'Sisters': How 'Saturday Night Live' talent continues to fuel the multiplex

Former 'Saturday Night Live' cast members Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star in the comedy 'Sisters.' The two play siblings who decide to throw a party at their parents' house.

John Shearer/Invision/AP
'Sisters' stars Tina Fey (l.) and Amy Poehler (r.).

“Sisters” is the ultimate in counter-programming.

While a movie that probably sounds vaguely familiar to you, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” arrived at the box office on Dec. 18, another movie opened, too – the film “Sisters,” which stars Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

In the movie, the two siblings resolve to throw a party at their parents’ house before it’s sold. Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin, Maya Rudolph, and Dianne Wiest, among many others, co-star.

The film dared to open on a weekend when most other films just got out of the way of the “Star Wars” juggernaut. 

But beyond its release date, the movie also exemplifies how graduates of “Saturday Night Live” continue to be forces (sorry, “Star Wars”) at the multiplex. 

Once they've appeared on "SNL," these stars arrive in movies with name recognition, and movie executives no doubt want to attempt to capitalize on the popularity of a certain personality. Starring on "SNL" has given these actors an opportunity to showcase their versatility as well.

It’s a tradition that began just about when the show did (40 years ago), as original “SNL” players like Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi headed out to movie stardom with films like the “National Lampoon” series, “Caddyshack,” “The Blues Brothers,” and the “Ghostbusters” movies. 

Cast members such as Eddie Murphy ("Beverly Hills Cop," to name only one), David Spade, and Chris Farley continued the tradition.

Not all of the efforts have succeeded. More recent efforts to bring “SNL” characters to the big screen, in particular, have a tough track record, with efforts like “Superstar” and “MacGruber” having failed to catch the public imagination.

But some of the highest-grossing comedies of the last decades have come with “SNL” stars on the poster. Will Ferrell was a member of the “frat pack,” a group of male comedians that dominated early – to mid-2000s film comedy, and he and other members of this group starred in such successful movies as “Anchorman,” “Old School,” and “Elf.”

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey starred in the hit movie "Wayne's World" and Myers' "Austin Powers" series became extremely popular.

And “SNL” stars sparked a conversation with their movie when Kristen Wiig and Rudolph starred in the 2011 comedy film “Bridesmaids,” which became a big box office hit and led to discussion over female-led funny films. 

The tradition shows no sign of stopping. The highly anticipated new “Ghostbusters” movie, which originally starred “SNL” alumni like Murray and Aykroyd, will focus on former “SNL” cast member Wiig and current stars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as well as Melissa McCarthy. That will be released the summer of 2016. 

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