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Audience Alienating Era / Film

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Nobody ever said making movies was easy, and sometimes, it takes a certain period of time, whether it be short or long, to reinforce that. The following is a list of examples of Audience-Alienating Eras from films.

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    Genres and national film industries 
  • Ask nearly any British film critic what they think was the defining Audience-Alienating Era of the nation's film industry at large, and they will return with one simple answer: the 1930s.
    • It was the height of The Golden Age of Hollywood, and British film was trying to respond... and flailing in the wind. In 1927, the UK passed a quota on foreign (i.e. American) films that, far from protecting British studios as was intended, merely led the Hollywood studios to establish British and Canadian subsidiaries to crank out "quota quickies" for the British market. These films were dirt-cheap, and often downright dreadful; an Urban Legend claims that British cinema houses used the quota quickies as time to clean and even vacuum the theatres, as they so often showed to empty seats. British studios in turn had to cut costs if they hoped to compete.
    • As for the law's effects on Canadian cinema... well, it wasn't the harbinger of an Audience-Alienating Era so much as it was a Genre-Killer. The entire Canadian film industry, already reeling from the high-profile flop of Carry on, Sergeant!note , was overgrown by Hollywood studios churning out quota quickies for British consumption. Unlike British film, which soon recovered after the repeal of the quota in 1938, Canadian film took until the '70s to recover, and required direct government sponsorship of the arts to get the shot in the arm that it needed to do so.
    • That said, not all critics view the '30s as an Audience-Alienating Era for British film. For some recent revisionists, while many of the quota quickies were indeed crap, the era also allowed many aspiring British filmmakers like Michael Powell, Alfred Hitchcock, and David Lean to cut their teeth, using low-budget films to gain experience that they would later put to use in much greater masterpieces. Furthermore, the decade also saw a boom in comedies, particularly with the importation of music-hall talent into cinema. Indeed, some have argued that, without the experience gained during the "Audience-Alienating Era" of the '30s, the Golden Age of British cinema that began in the late '40s and lasted through the '60s could never have happened!
  • In any case, the British got their revenge when Hollywood plunged into an Audience-Alienating Era of its own in the 1950s and especially the '60s, during the Fall of the Studio System. Hollywood spent the '50s struggling to keep up with mounting pressures from television, independent filmmakers, foreign (especially British and French) cinema, changing cultural norms, the Red Scare, the collapse of the star system, and antitrust actions, and while they were still turning out quality films, a vast gap was emerging between the epic movies that they hinged their box-office success on and the rest of their output. By the '60s, these pressures had collectively overwhelmed them and had started to impact the quality of their films. For every smash hit like The Longest Day or The Sound of Music, there were a slew of copycats like Doctor Dolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora! that bombed, while old standbys like Westerns and Sword and Sandal epics were hitting diminishing returns due to audience burnout. The Audience-Alienating Era ended with Hollywood's creative renaissance in the '70s, though it wasn't until the Blockbuster Age in the '80s when the studios fully turned themselves around from a business standpoint.

    Again, though, what seems like an audience-alienating era later gets revised. Today, the '50s is seen by some, such as James Harvey (author of Movie Love in the '50s), as one of Hollywood's best periods. Changes like Method Acting (popularized by Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Paul Newman) first came from this time. Auteur directors like Samuel Fuller, Nicholas Ray, and others came to prominence in this decade. Douglas Sirk's melodramas, initially seen as typical of '50s kitsch, are today seen as Deconstruction avant-la-lettre, or rather pendant-la-lettre (since it originated in the same decade as Sirk). This was also the great period for Film Noir, The Western, and B-Movie science fiction and horror, and the end of Hollywood's monopoly on owning theatres paved the way for the rise of independent and avant-garde films. It's worth noting that this revisionist take was being made even at the time, as French film critics in the '50s were pointing to Hollywood as an unsung hotbed for innovation and True Art in film, leading them to start making their own, American-inspired films in what became known as the French New Wave — a movement that in turn influenced the New Hollywood period in American film.
  • French cinema:
    • A big part of the reason why the auteur critics of the French New Wave lavished so much praise on Hollywood was because they famously held it up as a counterpart to their native film industry at the time, which they castigated as being trapped in its own Audience-Alienating Era. Later historians have argued that the likes of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard were being unfair, and made French cinema into a strawman to bolster their points. But even a revisionist like Bertrand Tavernier admits that the '50s were a low point for French cinema, with largely forgettable films, poorly-thought literary adaptations that the screenwriters themselves disliked, and the best work being done in the French independent scene of Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Tati, Jean Cocteau, and Robert Bresson (all of whom were championed by the New Wave).
    • The French film industry would enter into another Audience-Alienating Era during The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium, a scene described in Olivier Assayas' Irma Vep where post-New Wave filmmakers and other independents felt so marginalized that they felt no reason to expect any audience for their films. It's also in those years that the CNC (Centre National du Cinéma) started stepping up to finance or co-finance such films (via taxes on cinema admissions) so they wouldn't worry about becoming Box Office Bombs, shaping French cinema's current economic landscape.
