Are silent films are actually the general audience? Yes, it must be so fun to see what wikipedia calls a romantic comedy-drama, without dialog. What is a "romantic comedy-drama" even supposed to be? I'm assuming thats just a fancy way of saying "chick flick". A french made, silent, black and white romance movie is definately an artsy movie, regardless of how much money it made. I may not have the most common tastes, but I refuse to believe that the average guy went and saw the Artist, atleast of their own free will. There is no way its a movie for the average person.
I picked up the DVD of THE ARTIST at our local small-town library in rural Pennsylvania. Trust me, there's not a lot of jaded art critics around here. And I'm pretty sure it was available via Redbox at the local grocery stores as well, alongside action movies and slasher flicks.
And, yes, nobody held a gun to my head. My girlfriend and I both saw THE ARTIST of our free will . . . and we genuinely enjoyed it. Why is that so hard to believe?
"Average" people may have broader tastes than you realize. It all depends on what you're in the mood for. Sometimes you feel like a comedy, sometimes you feel like a serious historical drama, sometimes you feel like an action flick, sometimes you feel like a fun, breezy return to the Silent Era.
To continue the culinary metaphor: Sure, you can always order the same thing every time you go out, because, hey, you know what you like. But why not try that new Ethiopian restaurant once in a while, just for variety's sake?
Heck, even "average" people go out for Indian or sushi sometimes, not just snobby restaurant critics!