Paramount Pictures recently announced an upcoming tennis film titled “Double Fault” starring American actress Rebel Wilson. While there has been limited information on the film and its release date, it will be a comedy focused on the sport. It will be the first Hollywood tennis comedy since 2015’s “7 Days in Hell” starring Andy Samberg, though that HBO film was a more outlandish take on the sport of tennis. While it is unclear the direction the new film will take, exposing tennis to a larger audience will be a positive for the sport.
While American tennis events tend to draw great crowds, it is certainly not a mainstream sport in the country. American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey tend to dominate viewership, and golf tends to get significantly more coverage as an individual sport than tennis does. Even the US Open final comes nowhere close to the football ratings during the same weekend, with American viewership generally between 2-2.5 million for each of the men’s and women’s final, while NBC’s flagship Sunday Night Football game tends to average between 15-20 million viewers. Having an American film with a popular actress will help bring awareness to the game of tennis in the country and hopefully bring more fans into the sport.
Combination with Upcoming Documentary
While the Netflix “Drive to Survive” documentary catapulted US viewership of Formula 1 due to its popularity, that documentary was centered around the actual sport so naturally would have a far greater effect than a comedic film. The producers of the show agreed at the beginning of the year to create a similar series for tennis, following several top men’s and women’s players throughout the year. Depending on release dates, having a tennis movie can get people more familiar with the sport and more likely to watch the documentary.
Success of The Queen’s Gambit
“The Queen’s Gambit” was a massively popular Netflix show that grew the popularity of Chess in America and the world. The show had over 62 million viewers and resulted in massive growth in the popularity of chess. The show was released in October of 2019 and chess.com saw 2.8 million new members in November, after only seeing about one million per month before the show’s release. This shows the power of entertainment bringing to light a sport or game that was relatively unknown to casual fans. While tennis is a big harder to take up than downloading a chess app, seeing this growth is encouraging for the result “Double Fault” could have on the sport of tennis.
Double Fault will be a Positive for the Sport
Tennis has struggled for viewership in the United States, especially for casual fans. It will be critical to use popular culture to bring in fans, especially with the “Big 3” probably nearing retirement, as well as the Williams sisters leaving a void of an elite American man or woman. Reaching casual fans who do not pay attention to tennis is best done by presenting it in a fun way. The Queen’s Gambit is a successful model that did well partially due to its popularity during the pandemic lockdowns, but even a semi-popular movie could bring in significant viewership numbers to tennis.
Overall, the movie will likely be a good thing and there is little downside. Even if the movie does not present tennis well or is unpopular, it will not negatively effect the sport. No passionate tennis fans will turn away from the sport if the movie is bad and does not do well. If the movie is a success, the upside is truly massive. Many Americans simply are unfamiliar with tennis and turned off by a confusing scoring system or lack of knowledge of the top players. Having a fun way for people to see the sport without having to watch a match could make many future fans more willing to check it out and help grow the sport.