Monday, June 6, 2011

Message board morons and "Is Hollywood Dead?"

Journey the internet and you'll find no shortage of unqualified idiots spouting off in knowledgeable-sounding phrases about how they totally know exactly how the entertainment industry works. These know-it-alls are easily identifiable not because they offer some analysis of where the industry is, but because they almost always claim absolute certainty about where the business is going. "_______ is the future of the industry!" they say.

Nevermind that few of these people have ever even gotten coffee for someone in the business, let alone held a job in it. But why let a think like lack of first-hand knowledge stop you as long as you read US Weekly and all the comments on Deadline.

Seriously - there are people out there who not only believe that an Edsel like Amazon Studios is the future, but they're ill-informed to believe that "test movies" are the future of the industry. Right. Their line of logic is that the best way to sell a movie is to produce a cheaply-made version of the film - screen this rough draft for audiences, and then use that feedback to determine if it's worth producing the final film.

Right... the studios are going to trust the fate of a multimillion dollar property to a pre-vis feature that is some combination of storyboards, anamatics and dialogue voice-over for two hours. No finished effect, likely no big stars, and none of the polish. Wow.... sounds almost as fun for the audience as jury duty. Where do they sign up for this "honor?" Can I see the storyboard versions of Bridesmaids 2 and One Day?

If my opinion bothers you, don't worry. I'm sure right now there's some uninformed boob typing a post about how I'm only writing this post because I'm running scared from all the changes that "the great unwashed" will bring to Hollywood. That my dissent exists only as part of an elitist conspiracy to keep outsiders out, and that any moronic business practices on Amazon Studios part is less of a concern than the fact that I apparently have something against people who expect instant screenwriting careers as a result of having typed 120-some pages in semi-accurate format.

Anyway, one of my fellow bloggers, the great Bill Martell, has weighed in on the fallacy of the message board proclamations that Hollywood is dead. But instead of hyperbole, he brings facts that show that anyone readying the death certificate for Hollywood is acting prematurely.

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.

Check out the rest of the post here.


  1. Well that explains the success of The Hangover 2. Critics don't like it (at least the ones I saw didn’t) but it keeps raking in money and now I hear they’re thinking of making a Hangover 3.pi


  2. This idea of "test movies" is not a terrible concept. I don't see it revolutionizing the process, but it's one form of script development that does make some sense.

    Hollywood already does it, to a degree, with re-makes of foreign-language films.

    I do agree with you on the EDSEL parallel. People might *say* they want something (strong female protagonist), but what they really buy is Twilight.

  3. I feel like this has been true for a while. You can tell when award season rolls around--the ones up for Best Picture are rarely box office hits and the ones that were, rarely get nominated. There's a bit more of a chance now at the Academy Awards since they allow 10 nominees, but even so, comic book heros and flights-of-fancy films hardly ever make it to the final rounds of these things, even though they may have owned their opening weekend. Critics do not an entire audience make. I completely agree with Mr. Martell--people want to be entertained more than anything else at the cinema.

  4. I think a lot of it has to do with peoples general reverence for all thinks antediluvian. The old great films, or actors and directors, combined with the dross being made now.
    I love a good old film as much a a more recent one. If you look hard an don't only concentrate on the classics we've built up over the past 60-70 years, I think your average film and the acting contained within is far superior now (90-00's) than at any other period of film history.