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Bomb Squad: Why Did “Admission” Tank?

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Welcome to “Bomb Squad,” a recurring column that takes a closer look at a movie that tanked at the box office and tries to figure out what happened.

Most everybody likes Tina Fey. Most everybody likes Paul Rudd. Put ‘em together in a comedy and you should have some success. Unfortunately, their first onscreen pairing turned out to be “Admission,” which barely managed $6 million in its first weekend. No one was expecting the film to launch a franchise, but, still, why didn’t audiences turn out? Let’s take a look at some possible theories and then come up with our verdict…

Theory No. 1: You know, Tina Fey really isn’t that big of a movie star.

Fey has had commercial success in movies like “Mean Girls” (which she adapted from a book by Rosalind Wiseman) and “Date Night,” but it’s just as likely that people went to those movies because of her costars: Lindsay Lohan and Steve Carell, respectively. Her biggest hit where she was the clear star was “Baby Mama,” which grossed about $60 million, a solid but by no means stellar showing. There’s no questioning Fey’s talent: She’s a bestselling writer thanks to her memoir “Bossypants” and a multi-Emmy winner from her work on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” But do enough people want to see a movie just because she’s in it? That’s still a little uncertain. (Honestly, if she ever wanted to do a Sarah Palin movie, that might be something a lot of folks would pay good money to see.)

Theory No. 2: You know, Paul Rudd really isn’t that big of a movie star.

For most of his film career, Rudd has been the buddy, the sidekick, or part of an ensemble. It’s only recently that he’s become an above-the-title star, such as on “Dinner for Schmucks,” “How Do You Know,” “Wanderlust” and “This Is 40.” His biggest hit in that group is “Dinner for Schmucks,” which brought in about $73 million, but, like with Fey, that turnout was as much about his costar, Steve Carell, as it was about him. Like a great utility player in baseball or an invaluable sixth man in basketball, Rudd is somebody you want on your comedy team, but he may not be enough of a draw simply on his own.

Theory No. 3: Nobody knew what “Admission” was even about.

Focus Features was always going to have a difficult task in advertising “Admission.” Less a romantic comedy than a comedy-drama about a woman (Fey) who gets a second chance to be a mother to the long-lost son (Nat Wolff) she gave up for adoption at birth, the film didn’t have a clear high-concept hook. But the TV commercials were especially problematic, selling “Admission” as a fish-out-of-water comedy — it’s Tina Fey with a cow! — and resorting to having the two stars actually sit across from each other in 30-second spots and try to explain what the movie was about. (And the poster was even worse: Clearly, Focus was hoping date-night crowds would flock if the marketing went as generic rom-com as possible.) An emotionally nuanced movie needs a sharp, sophisticated campaign; “Admission” never had a chance.

Theory No. 4: It looked like a rental.

Romantic comedies — or, as in the case of “Admission,” romantic comedy-dramas — become big hits thanks to star power and word-of-mouth. Without those, audiences might choose to skip the movie’s theatrical run and catch up with it on DVD or cable. (It’s not as if, say, “The Lucky One” or “Safe Haven” is so visually stunning that you have to see it in a theater.) And whether it was the lukewarm reviews or the generally lackluster buzz around the film, “Admission” simply seemed imminently skippable.

The Verdict

Looks like it’s “all of the above.” Although I actually liked the film, “Admission” is the sort of under-the-radar commercial prospect that needs some kind of selling point to really fire up an audience: great reviews, a big star, something. That never happened here. Not all bombs are created equal, of course, and since “Admission” had a pretty small budget — supposedly around $13 million — its weak box office showing is hardly cause for massive embarrassment. But it is a reminder that just because lots of people love Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, that doesn’t mean that alone will be enough to guarantee a hit.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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Holiday Extra Special

Make The Holidays ’80s Again

Enjoy the holiday cheer Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Whatever happened to the kind of crazy-yet-cozy holiday specials that blanketed the early winter airwaves of the 1980s? Unceremoniously killed by infectious ’90s jadedness? Slow fade out at the hands of early-onset millennial ennui? Whatever the reason, nixing the tradition was a huge mistake.

