Screen image from The Heartbreak KidThe past weekend’s movie box office statistics provide another reminder that many people are tired of the forced bleakness and unpleasant nature of much of what the culture offers today. As E! News reports:

[Ben] Stiller’s new comedy, The Heartbreak Kid, opened with a disappointing $14 million, per estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations Sunday, and the box office suffered its third straight down weekend when compared with last fall.

That makes it "Stiller’s weakest-ever opening for a movie that debuted at more 3,000 theaters, according to Box Office Mojo stats. It is a far cry—and many millions—from Meet the Fockers, which opened with $46.1 million in 2004, and last year’s Night at the Museum, which jumped out to a start of $30.4 million," E! reports.

The E! news story says the negative, discomforting approach suggested in the film’s ad campaign likely turned off the movie’s potential audience:

A remake of Elaine May’s 1972 character comedy of the same name, Stiller and the Farrellys’ Heartbreak Kid was billed as an R-rated comedy for adults, with all the physical discomfort that now means.

"The nasty, negative slant of the movie’s [advertising] was a turn-off," theorized Gray, referring to the taglines that warned "Love blows," "Love hurts" and so on, "particularly for the audience that liked Meet the Parents or There’s Something About Mary."

Meanwhile the video game Halo 3 has been a big hit, E! reports:

The videogame Halo 3, meanwhile, grossed more than $300 million in its first week of release, Microsoft said Thursday. The blockbuster sales figure dwarfed the $26.5 million that Hollywood’s current top movie, The Game Plan, made in its first seven days in theaters, according to Box Office Mojo stats.

But the videogame probably did not have any effect on the movie box office last weekend—the poor slate of movies was the real problem according to the the the E! report:

But Box Office Mojo’s Brandon Gray said he doesn’t think the success of Halo 3 is to blame for the box office’s—or Stiller’s—woes.

"I think these movies aren’t that compelling," Gray said Sunday. "It’s a very weak slate, and the box office is reflecting that."

It seems clear that audiences are getting tired of darkness for darkness’ sake. When a film has those characteristics but mixes in positve messages and images as well—as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series—by contrast, audiences eagerly fill the theaters.