    • French comedies. There seems to be an endless flow of what many consider as lowbrow comedies since the end of The '90s, to the point nostalgia for the likes of Louis de Funès (whose decades were a critics-alienating era) is still going strong. While there has been a number of clever and well received French comedies since then (the OSS 117 series with Jean Dujardin for example), the majority of the highest grossing ones fall into that category (while never having positive user ratings on dedicated sites like Allociné or SensCritique).
      • The "made for TF1" comedies of the 90s', often starring the likes of Christian Clavier and Thierry Lhermitte (TF1 is the first French TV channel, it is privatized and had exclusive broadcasting rights for most of the recent films, mostly picking American blockbusters and French comedies, before the streaming era). With some exceptions such as Les Visiteurs (the first one only) and The Dinner Game, they're not held in high regard, though they weren't as lowbrow as comedies would become in the following decade.
      • Not helping is the perception that recent comedies are more and more populated by stand-up comedians, short-lived Sketch Comedy shows actors from Canal+ and successful Web Video Creators with none of the prestige of "traditional" actors.
  • The '80s are seen by both American and British film critics and historians as a major low point. This period of neoliberalism (Reagan and Thatcher) saw many of the great New Hollywood directors out to lunch or in exile (Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman), as well as a great many now-forgotten mainstream films that attempted to copy the success of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Films that are celebrated today, like Blade Runner, Raging Bull, and The Thing, were flops early on that would only later be Vindicated by History. In general, critics note that this was the first decade in American cinema in which the most exciting filmmakers came from the independent scene rather than the mainstream (before, it was at least a case that both Hollywood and the indies produced excellent films, and the former kept a window open for the latter to climb in), with Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, and Abel Ferrara rising to prominence in this era as cult directors.

    In the UK, meanwhile, the era of Thatcherism and reduced spending saw the elimination of tax credits designed to facilitate foreign productions filming there, leading to a growing dependence on the home video and television markets. Goldcrest Films briefly became a major player in the British film industry, winning Best Picture Oscars in 1981 and '82 for Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, only to crash and burn mid-decade with a string of flops. A few cult films by Terry Gilliam, Stephen Frears, and Withnail and I punctuated what was otherwise a dry decade.

    The leading exception to this view is with the comedy genre, with the '80s often seen as a Golden Age for Hollywood comedy. Relaxed censorship combined with the end of the New Hollywood era (with its focus on gritty dramas) allowed Lighter and Softer fare to reenter theaters, this time with far more edge than would've been permissible in the '50s or '60s. At the same time, Saturday Night Live and SCTV had been important training grounds for young comedic talent since the mid-'70s, and the former would continue to be so even as it recovered from its own audience-alienating era in the 1980-81 season. '80s stars like Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Rick Moranis, and John Candy are now seen as icons, with films like Ghostbusters (1984), Groundhog Day, Stripes, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Beverly Hills Cop, and more acclaimed as classics. Speculative Fiction films were also robust during the decade; the science fiction boom that Star Wars kicked off lasted into the mid-'80s (and arguably never truly went away, even to this day), the horror genre saw the slasher wave, and there was a revival in fantasy films led by the likes of Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Dark Crystal, and The NeverEnding Story. 1982 in particular is a high-water mark, with the Hugo Award nominees from that year all still seen as classics decades later - Blade Runner beat out The Dark Crystal, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
  • For American horror fans, two periods of time are often remembered as low points in the history of the genre. One thing they both had in common was that they were periods of unparalleled prosperity and security in the United States, the conventional wisdom holding that the success of the horror genre is inversely proportional to how well the rest of the country is doing, since people are less primed to be scared when they feel safe and happy. This explains why the genre boomed from the '60s through the '80s (a time when people were afraid of declining moral values, a crumbling economy, and nuclear war) and from the mid '00s into the present (when fear of terrorism, bigotry, and economic malaise ran high).
    • The first era is the late '40s through the '50s. The Universal Horror cycle was sputtering out around this time, with only Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, and quite tellingly, the parodies by Abbott and Costello being all that fondly remembered nowadays. The rest of the genre, meanwhile, was descending into drive-in B-Movie hell as a slew of cheaply-made sci-fi and monster movies tried to copy the success of hits like Them!, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came From Outer Space. Overall, the era provided quite a bit of material for Mystery Science Theater 3000, and with the exception of the undisputed classics, most '50s horror cinema is remembered as kitsch. As noted above, this era is remembered nowadays for being the height of American middle-class prosperity, and while the Soviets were a menace, the specter of World War III still seemed remote until the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. While Hammer Horror, Roger Corman, and (on television) The Twilight Zone would provide the beginnings of a comeback, the genre isn't usually held to have fully gotten out of its Audience-Alienating Era until the late '60s, after which it's often seen as have entered a Golden Age that lasted for roughly two decades.