A huge mistake that we’re about to fix.

Announcing IFC’s Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celeb-studded extravaganza in the glorious tradition of yesteryear featuring Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, house band The Dap-Kings, and many more. And it’s at Joe’s Pub, everyone’s favorite home away from home in the Big Apple.

The yuletide cheer explodes Wednesday December 21 at 10P. But if you were born after 1989 and have no idea what void this spectacular special is going to fill, sample from this vintage selection of holiday hits:

Andy Williams and The NBC Kids Search For Santa

The quintessential holiday special. Get snuggly and turn off your brain. You won’t need it.

A Muppet Family Christmas

The Fraggles. The Muppets. The Sesame Street gang. Fate. The Jim Henson multiverse merges in this warm and fuzzy Holiday gathering.

Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas

To this day a foolproof antidote to holiday cynicism. It’s cheesy, but a good cheese. In this case an Alpine Gruyère.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Okay, busted. This one was released in 1978. Still totally ’80s though. And yes that’s Bea Arthur.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pass the eggnog, and make sure it’s loaded. This special is everything you’d expect it to be and much, much more.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It Ain't Over Yet

A Guide to Coping with the End of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Watch the final episodes tonight at 11 and 11:30P on IFC.

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After five seasons and 110 halved-hour episodes, Scott Aukerman’s hipster comedy opus, Comedy Bang! Bang!, has come to an end. Fridays at 11 and 11:30P will never be the same. We know it can be hard for fans to adjust after the series finale of their favorite TV show. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to managing your grief.

Step One: Cry it out

It’s just natural. We’re sad too.
Scott crying GIF

Step Two: Read the CB!B! IMDB Trivia Page

The show is over and it feels like you’ve lost a friend. But how well did you really know this friend? Head over to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s IMDB page to find out some things you may not have known…like that it’s “based on a Civil War battle of the same name” or that “Reggie Watts was actually born with the name Theodore Leopold The Third.”

Step Three: Listen to the podcast

One fascinating piece of CB!B! trivia that you might not learn from IMDB is that there’s a podcast that shares the same name as the TV show. It’s even hosted by Scott Aukerman! It’s not exactly like watching the TV show on a Friday night, but that’s only because each episode is released Monday morning. If you close your eyes, the podcast is just like watching the show with your eyes closed!

Step Four: Watch brand new CB!B! clips?!

The best way to cope with the end of Comedy Bang! Bang! is to completely ignore that it’s over — because it’s not. In an unprecedented move, IFC is opening up the bonus CB!B! content vault. There are four brand new, never-before-seen sketches featuring Scott Aukerman, Kid Cudi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic ready for you to view on the IFC App. There’s also one right here, below this paragraph! Watch all four b-b-bonus clips and feel better.

Binge the entire final season, plus exclusive sketches, right now on the IFC app.

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Everybody Sweats Now

The Four-Day Sweatsgiving Weekend On IFC

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This long holiday weekend is your time to gobble gobble gobble and give heartfelt thanks—thanks for the comfort and forgiveness of sweatpants. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing more wholesome and American than stuffing yourself stupid and spending endless hours in front of the TV in your softest of softests.

So get the sweats, grab the remote and join IFC for four perfect days of entertainment.

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It all starts with a 24-hour T-day marathon of Rocky Horror Picture Show, then continues Friday with an all-day binge of Stan Against Evil.

By Saturday, the couch will have molded to your shape. Which is good, because you’ll be nestled in for back-to-back Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Finally, come Sunday it’s time to put the sweat back in your sweatpants with The Shining, The Exorcist, The Chronicles of Riddick, Terminator 2, and Blade: Trinity. They totally count as cardio.

As if you need more convincing, here’s Martha Wash and the IFC&C Music Factory to hammer the point home.

The Sweatsgiving Weekend starts Thursday on IFC

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