a second tweet.

The movie was projected to gross between $8 and $10 million, but it significantly underperformed.

“Rolling Stone already has BROS on the list of the best comedies of the 21st century,” Eichner lamented in the same Twitter thread. “What’s also true is that at one point a theater chain called Universal said they were pulling the trailer because of the gay content. (Uni convinced them not to.) America, fuck yeah, etc. etc.”

Variety‘s Zach Sharf and William Earl noted in a response to Eichner’s comments that there were several other factors that contributed to the film’s poor box office showing, none of them having to do with the homophobia that Eichner alluded to in his tweets.

For one, the movie, which stars Eichner and Luke Macfarlane, lacked significant star power to draw in viewers, which is generally necessary for the success of any movie that doesn’t fall into the genre of “action” or “horror.” Second, the marketing prioritized the film’s historic and cultural significance as the first gay rom-com over its comedy chops, and rarely mentioned that the film was directed by Nicholas Stoller, who helmed the popular comedies Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors.

The film’s release in October also likely played a role, given that it came out on the same weekend as two streaming projects — Netflix’s Blonde and Disney+’s Hocus Pocus 2 — and was pitted in theaters against the horror film Smile, which topped the weekend’s box office with a $22 million take.

Bros likely would have fared better had it been released earlier in September. Sharf and Earl also speculated that the film may have bombed, in part, due to promotional materials citing the role of producer Judd Apatow, whose last Netflix film, The Bubble, was panned for its “unfunny riff on COVID culture.”

Lastly, although Variety does not mention this, Eichner’s crude, in-your-face comedy style — honed during his time producing Billy on the Street — may not sit well with all viewers, and his self-importance on the movie’s historic significance may have simply turned viewers off to watching a vehicle with him as the star.

As one Twitter user wrote, “Everyone saying it’s homophobia but it’s bc no one likes Billy Eichner.”

Another person tweeted, “If we’re being frank, 1) rom-coms seldom perform anymore. 2) Billy Eichner is insufferable to watch. 3) it’s not 2004, nobody’s spending $10+ to watch white men unless they’re in a super suit committing war crimes.”

Spencer Klavan, a gay man writing for the right-wing Washington Examiner, wrote that even though he liked Bros, the movie — and Eichner’s reaction to its poor showing — reveals the “narcissism of the woke Left.” 

“It is unquestionably the portrait of a micro-demographic,” Klavan wrote. “If you’re in or adjacent to that micro-demographic, it’s charming, relatable, and funny — sometimes even hilarious. On the other hand, if you’ve never lived among affluent liberal homosexuals in an American metropolis, the jokes are likely to fall flat. This isn’t even slice-of-life filmmaking. It’s sliver-of-life, cut with one of those surgical blades that’s only a few atoms wide.

“At this point, straight moviegoers would be well within their rights to ask: ‘What, in God’s name, do gay people want from us? Eichner seems to want them simultaneously to recognize that they will never understand gay life and also pay to see a movie about it. He wants to indulge in minute analyses of tiny subcultures while also enjoying mainstream appeal.”

Despite Bros largely being embraced by critics following its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival, its 95% rating on the site Rotten Tomatoes, and “A” rating on CinemaScore, the markets where it performed best were, predictably, deep-blue political enclaves with large LGBTQ populations, such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Universal has largely stood by the film as a culturally significant movie, with Jim Orr, the studio’s president of domestic distribution saying Universal is “incredibly proud” of the film and the filmmakers, and expressing hope that the film had the potential to fare better on subsequent weekends if people are convinced by word-of-mouth endorsements from those who have seen it.

Eichner, who was raked over the coals, especially by “anti-woke” and right-wing Twitter users after his initial thread, defended himself on the platform on Monday, writing, “Box office, as we all know, has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of a movie. And tweeting about a movie you haven’t actually seen is meaningless. That’s just Twitter bullshit. The majority of people who see Bros really love it! Go check it out and see for yourself!”

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