Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hollywood Slump

Box office is in its sixteen week of declining revenues, en route to its worst financial showing in twenty years.

And to this I say….no shit.

For years now, the studios have shifted their model to marketing to teens (with their disposable income and lazy-ass schedules, they represent a large movie-going sector and will see movies they like numerous times) and have geared everything toward a big first-weekend gross. Van Helsing is a classic example. Universal marketed the hell out of it—McDonald tie-ins, endless P&A, talk of TV, amusement-park, and film franchise tie-ins—so it exploded in weekend #1—$52 million, but wound up at only $120 mil (“only” because the budget was $170, P&A $50). The huge second and third weekend declines were due to the fact that, though the special effects were stunning, the story just wasn’t that great. Sure, the studio will recover through foreign and DVDs and not take a bath, but still, the focus, it seems, was more on marketing than creative development.

With how hard it is to develop and produce a quality picture, I believe the studios no longer really TRY—they know with an aggressive ad campaign they can cash in on opening weekend before word of mouth spreads that the movie is mediocre, and they know they can recoup with foreign/DVD/tie-ins. So using this mediocre model again and again is easier than putting in extra time and effort to ensure that a film is sophisticated and good.

A byproduct of this strategy is that movie-going sectors OTHER than teens have been alienated from going to theatres. I have to go to films—it’s essential to my job as a screenwriter to know who’s doing what and how well, and I’m a judge on the Mystery Writers of America’s Best Screenplay Committee and the Chair of the International Thriller Writers’ Best Script Panel—but my wife, for instance, has largely lost interest. Why? Of the last, maybe 20 films we’ve gone to, 18 have been a waste of time. She’s been disappointed so continuously that she’d rather stay home, read a book, rent an old DVD (or better, a new DVD of an old movie). When actual quality adult films (pardon the phrase) come out, they have a harder time drawing grown-ups back to the theaters because they’ve fallen out of the habit of attending.

15 comments:

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I rarely go to the theatre these days. I much refer to rent and watch at home. Part of the reason is lack of good movies. Adn I think you are exactly right, most movies are aimed at the younger set.
I used to buy a lot of movies and even that is slowing dowm simply because most new movies I don't want to see more than once.

Another reason is I just prefer to watch at home. My recliner is more comfortable, the food is better, and there are no other people around to annoy me.

I think society in general trys to market to much to the under 25 set, who strangely don't really seem to care about anything. Shorrt attention spans and short memories. Too bad most of the people doing the marketing are the same age.

McDonalds commercials are a perfect example. Trying to make a hip trend out of eatinf bland food because ou raise your pinky is just stupid.

Hollywood needs to find a happy middle ground between epic movies and brainless teen fare. Someopne should remind these kids that a lot of Americans still like to think, and that MTV style quick eidts don't interest most people.

Lawrence said...

I'm also turned off by what's at the movies today. One, I don't feel like reliving my youth (Bewitched, Duke of Hazzard, The Honeymooners, etc.), and after that, I'd like a movie that actually has some character development. I don't want to be manipulated into seeing a film (Mr. & Mrs..., Batman, War O' World, etc.) because of an exhaustive focus on the celebrities. I want stories and I want to be taken into a world with a unique perspective. I guess that's why I'll be in film school this fall. lol

GreggHurwitz.net said...

Uh oh. When Jon's dodging the theaters, you know we're in trouble.

Lawrence - here's hoping you DO go to film school. We'd look forward to what you'd come up with.

Fred said...

Yeah, but word of mouth spreads pretty quick on new releases. Like, this new Batman -- A couple of bloggers I read recommended it, so I saw it last night, and I've got to say that I agree. If you liked last summer's spiderman, which was pretty well done, you'll like this one too. Or you won't.

One factor you may be overlooking, though, is technology. Netflix really is a superior alternative to the video store. You don't have to wait in lines, it's cheap, and you have an unlimited inventory to look through. What hollywood needs to do is understand that the power of smaller niche films, when aggregated, is becoming larger with proportion to the blockbusters. For more, read Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail" or go to this post:

http://www.fredschoeneman.com/archives/000913.html

f

Aquaryan said...

Yeah, Hollywood seems to be re-hashing everything. I do want to see Bewitched and Dukes of Hazzard, though.
Yeah, it seems that almost every movie is being catered to the younger set. You cannot go into one fast food joint without finding a "movie tie-in" toy.
The studios are lowering the age for horror flicks, so younger kids could see it. Almost the same amount of gore and sex scenes, yet the studios are cashing in on kids watching these films.
I, usually, wait until the movie is out on DVD. My life has being hectic that I cannot seem to go out to the movies.
Of course, I think everyone who has read Gregg's books will most definitely catch the movie screen version of them. Even with noisy kids in the theater!

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I punch noisy kids.
And I do where it will leave no marks.

People under the age of 18 have no business in the theatre viewing the movies I go to see.

And I agree, Kill Clause will be a "see on the big screen" for me.

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