    • For a while, The '80s were thought of as an Audience-Alienating Era, especially among critics. Coming off The '70s, considered a Golden Age for the genre, many fans thought that the genre turned back into B-Movie schlock during this time, only now for the home video market instead of drive-ins. Slasher movies especially were regarded as having killed the genre's artistic and critical respectability and plunged it into a morass of cliches, plotless violence, one-dimensional characters, and pandering to teenage audiences. This view reached its peak in the early '90s when the slasher genre fell out of fashion and seemingly took the entire horror genre with it (as noted below), causing many horror fans to blame slashers for "killing horror". However, with the critical reappraisal of the slasher genre since then, the '80s are now remembered as, if anything, a Golden Age for horror, with its defenders noting the subversiveness and great special effects of '80s horror while highlighting the films (including some of its biggest hits and franchises) that went against the tropes associated with it.
    • These days, the second era that horror fans will point to as an Audience-Alienating Era is The '90s. With the "Big Three" Slasher Movie franchises (Friday the 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street) all falling into their own Audience-Alienating Eras in 1989 that are detailed below, the genre as a whole went dormant in the first half of the decade. Very few horror films had much success between 1989 and 1996, and the few that did (such as The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en) were typically closer to the Psychological Thriller or "horror-adjacent" end of the spectrum. The sudden success of Scream in 1996 made horror popular again in the mainstream, but the wave of Follow the Leader teen horror flicks that followed is often held in hindsight to be a continuation of the Audience-Alienating Era, with many horror fans seeing it as little more than a half-hearted, sanitized recycling of '80s slasher tropes — especially given how Scream had mercilessly skewered and discredited many of those same tropes. Julia Alexander of Polygon refers to the '90s as the "WB period of horror" due to the fact that many horror films from the decade looked like pilots for a Teen Drama on The WB, filled with good-looking young people getting (bloodlessly) hacked to death by generic slasher villains.

      Much like how the late '40s and '50s were the height of post-war prosperity, the '90s are remembered as the age of the Pax Americana, the time when America was at the height of its power and the only serious problems in society were mostly felt by groups who were already on its margins. It's not for nothing that Scream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, two works that are now often held up as high points of '90s horror, are best known as parodies of the genre, looking back on the films of the '70s and '80s with a great deal of snark. There are, of course, films from this decade that are still acclaimed today, but they tended to be diamonds in the rough, such that the horror website Bloody-Disgusting devoted a series of articles to unearthing those hidden '90s horror gems so as to demonstrate that the decade wasn't all bad. The Audience-Alienating Era ended around 2002-04 with the success of the American adaptation of The Ring, the boom in the zombie genre (kicked off by 28 Days Later), and the rise of the "Splat Pack", a group of ultraviolent horror filmmakers that included James Wan, Rob Zombie, and Eli Roth, and has maintained a decent place ever since.
    • Some would argue that the genre's audience-alienating era continued into the 2000s, at least for Hollywood horror. Outside the US, the decade is remembered as a Golden Age for European (particularly British, French, and Spanish) and East Asian (particularly Japanese) horror, and the '00s also produced a great many quality independent American films. In Hollywood, however, while there were some good films such as Saw, The Ring, and Dawn of the Dead (2004), most other horror films were either slashers, remakes, or trying to cash in on the success of the former two films, and if one wasn't a fan of Torture Porn (a polarizing genre among horror fans), the pickings were often slim. The production company Platinum Dunes was often singled out for criticism as representative of the worst trends in the decade's horror, seen as importing a highly stylized music video aesthetic straight out of Michael Bay movies (Bay being one of the company's co-founders) into the genre while making mostly unwelcome remakes of horror classics that suffered in comparison to the originals. This period of Hollywood horror was ruthlessly satirized by The Cabin in the Woods, which portrays it as caught in a rut and overly dependent upon worn-out, formulaic tropes and plots to the point of Creator's Apathy. The critical and commercial successes of Paranormal Activity, Drag Me to Hell, and Zombieland in 2009 ended Hollywood's dry spell, but it wasn't until The Conjuring in 2013 that this Audience-Alienating Era came to a definitive end. The following years saw an explosive rise in the popularity and critical acclaim of horror films, led by the production company Blumhouse Productions (behind Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Get Out (2017), and The Invisible Man (2020)) and the indie studio A24 (behind The VVitch, It Comes at Night, Hereditary, and Midsommar).
  • Italian horror cinema fell into an Audience-Alienating Era in the late 1980s, from which it has never truly recovered. By the end of the decade, the stylish, baroque horror flicks and gialli popularized by the likes of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci had begun to fizzle out and the cheerful, low-budget exploitation films of lesser directors had given way to poor-quality No Budget Direct to Video releases that were typically regarded as So Bad, It's Good at best. While some good films originated from this time period such as those of Michele Soavi, Lamberto Bava (son of the aforementioned Mario Bava), and Argento, they were few and far between, and even in the case of the latter his works from the later part of the 80s are generally seen as a step down from his previous successes, with Opera being regarded as his last true masterpiece.
