Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Is Hollywood Dead?

From 4 years ago, the gloom & doom!

On message boards, there are always people who think that Hollywood is dead but just doesn’t know it, and there’s gonna be this whole new non-corporate paradigm. Look, we have the internet, and these cheap digital cameras - the movie industry as we know it will be dead in no time. We will not longer be *forced* to watch the movies that Hollywood makes, we can watch *good* movies for a change. No more TRANSFORMERS movies and no more sequels and no more HANGOVER lowest common denominator comedies. Once the evil corporations are gone, once Hollywood is dead and buried and being eaten by worms; we’ll be living in a freakin’ Entertainment Utopia! Only great films!

There is this theory on message boards that people are hungry for quality intelligent cinema, but Hollywood just keeps making this crap and people are forced to watch it because there are no alternatives... but now that we have inexpensive digital cameras plus streaming download as a method of distribution, Hollywood’s days are numbered and soon people will get the great movies they are craving!

If you build it they will come, right? The big problem with movies today is that Hollywood is building the kinds of movies Hollywood wants to see, not what *people* want to see. They make there crappy films that appeal to lowest common denominator, and if people were given a choice they will select the great films over the junk and the whole entertainment world will change - giving us more great films. The good forces the bad out of the market, right? The problem is the Hollywood monopoly, now that the truly talented have access to the equipment to make films, they will overthrow Hollywood and we all benefit! Throw away those 3D glass, you will never need them again. Forget about movies about boobs and blood and fast cars and explosions and superheroes! Michael Bay - find your place in the unemployment line now!


Sixty years ago, everyone thought Hollywood was dead - due to TV. Hollywood started doing all kinds of things to make films an experience you couldn't get anywhere else - like 3D. Sixty years later, Hollywood is still here, and all of this new media is scaring them into making films an experience you can't get on your iPhone - like 3D. Hey, I think 3D is a bunch of crap, but one of the reason for the success of GREEN HORNET earlier this year was 3D, and one of the reasons why PIRATES 4 is doing so well overseas is 3D. Some people like the 3D experience - it’s something that they can’t get at home. But, wait! PIRATES 4 is not doing well in 3D in the United States! That 3D bubble has burst and Hollywood is dead!

The only thing wrong with that - what are people paying to see *instead* of 3D movies? Were they seeing the uplifting drama SOUL SURFER? Tom McCarthy’s great new drama WIN WIN? The romantic drama WATER FOR ELEPHANTS based on the big best selling novel? Or Werner Herzog’s beautiful new film about prehistoric French cave paintings CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (oh, crap - that’s in 3D!)? No - the people who were not seeing PIRATES 4 in 3D were seeing PIRATES 4 in 2D! The others were seeing BRIDESMAIDS, THOR, FAST FIVE, or the junky comic book action flick PRIEST. People may be cooling on 3D, but not on Hollywood films.

2009 broke box office records at the cinemas, and *ticket sales* increased as well. It was a record year for cinema ticket sales - more butts in seats than in any recent previous year. Meanwhile, home entertainment (from Hollywood) took a nosedive. 2010 sold fewer tickets and made less money - but was ahead of 2009 as far as money was concerned until mid-December. The problem seemed to be there was no huge Holiday movie - TRON: LEGACY was no AVATAR... and all of the second tier films also did much less business. Hey, that was good for the Coen Brothers - TRUE GRIT is their first real hit! But that happened because there was no “mainstream” hit movie to go to. This year began slow, but box office rebounded to record levels in April. With $791 million, April of 2011 was the top-grossing April ever and was up five percent from April last year. And with 101 million tickets sold, April 2011 was the third highest-attended April in history. And it didn’t stop there - we just had the highest-grossing Memorial Day weekend of all time at $277 million... and summer has just begun!

Hollywood is giving people the movies they want, even if they may not be the movies that *you* want to see. The major mistake in the theory that good films will force out the bad is the definitions of “good” and “bad”. I have a Script Tip on the two kinds of good - there is “critical good” and “entertainment good” - and when people have been working all week and want to just escape their crappy lives for two hours, most of them are not interested in movies that are challenging and intellectual - they just want to be entertained. When some critic says that FAST FIVE is a good movie if you just check your brain at the door, they mean it is well made entertainment... and that’s what most people want to see when they buy their tickets. They just want to be transported into some fantasy world where their problems do not exist. Sure, there are some people who *do* want to be challenged and *do* want to think... but that is a small percentage of the audience - a niche. If you fill the cinemas with “more intelligent films”, more people will not be watching them.

Already we *do* have films like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (wide release) and SOUL SURFER (wide release) and LINCOLN LAWYER (wide release) that are the “adult” and “intelligent” alternatives to guys in tights fighting crime... and those films aren’t selling many tickets. They appeal to that limited audience that wants to see more intelligent films. LINCOLN LAWYER, based on a best selling novel, with real movie stars in it, well reviewed (83% on RT), and playing in every cinema in the USA... made a grand total of $57 million in it’s theatrical run... which is about what X-MEN: FIRST CLASS made over the weekend, and they’re calling it a flop! The problem is - if you make a bunch of “better movies”, most of the audience will still want to see explosions and poop humor. They *want* to check their brains at the door, and more films of quality won’t change anything.


