Joel Kim Booster, Matt Rogers Defend Streaming Releases for Rom-Coms: “People Are Going to See Movies Differently”

Fire Island stars Joel Kim Booster and Matt Rogers say that some of the “wrong lessons” were taken from Bros. box office performance and the word-of-mouth success of their rom-com.

While appearing at the Gotham Awards on Monday night to accept the ensemble tribute along with his co-stars in the Searchlight Pictures’ film, actor, comedian and writer Booster addressed the discussion around movie distribution in the streaming era.

After Booster’s modern take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice released on Hulu earlier this year, garnering strong word of mouth amid an ongoing hesitancy from audiences to return to the theater, its positive streaming reception was frequently compared to Billy Eichner’s Judd Apatow-produced R-rated rom-com Bros., which struggled to perform at the box office following its theatrical release. Both faced marketing backlash along with fears that another LGBTQ-focused film wouldn’t make it to the big screen.

“I think a lot of the wrong lessons were taken away,” Booster told The Hollywood Reporter on the carpet at the awards event. “People are going to see movies differently and it has nothing to do with being a gay movie or not. I just don’t think people are seeing R-rated comedies like Fire Island in theaters anymore.”

For that reason, Booster says, he appreciated the film’s streaming release. “I’m very grateful that we went streaming because again, it was able to find a wide audience. There’s a lot of people that are still staying home, don’t feel comfortable going to the movie theater,” he reflected. “I was really glad to not have the pressure honestly of being a theatrical release.”

In a separate interview with The Daily Beast published on Tuesday, Booster’s Fire Island co-star Matt Rogers also took on the discussion that swirled both films’ receptions — and comparisons.

“We are in the year 2022, we’re gonna move forward in time, and streaming is the way people watch movies now. So let’s not denigrate streaming. You don’t need to be a box office juggernaut to be considered a success, especially because, where exactly are the romantic comedies that are doing really great?” Rogers said. “I mean, Ticket to Paradise with Julia Roberts and George Clooney makes money because they’re international stars.”

Rogers’ comments allude to a statement made by Bros. co-writer and star Eichner in a Variety cover story published ahead of the Universal movie’s release. “This is not an indie movie. This is not some streaming thing which feels disposable, or which is like one of a million Netflix shows,” Eichner said at the time (he has since apologized for his statements.)

Rogers noted that for him, when it came to Bros., “there’s no reason this movie couldn’t have just gone to Netflix and then it would have been a huge success, I think. Or the narrative at least would have been this is funny, you can watch it.”

“Of course, we all had to wish that that movie had opened to over $20 million opening weekend,” Rogers added. “But we’re not living in a time that is healthy for romantic comedies in terms of box office.”

In terms of what other lessons could be learned from the Bros. and Fire Island conversation, Rogers also addressed Eichner’s initial response to Bros. poor box office performance, in which the comedian chalked up the low audience turnout to homophobia.

“There’s stuff to learn from this outside of ‘Well, homophobia is pretty real, isn’t it?’” Rogers said, echoing his co-star Booster. “We knew that, but also there’s a market for this movie and it’s fine. It being on Netflix is fine. It actually reaches more people. And now to hear that it’s doing well on rental is like, ‘Yeah, of course it is.’ And people will find that movie. It’s great.”

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