  • Slasher movies specifically fell into an Audience-Alienating Era a fair bit earlier than the '90s. While the biggest franchises remained successful until the end of the '80s, 1985 saw the slasher genre as a whole start to fall from grace as the rise of home video led to a slew of Direct to Video copycats and, with it, a general fatigue among both casual moviegoers and genre fans. They turned to more adult-oriented horror films and/or action thrillers which offered their own exciting thrills and kills — sometimes with the bonus of higher production values and sophisticated direction, scripts, and acting. (In 1986, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was the highest-grossing slasher of the year, but only ranked 46th overall. The Fly (1986) ranked 23rd and Aliens 7th — and both won technical Oscars!) Many newer slashers, trying to follow in the footsteps of Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees and A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger, focused less on the scares and more on the larger-than-life personalities of the killers in the hopes of building a franchise around them; inevitably, these new series would only get out one or two good films, at most, before sequelitis set in. Tellingly, this was also around the time when a number of major slasher parodies started coming out, such as April Fools' Day and Evil Laugh, and even franchise slashers like Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives were not immune to poking fun at the genre's cliches. By the end of the decade, even the big franchises had gone off the rails, taking the entire American horror genre with them (as detailed above).
  • At the Turn of the Millennium, the Romantic Comedy genre was seen as neither particularly romantic nor particularly funny. While The '90s are often remembered as a Golden Age for the genre, the 2000s felt to many fans like a warmed-over retread of what worked in the past, with too many films relying on increasingly contrived Meet Cute setups, forced Cringe Comedy, and outlandish High Concept hooks, all while the characters got less interesting (this was when the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl was coined to critique a particular type of shallow Love Interest) and the actors had less chemistry. By the late '00s, this led to more serious romantic dramas coming into vogue, led by the Twilight films and the adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' novels, while films like (500) Days of Summer started deconstructing the genre. The Audience-Alienating Era ended in the late 2010s with Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I've Loved Before, which heralded a revival of the genre by hearkening back to its '90s golden age.
  • American action movies fell into one from roughly 2005 to 2015. Many action fans like to blame The Bourne Supremacy, which, despite being a good movie, has been argued as a Genre Original Sin for action movies due to its popularization of Jitter Cam, leading to a slew of films that copied its style without recognizing what made it work in that film. Others blame the success of Michael Bay's body of work, which employed the Jitter Cam technique extensively. Whatever it was, the result was that many action scenes were hard to follow to the point of incoherence, with the Expendables franchise often cited as an especially egregious offender given that its All-Star Cast (particularly writer and, on the first film, director Sylvester Stallone) came mostly from the '80s Golden Age of Hollywood action. To many of its critics, this style was being used as a lazy substitute for proper action choreography that let filmmakers turn anybody into an Action Hero, without actually requiring much complicated stuntwork from them or effort to conceal their stunt doubles. The nadir for many was a scene in the 2014 film Taken 3 where Liam Neeson's character climbed over a fence, a seemingly ordinary action beat that the film nonetheless felt required fourteen cuts in six seconds. In the latter half of the 2010s, films like Mad Max: Fury Road and the John Wick franchise that favor long, stable takes have signaled a backlash against the style.
  • Moviegoing in India, especially in Mumbai, became truly oppressive in the 21st Century. In most democracies, you saw loosening of censorship over a period of time, but censorship in Indian cinema and Bollywood is comparable to dictatorships and theocracies in terms of restrictions on political content, showing sexuality or bringing anti-authoritarian sentiments. While the latter three loosened somewhat recently, conservatives decided to combat it by putting anti-smoking and anti-alcohol sentiments, this they did by adding messages that came on the screen in big letters any time a character smoke and drank on-screen. Indeed, Woody Allen removed Blue Jasmine from Indian screens for these very reasons.
  • Many Japanese moviegoers feel that their film industry has gone into this territory, especially during the 2010s. Even though certain movies have earned critical acclaim, such as the Oscar-winner Departures, Confessions, Shin Godzilla, Your Name, and the Palme d'Or-winner Shoplifters, many Japanese people feel that most locally produced films have cheap cinematography, cliched plots, low production values, and a general lack of ambition. Adding to this, most live-action movies produced are either based on manga series or light novels and have received backlash from fans of said series (especially from North American fans). Big names in Japanese filmmaking have expressed their dissatisfaction with the drought of original movies, and Takeshi Kitano in particular claims that the industry is in "a state of demise". Critics often point to several reasons why the industry is going downhill:
    • There are too many locally produced films. According to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, the annual number of domestic films has more than doubled since 2000. While this may be seen as positive, producers and distributors are either uninterested in or unwilling to export most of them worldwide.
    • Not many investors are willing to gamble on young directors with original ideas. Instead, they generally decide to fund live-action adaptations of manga series or light novels, since they are less of a financial risk and pull in greater audiences. Public film funding also runs into political concerns, as state film agencies are often hesitant to give money to films with political themes that could be interpreted as critical of the government, causing filmmakers to target the Lowest Common Denominator instead. Even some big-name directors like Hirokazu Koreeda have admitted to the difficulty in finding funds for their movies despite past box-office hits, and have ended up looking for investors abroad.
