I read something in EW this week that genuinely shocked me. Next to my review of Michael Jackson’s This Is It, there’s a box of the five top-grossing concert films — and according to that list, the second most successful concert film of all time is Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (2009). The reason for my shock is not that I dislike the Jonas brothers (I thought their movie was charming in a prefab, featherweight way), but because, at the time, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience was rightfully considered a mild commercial disappointment. It marked the beginning of their slow slide from top-of-the-world boy band to big-but-not-quite-as-big teenybop limbo. How could this movie have ranked so high?
To see how, take a look at the full list:
1. Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert (2008) $65.3 million
2. Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (2009) $19.2 million
3. Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991) $15 million
4. U2 3D (2008) $10.2 million
5. U2: Rattle and Hum (1988) $8.6 million
Hmmm, let’s tally this up: Two movies with currently-in-vogue squeaky-clean teen idols, a Madonna documentary from 20 years ago, a U2 doc from 20 years ago — and U2 again, this time from last year. I don’t begrudge any of these artists their big-screen success, but doesn’t this list strike you as just a little thin in terms of how well it represents…the pop-music universe of the last two decades?
That’s because concert films more or less went away. A few weeks from now, This Is It could well end up the new box-office concert-movie champion. Of course, there’s no denying that a shot-on-videotape documentary of Michael Jackson rehearsing for a series of shows that never came to pass is a complete and utter anomaly, released under one-of-a-kind circumstances. Nevertheless, it got me to thinking: Isn’t it about time that some newer artists from the worlds of pop, rock, and hip-hop began to crack and even dominate that list? I don’t care if this is the age of YouTube and music-television-as-wallpaper. I would love to see the high-profile, big-event concert film make a comeback in our era. I mean, as much as I respect the awesome purchasing power of 12-year-old girls, if Miley Cyrus can top that list, then why not…well, a great many other people.
I have no doubt that an artist like Lady Gaga, with her rapturously infectious pop-disco hooks and Wagner-gone-Rocky Horror showmanship, could make herself the glitz-siren centerpiece of a concert movie to die for. I say: Sign up Baz Luhrmann right now to direct a movie of her upcoming tour! And speaking of star directors, I realize that Jonathan Demme is busy at work on a series of 12 films devoted to the music and legend of Neil Young (okay, I joke — he’s only making three of them), but I do so wish that Demme would stop being a rock curator. No disrespect to Neil Young, but the one concert movie that Demme has directed that I wouldn’t hesitate to call a classic — his boppy and transcendent Talking Heads doc, Stop Making Sense — came about because, back in 1984, he was responding to the music of the moment. The equivalent film today wouldn’t be a Neil Young tribute. It would be a movie featuring Green Day, Beyoncé, Coldplay, or Kanye West.
Personally, I’d love to see a concert film starring any of those people. How about you? Do you think the concert film should make a comeback? And, if so, which artist would you love to see up there in glittering surround-sound 3-D glory?