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Hollywood execs applaud Feig's successful formula, but they don't get the message. Instead of greenlighting more female comedies, they've begged Feig to make a movie about men.

"If you're actually lucky enough to get your romantic-comedy script sold, then you have to get talent and directors attached," — APRIL ProsseR

"I've been lectured so many times by producers and people in power, 'You don't want to get pigeonholed in the whole woman thing,'" Feig chuckles. "Do I want to get pigeonholed in the men thing? I want to get pigeonholed in the people thing!"

SUSPECT NO. 2: BAD SCRIPTS
Of course, Bridesmaids wasn't a classic romantic comedy — though it was called one by critics who knew no other term for a funny film starring women. After all, in Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo's script, the focus wasn't on Wiig's character finding a good man; it was about her reconfiguring her friendship with Maya Rudolph. The love story between Wiig and the Irish cop played by Chris O'Dowd was secondary, and even then Feig was iffy about including it.

According to Drew Barrymore, "Comedies, especially romantic comedies, just really aren't in that discussion because they're usually not going to win the awards, unfortunately."
Big Miracle, Darren Michaels, Universal Studios
According to Drew Barrymore, "Comedies, especially romantic comedies, just really aren't in that discussion because they're usually not going to win the awards, unfortunately."

"I had a lot of angst about that," Feig admits. "Even having to have a love story was kind of, 'Oh, shoot, it'd be kind of nice to do one that's not all about that.' "

Maybe romantic-comedy conventions just got tired. From the late '90s to the mid-2000s, Hollywood produced dozens of romantic comedies each year, but many were outright lousy. In fact, you could argue that romantic comedies did so well for so long that they were taken for granted — hence the stretch of depressingly lobotomized movies about materialistic career women who learn that a man is more important than their Manolos. (See: Sweet Home Alabama, Sex and the City, Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Ugly Truth.) Perhaps studio executives looked at the diminishing returns on their diminishing-quality films and decided to scrap the whole genre.

"I do think, for a few years, an awful lot of rom-coms were made to feed a certain segment of the audience. I'm not sure anyone making them had huge ambitions," Meyers says. "But honestly, can't that be said of a lot of genres? And I don't see those disappearing." After all, the concurrent flops The Green Hornet and The Green Lantern didn't persuade any studios to stop making superhero movies.

Smart writers used to write romantic comedies: Think Nora Ephron, James L. Brooks, Amy Heckerling, Cameron Crowe, John Hughes, even Woody Allen, not to mention the greats such as Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder. Today's young writers have different aspirations.

Look at the Black List, which tallies each year's best unproduced scripts. Among the hundred-plus screenplays that made the list in 2012 and 2013 were only two romantic comedies. That makes the once-lucrative genre less popular than scripts about Nazis (five) and time travel (four), and as popular as comedies about terminally ill teenagers desperate to lose their virginity (two).

Maybe young writers are just being realistic. "I doubt most writers are sitting down for six months to a year to write something they know they probably can't sell," says Meyers.

What about those writers whose romantic comedies made the list, current trends be damned? April Prosser, whose screenplay The One That Got Away made the Black List in 2012, initially found some interest.

"When I went out with this script last November, it just opened every door for me," she says. "But every studio exec I was meeting with said, 'We love this script, it's one of our favorite romantic comedies, but we're not making romantic comedies right now. What we are buying is the female buddy comedy.'"

In other words, studios took the wrong lesson from Bridesmaids: Instead of realizing that women want more female-driven films, they figured they want only female-driven buddy films exactly like Bridesmaids. In executives' eyes, the female buddy comedy supplanted the romantic comedy. And then they didn't make any buddy comedies, either.

In her meetings, Prosser found herself having to defend the genre as a whole, even though her own script was an attempt to break away from the mistakes of the recent past. "The pop-syrupy romantic comedies that studios were churning out in the late '90s and early 2000s don't cut it anymore in our culture," she says. "They weren't taking their audience seriously, so it's a comment on how smart you are if you say you like romantic comedy — it's like saying that you have lowbrow tastes."

Prosser finally sold her script, although tellingly, it did not go to a major studio. Instead, Amazon's upstart film production company bought The One That Got Away. With its reams of data tracking, the online behemoth must feel confident a new romantic comedy will find viewers.

Still, getting the film made hasn't been easy.

"If you're actually lucky enough to get your romantic-comedy script sold, then you have to get talent and directors attached," Prosser says. While Amazon hopes to announce a director soon, the process has been slow. Then it faces the challenge of casting.

"People can be so wary, because when something is out of fashion, they're afraid to attach to it," Prosser explains. "There's only a small crop of actors that are considered bankable. This genre is the hardest of all genres to get made without a star."

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