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Monday, July 28, 2014         

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'Neighbors' leads charge as films tackle 30s transition

By Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES » Films about making the transition to adulthood have been a Hollywood staple for years. Some of today's biggest stars got their start as 20-somethings in mostly carefree coming-of-age movies.

But what about the often more complicated progression from our 20s to 30s? There have generally been fewer of those treatments on the big screen — that is, until now.

This summer, charming indies and raunchy comedies — including this month's "Neighbors" — explore what could be one of life's most challenging decades, but always with humor and also some surprising box office potential for studios.

While the 30s can be a satisfying time, full of firsts like marriage, buying a home and having children, the period can also bring tough crossroads both personally and professionally.

Yet films like "Neighbors" and the upcoming "Happy Christmas" and "Wish I Was Here" highlight the humor in common 30s plights while offering everyday relevancy to audiences in that age group.

In "Neighbors," a couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and their newborn baby buy their first house, but their life is disrupted when a fraternity (led by Zac Efron) moves in next door.

"Yes, there are ridiculous, outrageous jokes," says Dave Karger, chief correspondent of movie ticket-seller Fandango. "But there's also real poignancy there and very relatable characters in their 30s."

In "Happy Christmas," due in July, an irresponsible 20-something (Anna Kendrick) moves in with her 30-something brother (Joe Swanberg), who has a 2-year-old with his wife (Melanie Lynskey), a stay-at-home mom who starts writing a trashy novel to ease her boredom.

A decade after Zach Braff tackled tragedy as a 20-something in "Garden State," he portrays love and loss in his 30s in July's "Wish I Was Here," which follows a struggling actor (Braff) who must home-school his two kids after his father's cancer worsens and he can no longer afford private school. Kate Hudson plays his wife, a woman who hates her job but must stick it out to provide for her family.

"What that age group is going through, it's not just a wacky high school night out or a college first love," says Karger. "The particular themes, like an early midlife crisis, are really interesting."

Character-based films have never been an easy sell for studios or audiences, says Karger. "The main audience that you think of at the theater is teen boys and 20-somethings."

But the 25- to 39-year-old demographic actually makes up the largest amount of frequent moviegoers.

In 2013, they equaled 23 percent of those who went to the movies more than once a month, according to the 2013 Theatrical Market Statistics Report by the Motion Picture Association of America. This age group was also highest in both 2011 and 2012.

Other films targeted for the 25-39 demo this summer include "Blended," starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler and opening May 23; "Begin Again," with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley; and "They Came Together," featuring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd.

Though they won't tally as much as the superhero flicks, films targeting 30-somethings can be among the most profitable because they don't cost as much to make.

Additionally, "the good ones have a long shelf life," says Alex Ben Block, senior film editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

With "Neighbors" raking in $51 million on its opening weekend, could the studios' view of these types of films change?

"Three years ago ‘Bridesmaids' was a smash and now this summer there are all of these hard R-rated comedies," says Karger. "It takes about two or three years to see the effect of a game-changing movie. If ‘Neighbors' becomes this smash, then I think there will be more of an appetite at the studios for films of this type."

Jessica Herndon, Associated Press






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