Of course, the reason why X-MEN: FIRST CLASS made so much money over the weekend is all of the Hollywood Hype! That’s why no one goes to see Indie films - no big hype machine *telling* people to see WIN WIN! If everything was equal, and every movie had the same amount of hype, the audience would pick WIN WIN over X-MEN!

The problem is that theory doesn't work. You can't force people to see a movie they do not want to see - no matter how much you spend on adverts. The dollar store down the street is still trying to get rid of all of the tie-in merchandise for SPEED RACER - no one wants it. They did not want to see the movie, either - even though we had non-stop adverts for two months before it came out and Warner Bros thought it was going to be the #1 film of the summer. It flopped. Big time.

And every year there are massive flops that the studios think will be hits and advertize the hell out of. People did not want to see them or did not like them. Word of mouth is still more important than any amount of advertizing Hollywood can throw at a film.

One of the big problems is text messages - people in the cinema are texting friends in line telling them that the film sucks. They have charted bomb movies on opening day - they might have a good first couple of performances in New York City, but by the time they hit the West Coast word is out that the film stinks... and all of those adverts the studio bought are meaningless. There was a big drop on IRON MAN 2 between Friday and Saturday of opening weekend... and then a big drop the second weekend. It's just okay... and word is out. HANGOVER 2 had a great opening weekend, but just took a nose-dive. I suspect the reason is that everyone thought the film was funny, just not quite as good as the first film... and that qualification made the second weekend’s audience think twice about seeing it in the cinema... hey, we’ll just wait for Netflix. People’s opinions of the film control ticket sales.

If Hollywood could manipulate people into seeing movies, they would *all* be hits - but they are not. They have big budget summer films that just flop. You can not sell the public on a movie they do not want to see, nor sell them on a movie their friends told them was dreadful. Hype might get butts in the seats for the first few showings, or for the first weekend... but after that, the audience decides. They make a film a hit or a flop by paying to see it, telling their friends to see it, and liking it so much they pay to see it again and maybe again. A film that makes it into the Top Ten for the year is probably something that many people liked enough to see more than once.

People see what people want to see. They control Hollywood... not the other way around.

I honestly don't know how more indie films can bring about the demise of "Hollywood" (The Man, The Studios, Those Michael Bay Movies) because Hollywood is just a follower. Studios follow the money... and the money comes from the ticket buyers. If people want to see Indie films, studios make and release films that seem indie (see the 1970s). If people want to see big dumb action films, studios make and release big dumb action films. Studios always release these trial balloon movies too - just to see if people want to see medical dramas starring Harrison Ford or mature rom-coms starring Meryl Streep or musicals based on Fellini movies. If those films strike gold, they follow the money and more like them - maybe a musical based on Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL (they've already done one musical based on a Bergman film - it did not do well). If people are not interested in paying to see some type of movie, they don't make those. Hollywood just follows the audience.

So the only way to kill Hollywood is to kill the people who enjoy going to the movies. This does not sound like a good idea.

The good things that will come out of this new indie revolution are that niche audiences that Hollywood ignores - be it intelligent adult oriented films or movies for minorities or genres that have fallen out of favor - will get some films to watch. Those films may be streaming to their home entertainment systems, but they will be available. If you don’t like what Hollywood is making, there *will* be something out there for you to watch. They won’t be “mainstream” films with stars and Hollywood production value, but they are not being made for a mainstream audience. Niche films for a niche audience. I have no idea whether the film makers will be able to make a living doing this or not, but at least they can do it - make the films they want to make. The problem is, if you make a film aimed at the majority audience there are a lot more ticket buyers than if you make a film for a minority audience. You also kind of enter The Octagon - if there are 100 films aimed at a particular niche audience and only so many hours in the day that niche audience is going to watch films, some of those films will not be seen. The weirdest thing about do it yourself movies is that if everyone has a camera, who will be watching the movies?

But that’s the other good thing about low cost film making - if you are mostly making movies for self expression and you don’t care about the audience, you can make your movie! Maybe no one will ever see it, but you can still make it and get it out there! If it is all about self expression for you, you can now afford to express yourself! Your voice can now be heard (even if no one is listening)!

But Hollywood is not going to die any time in the near future - this may be a record year for cinema like 2009 was. The majority of the people who buy tickets like what Hollywood is dishing out. They like explosions and poop jokes. They may even like exploding poop jokes... DUMB & DUMBER made money, right? If you don’t like the kinds of movies that Hollywood is making, you can grab a camera and make your own.

Meanwhile, there’s a new TRANSFORMERS movie on the horizon. If people don't text their friends that it sucks, Michael Bay may be able to stay off the unemployment line for another year...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Forward Momentum - and superhero movies like X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and IRON MAN 2...
Dinner: bag lunch: ham & cheese on 12 grain, apple.
Pages: Cold almost gone, but this blog entry and some other stuff got today's energy instead of the screenplay.
Bicycle: Short bike ride.


connan said...

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Sam T. said...

My complaint is not about Indie movies verses mainstream action movies. My complaint is that why Hollywood can not make good action movies? Why can't they make more Michael Mann or More Christopher Nolan action movies? Why can't they hire writers who are good at and know how to write certain genre movies? Instead of giving the gig to someone who is capable to write for that specific genre they give the gig to someone who can't even write a funny juvenile joke (like the dudes who wrote the Green Hornet). There was a time that talent and ability counted for something in Hollywood. These days it seems to be all about the right connections and knowing the right people.

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