    • On a related note, television has played a big role in this well. In 2019, the top three highest-grossing live-action Japanese films in the country were Bayside Shakedown, its sequel, and Antarctica, all produced by Fuji Television. The Bayside Shakedown films are spin-offs of a popular television show at the time, which is stuck in No Export for You hell and as such has no real foreign audience. Moreover, Japanese TV is largely made for distracted viewing, meant to be watched while doing housework, homework or eating dinner. As such, most of the story is told in a simple, easy-to-digest manner, with actors giving melodramatic performances as they would on stage, rather than in a film. Even these tend to suffer from poor working conditions and low budgets.
    • Poor working conditions and low pay also factor in. Many in the Japanese film industry blame the "Cool Japan" initiative that the government launched in 2012, which they feel is not only more about branding and funneling money to marketing firms than actually supporting filmmakers, but has also lured foreign film studios with the specific promise of lower costs and longer working hours to make movies with. The film industry in Japan is a hard, low-paying job with few opportunities for recognition and advancement, and as such, talent often either looks abroad or quits the film industry altogether for more stable jobs.
  • The New '10s saw adult comedy films fall into this territory. Throughout the 2000s, comedies were one of Hollywood's most dominant genres, with the works of Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, and Todd Phillips often being some of the highest grossing films of their release years. 2010 however, marked a turning point, as stricter MPAA guidelines made it harder to portray borderline-vulgar material, particularly prominent in these films. Social attitudes towards humor in general also shifted early in the decade, especially regarding the constant use of certain actions and language that had come to be considered offensive. Not helping matters was the increasing importance of international markets for film studios causing them to scale back on mid-budget films such as these in favor of large budget blockbusters and modest budget films that carry less financial risk and are easier to adapt for foreign audiences. The Hangover sequels, Bad Teacher, Ted, 21 Jump Street (and its sequel), and Neighbors (2014) were among the few bona-fide comedic successes for the succeeding years. The rise of movie ticket prices and growth of streaming services also caused many people to save their movie theater experiences for event movies and blockbusters. Several A-List comedy stars, such as Adam Sandler, also began to take their films away from theaters and exclusively to streaming services where they could maintain greater creative control. With the exception of the superhero comedy Deadpool, as well as it's sequel, and the animated film Sausage Party, modestly budgeted female-geared comedy films became the only theatrical commercially-viable type films during the 2010s, beginning with the success of Bad Moms. This focus on blockbusters has also affected the movie industry as a whole, with indie fare largely migrating to streaming services for the same reasons.

    Film series 
  • Godzilla:
    • The franchise is often claimed to have undergone an Audience-Alienating Era during the Mid-Showa era, starting with either Son of Godzilla in 1967 or (more commonly) All Monsters Attack in 1969, one that lasted through the first half of The '70s. However, one is hard-pressed to explain exactly how the '70s flicks were any sillier or any 'worse' than the films that preceded them, given that Godzilla was already setting King Kong's crotch on fire, drunkenly tripping over buildings, chatting up a storm with Mothra and Rodan, dancing in outer space, and playing volleyrock with a giant shrimp during the '60s. It probably has more to do with the outlandishly low production values for a few of those films coupled with bad direction and poor acting. In fact, only one of the audience-alienating era films is considered particularly bad by a significant portion of the fanbase (and it still has its fans), with two films being considered almost on par with the '60s films and three other films falling squarely into divisive territory. Even the aforementioned bad films often fall into the So Bad, It's Good category for some people, with Mothra vs. Godzilla actually often considered the best Showa-era Godzilla film out of all of them. As a whole, most fans agree that the Showa era began picking itself back up with the release of Zone Fighter in 1973, which took the 'superhero' formula the Godzilla franchise had adopted and refined it into a much more streamlined yet equally enjoyable theme, by teaming up Godzilla with the show's eponymous Kyodai Hero and giving him plenty of monsters to fight, either with Zone or on his own.
    • Lately, the Millennium series seems to be taking over this role, due to a lack of continuity and a perceived overuse of tropes lifted from popular anime of the time, though there is still some contention within the fandom on this.
  • The RoboCop franchise has been stuck in one since 1993 with the release of RoboCop 3, where the once famously ultraviolent series went for a PG-13 rating and shifted its target audience towards children. It continued with RoboCop: The Series, which likewise was targeted towards children and featured RoboCop using Non-Lethal Warfare against his enemies. The animated series RoboCop: Alpha Commando also hurt the franchise, turning the title character into Inspector Gadget. RoboCop: Prime Directives tried and failed to move things back to the first two movies, featuring what many considered a nonsensical plot and a miscast RoboCop in the form of Page Fletcher, who moved awkwardly in the suit and was significantly shorter that most of the cast. The reboot was met with mixed reactions, mostly due to it being PG-13, a decision to make RoboCop's suit mostly black, and a scene mocking the original design. It too bombed, keeping this franchise stuck in an A.A.E.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation-derived Star Trek films are seen as this to the Trek movie series. The Star Trek: The Original Series films were mostly critical and commercial hits, and at worst moderately profitable despite poor critical reactions, but most of the TNG films were critical and/or commercial disappointments, ultimately culminating in Star Trek: Nemesis, one of the most notorious franchise-killing Box Office Bombs in history. The only one regarded as being especially good was Star Trek: First Contact, and even then a number of fans blame it for laying the seeds that would ultimately help doom the franchise in the years ahead (namely an increased focus on action at the expense of thought-provoking stories, over-use of the Borg and other familiar enemies, and in the case of the remaining TNG films, an emphasis on Picard and Data to the exclusion of all the other characters). The rebooted film series, while still very divisive among fans, has nonetheless been far more critically and commercially successful than the TNG films.
