Why are movies failing?
My friend Kaz linked me to an article about decreased movie attendance (and featured an image of Sucker Punch to indicate its one of the flops), which linked me to an article about decreased movie attendance (featuring an image of Red Riding Hood to indicate a flop), which finally linked me to an article about CinemaCon and the shared discussion of executives in the movie business who think that the problem with movie attendance is the product. They cite other factors such as economic woes, the price of gas, and the increased prices of movie tickets and concessions, but they narrowed in on the product itself. To some extent, this is exciting news. It means people in the movie industry are taking responsibility for the product they’re releasing.
I don’t take this as a wholly good sign of things to come. A movie’s failure is generally determined by attendance figures, not critical appeal or future appeal (because that is impossible to measure). So Sucker Punch, Red Riding Hood, and Mars Needs Moms are cited as recent failures while successes are big event movies like Avatar and Never Say Never along with superhero films and comedies like The Hangover. I honestly can’t say much about Red Riding Hood, Mars Needs Moms, and Never Say Never because I never saw them. I will always defend Sucker Punch and say that a film that takes chances is the model for the kinds of films the industry should make. Taking chances is important.
What we’ll likely see are more derivative films based on the successes of Avatar and The Hangover, not to mention more concert movies and superhero movies. (Well, unless this summer of supers crashes and burns.) There is no such thing as a quality film, so there is no way to plan to make something that is absolutely successful. All that can be planned out is painting by numbers and following a formula. My fear is that the focus of film making will move from Twilight and girl-power cash-ins to scifi and dick flick cash-ins. Oh, and more superheroes – established and new.
For those of us with less mainstream interests, we see where Hollywood should be putting the focus. Movies like Fight Club, Serenity, Scott Pilgrim, and a number of independent films were considered box office failures due to poor marketing to an overall fickle mainstream audience, but in short time those films garnered great popularity on home media and have resulted in quite a bit of revenue. What is it about these films that continues to work? They took chances. Unfortunately, the Hollywood execs don’t seem to know how to take chances. They know how to give the impression of risk-taking, and they know how to refurbish what has worked. (Or shape ads for new things so they look like old things, screwing with audience expectations.) But they don’t know how to let the number of artists involved in these various works be creative and make something different. They don’t give money to those products.
For discussion of how Fanboys was ripped apart by the studio and the new Revenge of the Nerds was canned, check out this podcast: http://www.slashfilm.com/the-filmcast-after-dark-ep-63-what-happened-to-fanboys-and-the-revenge-of-the-nerds-remake-guest-director-kyle-newman/
For discussion of how difficult it was to find funding for and finally release Super (with some spoilers I wish I could unhear), check out this podcast: http://www.nerdist.com/2011/04/nerdist-podcast-75-james-gunn/