Zach Braff, Seth Rogen and Kate Hundson in flicks on fun and frustrations of 30-somethings

This summer, charming indies and comedies explore what could be one of life’s most challenging decades, but always with humour and also some surprising box office potential for studios.

Rose Byrne, left, and Seth Rogen in Neighbors. Universal Pictures/Glen Wilson/AP Photo
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Films about transitioning to adulthood have been a Hollywood staple for years. Some of today’s biggest stars got their start as 20-somethings in mostly carefree, coming-of-age movies.

But what about the often more complicated progression from our 20s to 30s? There have been fewer of those treatments on the big screen – that is, until now.

This summer, charming indies and comedies explore what could be one of life’s most challenging decades, but always with humour. And there are some surprising box-office potential for studios.

While the 30s can be a satisfying time, full of firsts such as marriage, buying a home and having children, the period can also bring tough crossroads both personally and professionally.

Yet, films such as Neighbors and Happy Christmas and the forthcoming Wish I Was Here highlight the humour in common plights of those in their 30s while offering everyday relevancy to audiences in that age group.

In Neighbors, a couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a newborn baby buy their first house, but their life is disrupted when a fraternity (led by Zac Efron) moves in next door.

“Yes, there are ridiculous, outrageous jokes,” says Dave Karger, the chief correspondent of the movie ticket-seller Fandango. “But there’s also real poignancy there and very relatable characters in their 30s.”

In Happy Christmas, an irresponsible 20-something (Anna Kendrick) moves in with her 30-something brother (Joe Swanberg), who has a 2-year-old with his wife (Melanie Lynskey), a stay-at-home mum who starts writing a trashy novel to ease her boredom.

A decade after Zach Braff tackled tragedy as someone in their 20s in Garden State, he portrays love and loss as it affects someone in their 30s in Wish I Was Here (scheduled to be released in the United States later this month). The movie follows a struggling actor (Braff) who must home-school his two kids after his father's cancer worsens and he can no longer afford private school. Kate Hudson plays his wife, a woman who hates her job, but must stick it out to provide for her family.

“What that age group is going through, it’s not just a wacky high-school night out or a college first love,” says Karger. “The particular themes, like an early midlife crisis, are really interesting.”

Character-based films have never been an easy sell for studios or audiences, notes Karger. “The main audience that you think of at the theatre is teen boys and 20-somethings.”

But the 25- to 39-year-old demographic actually makes up the largest amount of frequent moviegoers.

In 2013, that group equalled 23 per cent of those who go to the cinemas more than once a month, according to the 2013 Theatrical Market Statistics Report by the Motion Picture Association of America. This age group was also the highest in 2011 and 2012.

Other recent films targeted for the 25 to 39 demo include Blended,­ starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler; Begin Again, with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley; and They Came Together, featuring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd.

Though they won’t tally as much as the superhero flicks, films targeting 30-somethings can be among the most profitable because they don’t cost as much to make.

"The good ones have a long shelf life," says Alex Ben Block, the senior film editor of The Hollywood Reporter. "With classic movies of the genre, like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle or Bridget Jones's Diary, you got a pretty good run in the theatre and then in home video, DVD or digital."

The stars’ likeability and familiarity also matter, adds Block. “This audience is sophisticated. They aren’t going to the movies just to go.”