  • Star Wars, due to a Broken Base, and having so many different projects going at one time, goes into a constant rotation of Audience-Alienating Eras.
    • In the mainstream media, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were polarized in how they were received, and even the much more acclaimed Revenge of the Sith was divisive. It was only when Star Wars: The Clone Wars re-established a cool factor that the franchise has managed to recover.
    • With Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, the trend continued, with Rebels, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One all being commercial and critical successes (though TFA had its own controversies over various similarites to ANH and a Happy Ending Override for the OT heroes). The divisive nature of both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, the box office under-performance of Solo, and friction between Lucasfilm and the fanbase have created concern of another one however. Disney and Lucasfilm appear to be acknowledging this, as they officially put further cinematic installments of the franchise on hold for six years to focus on streaming series, most notably The Mandalorian, which has been well received across the board.
    • There's also a true "Dark Age" between 1986 (when the Marvel comic title and the animated series Droids and Ewoks were finished) and 1991 (when Heir to the Empire was published). George Lucas was uninterested in making new films, and both merchandise and the Expanded Universe stalled (notable during the period are only the Star Tours ride at Disney Theme Parks, the Star Wars RPG... and Spaceballs).
    • Likely the most unanimously agreed-upon A.A.E. for the Star Wars franchise is the period where Troy Denning was head writer for the novels, spanning nearly nine years from July 2005 to April 2014. Denning's work was noted for being far Darker and Edgier than most other stories in The 'Verse, with a level of gratuitous sex and violence unusual for the franchise, most infamously a scene in Legacy of the Force where a grown woman sexually tortures a teenage boy for information. Denning and his contemporaries also built up a bad habit of using characters created by other writers for their own books as C-List Fodder. When it was announced in 2014 that the franchise would have a Continuity Reboot, the response from Denning's considerable hatedom was a resounding "Meh."
  • As mentioned above, the Universal Horror films are generally held to have gone downhill in The '40s, with The Wolf Man (1941) often seen as the last great movie in the cycle. Universal, running out of ideas for sequels, started making crossover films in which the various monsters did battle and teamed up, and when that well ran dry, they hired Abbott and Costello to make parodies of their films. The actors were growing tired of their roles, with Lon Chaney Jr. getting let out of his contract after House of Dracula in 1945 as his alcoholism made him increasingly unreliable. The Audience-Alienating Era reached its nadir in The '50s as the studio struggled to adapt to the new wave of sci-fi horror, with It Came from Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon being the only Universal horror films from that time that are all that fondly remembered nowadays.

    While Universal's own monster movies never returned to the heights of the '30s and early '40s, the monsters themselves returned to the popular consciousness in the late '50s and '60s for two major reasons. First, in 1957 Universal released the Shock Theater syndication package, containing fifty-two of their classic horror films, to television stations, leading to a proliferation of late-night Horror Hosts on television and a surge in geek enthusiast magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland. Second, that same year Hammer Film Productions started remaking many of Universal's horror films, adding new levels of sex and violence that made them edgy again for a whole new generation. By The '70s, Universal's monsters were once more recognized as screen legends and the foundation of American horror cinema. Since then, Universal has often returned to the well, remaking and re-imagining many of their classic monsters over the years with varying degrees of success.

    Individual Creators 
  • From the late '80s through much of the '00s, Tim Burton became a goth icon thanks to his Signature Style that combined Gothic Horror and macabre imagery with childlike whimsy. Fatigue eventually set in, however, especially in his work on big-budget blockbusters, with many fans feeling that his style had grown Flanderized to the point that even his more family-friendly films could scarcely be called such, that he was putting more emphasis on said style to cover for Strictly Formula plotting, and that he was growing overreliant on a select number of go-to actors (most notably Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter) whether or not they were suited to the roles they were playing. Precisely when his creative decline started is a matter of debate. In hindsight, some put it as early as 2005 with his adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a film that, while well-received at the time, has become far more divisive in the years since, though the following years also brought two of his most popular films, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The latest point that fans will cite is 2010, when he released an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that, while a box-office hit, got mixed reviews that criticized it as as unnecessary and empty. While he still made some well-received films afterwards like Frankenweenie and Big Eyes, they were increasingly balanced out by the negative reception of films like Dark Shadows and Dumbo (2019).
