Quotable comment about the movie industry

Hollywood lost its faith in creativity long ago, and the finance and marketing folks took over. They went from supporting talented young filmmakers (many of whom went on to become industry superstars) to making everything based on the pitch (“It’s Aliens meets The Deer Hunter, but takes place in a collapsed mineshsaft! At Christmas!”)

They would do so much better to find and cultivate 10 up-and-coming directors/writers and promote them than to spend another $300 million on Pirates of the Caribbean 7: At Wits End.

The io9 article is about the film industry and its blockbuster future: maybe there isn’t one. The article mentions box office stats and how little revenue is actually generated in theaters for movie companies.

only about 20 percent of studios’ revenue comes from theaters. Releasing a movie in theaters is just a way of “launching” it so that it can make money later on DVD, video on demand, pay-per-view and broadcast television. Even if a film finally makes a profit in theaters, the real money is later, in the home viewing market.

Which makes it really really bad news that DVD sales have been plummeting. Disney was hoping that Toy Story 3 would be its huge seller last Christmas, but instead DVD sales of Toy Story 3 fell off a cliff. Today, Viacom blamed falling DVD sales for reducing its revenue by 5 percent and its net income by 14 percent. Sony laid off 450 workers due to declining DVD sales.

Netflix and others like it are climbing into the void left by the lack of DVD buying and I can certainly see the appeal of digital copies over the space hogging physicality of having 500 or more plastic cases cluttering up one’s entertainment area. If I wanted to spend more on my internet connection and movie watching set-up, maybe I’d start using Netflix, too. I’m too cheap, though. I like borrowing free DVDs from the library. I don’t even rip copies for home. I just watch them and return them. If I ever want to see them again, I’ll borrow them again. And most films I’ll only watch once anyway, so I can’t justify the expense of owning them.

Nobody expects movie theaters to implode this year. The Hollywood blockbuster, as a format, will probably keep existing for years. But eventually, the unsustainable business model that drives these things will fall apart, and the movie as we know it will transform into something more suited to home viewing, and maybe more integrated with web content. So it’s a good thing they’re making tons of huge Hollywood movies right now, so we’ll have plenty of examples of them to look at once they’re gone.

Star Wars and Jaws were listed as the first blockbusters and Avatar is a great example of a recent one. One thing that can be said about those films over, say, Transformers, is evidence of effort that went into the plot. It wasn’t just special effects with a little dialogue thrown in to give the eyeballs a break. They’re good movies for other reasons. Well, maybe not Avatar — that was watched for the beauty of a 3D rendered world more than its environmental message, probably. Maybe studios will have to think less about eye candy and more about brain food at some point, though. Maybe more money should be going into quality scripts over CGI battles. But it doesn’t seem like that’s what people want yet. At least, not the opening weekend majority.

This is kind of unrelated but there was something I’d read recently (might have been this) about what made the Twilight series such a stunning film success, something about the fact that it was a film catering completely to the lusty young women instead of young testosterone filled men. They filled a niche movie makers tend to ignore or forget about. Another article compares it to the popularity of Titanic and that extraordinary romance.

I guess the trick is to try and supply what people are willing to pay for and so long as people appear willing to shell out for plot-empty but expensive CGI effects over low budget story lines, movie companies will continue to blow their millions on them. If it’s really becoming economically stupid to keep making films that can’t earn their money back, maybe they’ll smarten up.

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