There's no sport in America as widely watched as professional football. The highest-rated show in primetime for many weeks during the season is
So why did barely a million people turn out to see "Draft Day," Ivan Reitman's adaptation of a Black List script about real teams and fictional players that, with the significant contributions of the NFL, takes us behind the curtain of how a pro team is run?
(The notable exception, of course, is
Some of "Draft Day's" struggles are specific to this film. Despite the NFL's cooperation, this isn't a football movie per se, not when it comes to in-game action. Studio Summit shrewdly tried to capitalize on the NFL's blessing, and the wealth of footage that came up with it, by showing in TV spots pieces of visceral in-game footage. But there isn't really any on-field NFL play in the movie. It's a board room drama cloaked in the garb of a football film, and it's not clear the appeal of that goes beyond the most hard-core pigskin devotees.
But the challenges this film faced also tie in to larger cultural hurdles faced by football movies. The game has been amazingly successful as creating a sense of investment -- local fans are as die-hard as they come, and of course there's the game's real engine of popularity, fantasy play, which gives people an outsized stake in outcomes others would find prosaic. But this all makes a fictional football movie, which has none of that, a trickier proposition.
The same can’t necessarily be said of movies set in other sports. Boxing has trafficked in the kind of big-screen drama that works independent of any personal connection; you don’t, say, have to be a fan of Mickey Ward or even know who he was to love “The Fighter.” And it’s a different animal from baseball, which has a long history of great films, from “The Natural” to “The Bad News
“Draft Day,” on the other hand, may have told the story of the real-life
The NFL took the rare step of cooperating with Hollywood in "Draft Day." Here's hoping the league, and studios, keep up that level of interest. Football is a sport designed for screen viewing; it's rife with cinematic drama. But the idea that it can be the stuff of a mainstream multiplex hit is shown, after weekends like this, to be something of a Hail Mary.
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