  • While John Carpenter's box-office record was always hit or miss, in The '70s and The '80s even his bombs were quickly Vindicated by Cable and became Cult Classics, while his hits helped redefine whole genres. Not so with his films in The '90s. Starting with 1992's Memoirs of an Invisible Man, every film of his was a Box Office Bomb, and what's more, only In the Mouth of Madness got a good reception from critics then or now. His career eventually flatlined in 2001 with Ghosts of Mars, by which point he could no longer trade on his reputation from his Glory Days, and an attempted comeback ten years later with The Ward sank without a trace. He eventually rebuilt his reputation in the 2010s by switching careers, working mainly as a composer and winning acclaim for his Lost Themes albums.
  • Clint Eastwood has had two of them.
    • It's generally agreed that The '80s were a complete dry spell for him. With few exceptions, most of his films, whether he acted in them or directed them, were critical and commercial duds that failed to spark much interest or acclaim. Movies like City Heat, The Dead Pool, Bronco Billy, and Pink Cadillac were critical and commercial bombs, while movies like White Hunter, Black Heart and Bird got critical praise but failed at the box office. During this time period, Eastwood had a "one for me, one for them" relationship with Warner Bros. where he would do a more commercial studio film in return for letting him do a film he had an artistic interest in. Once these films weren't doing any business, Eastwood started to rethink this mentality and end up making Unforgiven in 1992, which was a return to form that won him four Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director) and helped relaunch his career, ending his decade-long Audience-Alienating Era.
    • Many critics have argued that he fell down into another one during the 2010s, and that his recent works don't share the same quality and spirit with his previous acclaimed works, beginning with the divisive reception of American Sniper and The 15:17 to Paris and continuing with the Acclaimed Flop Richard Jewell (which saw Critical Dissonance for playing, to put it mildly, somewhat loose with the actual story it was inspired by) and the outright flop, critically and commercially, of Cry Macho. It didn't help that, by the time he made Cry Macho, he was 91 years old, such that many reviews argued that he was a bit too old to be the leading man in a Western. This also brings into question whether he can survive making another film, let alone come out of this specific Audience-Alienating Era.
  • Tom Hooper gradually fell into one throughout the 2010s. While he started out strong with The King's Speech, which was a massive financial and critical success that won Best Picture and earned him the Best Director Oscar, Hooper and his filmmaking style became more divisive with his next two films, Les Misérables (2012) and The Danish Girl. While both were also financial successes and earned Oscar noms and wins, their critical reception was decidedly more mixed albeit leaning positive, with Hooper’s creative decisions for Les Miserables, in particular the live singing and the cinematography, resulting in massive Broken Base, and The Danish Girl being criticized for being surprisingly toothless for a film involving sex reassignment surgery, while also spawning a minor controversy over casting the cisgender Eddie Redmayne as its transgender lead. However, things eventually reached a breaking point at the end of the decade with his adaptation of Cats, which not only amplified the flaws of his Les Miserables adaptation but added on a whole new slew of problems, the most notable being its infamous Unintentional Uncanny Valley CGI. Not only did this lead to the film being ruthlessly mocked from the moment its first trailer dropped, but in a massive reversal of fortune for Hooper from the start of the decade, the final product was savaged by critics and became a massive Box Office Bomb that eventually “won” six Razzies including Worst Picture and Director, massively damaging his reputation in the process. Hooper, however, insisted that he was still being considered for a couple of projects after the release of Cats, so time will tell if he can manage to end or prolong his audience-alienating era.
  • Spike Lee went through this from the mid-2000s through the early '10s. She Hate Me in 2004 earned the most scathing reviews of his career, and while his 2006 follow-up Inside Man was a hit with both critics and moviegoers, many critics noted that it didn't particularly feel like a "Spike Lee joint" and that Lee felt more like a hired gun on the film (it was the first film of his since 1996 that he had no hand in writing or producing). After that, only his documentary work received much positive notice, as his next four fictional films (2008's Miracle at St. Anna, 2012's Red Hook Summer, the 2013 American remake of Oldboy, and 2014's Da Sweet Blood of Jesus) all received mixed-to-negative reviews and flopped at the box office, and Lee became better known for his controversial public statements than for his films. This losing streak would end in 2015 with the positive reception to Chi-Raq, with the near-universal praise for 2018's BlacKkKlansman (which won him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay) suggesting that Lee's Audience-Alienating Era is well and truly over, as seen with the overall good reception of Da 5 Bloods.
  • Terrence Malick's post-Tree Of Life films have been decidedly less well-received than his earlier work, with critics feeling that he's become increasingly self-indulgent and pretentious. As of 2020, his most recent work, A Hidden Life, has garnered some positive reviews and might able to pull him out of his Audience-Alienating Era.
  • Some argue the Marx Brothers went through this after their switch to MGM. Zeppo got tired of acting, and the studio forced the brothers to go from completely anarchic Rapid-Fire Comedy to more good-natured characters helping out a forgettable romantic lead between increasingly tedious musical numbers (Groucho called The Big Store's "Tenement Symphony" "the most godawful thing I'd ever heard"). Granted, there were still plenty of Funny Moments — their first film there, A Night at the Opera, usually dukes it out with their last Paramount film Duck Soup for the title of their magnum opus — but it was more restrained than during their years at Paramount.
