Friday, June 1, 2012

Big Studios, Big Losses

Tinseltown is a well-known cesspool of crap, and this isn't likely to change so long as the economics of moviemaking favor the peddling of trash.  After all, why bother shopping around for a good script if you'll make a lot more money putting in explosions, a famous (if expensive) star, and a really catchy trailer?  If I were a Hollywood moneyman I'd act no different.  And if you think otherwise, then I'll assume you admonish your investment advisor when they try and get you to buy stocks in profitable companies rather than companies that are riskier but do good things.

So the string of expensive bombs set off this year so far ("John Carter", "Battleship", etc.) is music to my ears.  Not so much because the studios are taking a bath on this crap--while I couldn't care less if some creep producer or Tom Cruise have to buy a slightly less expensive rocket yacht this year, I know that a failing studio means more laid off minions (best boys, gaffers, set crew).  But this is a good thing because it breaks the old blockbuster formula.  The current formula is:

1) Rely on overseas audiences.  Foreign moviegoers are great for Hollywood--they're sort of like insurance so that movies that bomb in the States can still make up the rest in countries where they just like the explosions and scantily clad ladies.  This can't work forever though because eventually foreigners will get some good taste.

2) Release on as many screens as possible right away.  This ensures that as many people as possible have seen the film before anyone can hear by word of mouth how bad the film was.  But enough people burned by dropping $20 on a ticket and popcorn only to see the cinematic equivalent of "Roller Boogie" but with explosions (which actually would have improved "Roller Boogie", but I digress) will decide to wait until a film has been out a few weeks and they've read the reviews or heard what their friends said before seeing it.

3) Mass promotions and advertising blitzes.  These are annoying of course, but they do work.  Suddenly you're asking yourself why you and no one else would be missing this film event.

4) Bankable stars.  I don't really know why this works--wouldn't a movie with a talented, attractive cast that you don't recognize be just as entertaining as a movie with a talented, attractive cast that you do recognize?  Plus, we all know enough acclaimed actors and directors who have had some serious bombs.  Trust nothing!

5) Explosions, T&A, fast vehicles, catchphrases, and special effects.  Okay, these are all pretty awesome!  But then, every single high budget film these days can put these in, easily.  Why not hold out for a film that has all these things, plus a good story?

Hopefully, the losses will be enough to make the big studios change course.  The only influence we have over them is our willingness to pay for it.

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