  • Eddie Murphy had one starting with his 1989 flop Harlem Nights that lasted into the early-mid '90s, with his films, The Distinguished Gentleman, Boomerang (1992), Beverly Hills Cop III, and Vampire in Brooklyn all bombing in theaters (Boomerang has been Vindicated by History, while he's disowned the others). It was so tough for Murphy that in 1995, Saturday Night Live, the show he helped save in the early 1980s, skewered him for his struggles, as castmember David Spade snarked, "Look, children, it's a falling star! Make a wish!", which made Murphy so mad he that swore off SNL for nearly 20 years. Afterwards, he made his comeback with his 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor and 1998's Mulan. He entered another one in the 2000s, where, with the exception of the Shrek movies, Bowfinger, and Dreamgirls, his films like The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Haunted Mansion, Norbit, Meet Dave and Imagine That were all massive failures (Pluto Nash has become one of Hollywood's biggest flops, and many feel Norbit, while profitable, torpedoed Murphy's Oscar hopes with Dreamgirls). He got praised for starring in 2011's Tower Heist, but his 2012 follow-up A Thousand Words (although it was filmed in 2008) was universally panned, receiving a Tomatometer score of 0%. He did star in the critically acclaimed Dolemite Is My Name, which earned him a Razzie Redeemer Award, and he won an Emmy for his 2019 return to SNL, so only time will tell whether he'll recover.
  • Filmmaker Ridley Scott has gone through two in the course of his career:
    • The first was in the '90s. After the success of Thelma & Louise, his next film after that was the Christopher Columbus epic 1492: Conquest of Paradise, which was a financial and critical flop. His other two films that followed were White Squall and G.I. Jane, and while they had their own wins (the former got good reviews while the latter made money), Scott didn't fully recover until Gladiator years latter.
    • The second started in 2010 with Robin Hood (2010), a Gladiator retread in the form of the Robin Hood legend. The films after that (Prometheus, The Counselor, and Exodus: Gods and Kings) were divisive at best and downright hated at worst. However, things are looking bright for Scott again, with his adaptation of Andy Weir's The Martian receiving some of the best reviews he's had in a while, so time will tell if he's out of it or not.
  • M. Night Shyamalan fell into a bad one in the mid-'00s, to the point where his name became a running joke about twist endings and many critics wondered if the filmmaker once hailed as "the next Spielberg" was just a one-trick pony. 2004's The Village was the first film of his to meet genuinely negative reviews, 2006's Lady in the Water was seen as an ego trip that mainly amounted to him lashing out at his critics (and became his first Box Office Bomb), 2008's The Happening is regarded as So Bad, It's Good (which, to be fair, may have been the intention - or at least he claimed as much), his 2010 adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender was seen by fans of that show as a gross disservice to the source material, and he finally bottomed out in 2013 with After Earth, which earned unwelcome comparisons to Battlefield Earth. Shyamalan seemingly got his groove back in the mid-2010s by returning to the low-budget horror films and thrillers with which he made his name, with 2015's The Visit and 2016's Split earning him his first good reviews in over a decade, but that goodwill hit a massive speedbump with the critical drubbing of Glass in 2019.
  • Josh Trank made a name for himself with the film Chronicle, and was subsequently attached to multiple high-profile projects. Unfortunately, the first of these, the 2015 reboot of Fantastic Four, effectively burned a good deal of bridges in the industry, due to not only the film's failure, but reports of Trank being abusive to the cast and crew of the film. His attempt at a comeback, Capone, didn't fare much better, as the film was panned by critics and released straight to video-on-demand. Only time will tell if Trank can ever recover from these back-to-back failures.
  • Mae West lost a good chunk of her sex appeal when The Hays Code was imposed, but her movies remained passable. Myra Breckinridge and Sextette, made after she was convinced to come out of retirement in old age, are not. Myra Breckinridge (loosely based on a novel by Gore Vidal, for whom this is a Disowned Adaptation) was a terrible film in its own right and only featured Mae in a single scene — basically playing herself — as a man-hungry talent agent-type who gives the eponymous heroine (a transgender woman who's just had her sex change) lessons on mistreating the menfolk. Frankly, Mae is not the grossest thing in it — not after you see the strap-on scene. Sextette had West as a sex symbol... which was one thing when she was in her 30s and 40s and quite another when she's a frail, overly made-up 84-year-old woman paired with men young enough to be her grandchildren (such as 32-year-old Timothy Dalton, for whom this is a major Old Shame). Most people's reactions to the film are somewhere between a Primal Scene reaction and profound Squick.
  • Robert Zemeckis fell into one following the release of Cast Away in 2000, with many of his later films making losses or barely breaking even. While 2012's Flight was a modest hit, his next two films The Walk and Allied both bombed. With 2018's Welcome to Marwen tying for the worst opening weekend of the year, Zemeckis' career is on very thin ice. In the 2020s, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zemekis' next two films were released on streaming services. The Witches (2020) was released on HBO Max while Pinocchio (2022, Disney) was released on Disney+. The Witches received mixed reviews while Pinocchio received even worse reviews.