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Movies Rock, Movies Flop, Studios Don't Know Why

Not_A_Celebrity A recent New York Times article has pointed out the painfully obvious: big stars are not pulling in the big bucks this summer at the box office.  Travolta, Washington, Roberts, Crowe, Ferrell, Sandler, Murphy - these icons who eat gold bars for breakfast and clothe themselves in the eyeballs of the public failed to guarantee riches for studios.

Instead, movies like District 9 and Transformers 2 are cleaning up.  District 9 starred Sharlto Copley, a complete unknown with a heavy Afrikaaner accent.  Transformers 2 starred Shia LaBoeuf, Megan Fox's nipples and some big robot balls.  Clearly someone has been screwing with the water supply, because we're not behaving the way studios expect.

Studies have been around for some years now suggest that A-list stars are not a reliable draw, and that studios are morons for giving into stars' demands.  These studies are ignored.

What kind of world are we coming to when Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts aren't sucking up money?  I have an idea.

Actually, I have two ideas. The first one is a Hollywood truism: No one knows anything.  The second one is also a truism, but it works to manage the first truism nicely and offer some potential solutions to the dismal box office returns of Eddie Murphy's latest flop:

Movies are too expensive.

The corollary to this is: studio executives are total wimps.

We live in an era when a $40-60 million is a small budget.  Think about what you could do with 40 million.  Think of how that sum of money could improve your life.  Then imagine giving it all to make a modestly budgeted romantic comedy with a passable script and actors who may be recognizable but certainly aren't stars.

Huge costs mean huge risk.  There's so much risk, in fact, that you need to spend even more money to manage and mitigate the risk.  Focus groups, market testing, advertising (what is advertising but risk management, after all?) - huge chunks of a film's budget are expressly designed to make sure that the film doesn't turn over and cough out its last breath on the opening weekend.

In this atmosphere, A-list celebrities are dragged under the ugly tent of risk management.  We don't want Adam Sandler because he's a great comedic actor; we want him because he'll reduce the risk.  Let the rest of the film disintegrate to dogshit - we've got Adam Sandler on board!  Sandler's not an actor to the studio; he's just money.

It's time we had movies where actors were valued for their talent and not just their supposed ability to pull people into theatres.  And to do that, we need to make great movies for less, whether it's a romantic comedy, a space opera or a film with lots of things blowing up.  Serenity or The Hurt Locker, anyone?

Note: I am not suggesting that movies should not be run as a business, or that risk should never be considered. I spent a number of years in film and television, some of them as a producer, and I am aware of the difference between a student with a Flip Ultra and a movie studio that needs to stay in business if it is to keep entertaining us.  Carry on.







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Comments

BaltimoreGal

What on God's green earth is that picture from?

Palinode

I'm honestly not certain. But once I found it, I had to use it.

BaltimoreGal

Fair enough. Just though I had missed out on something. Corky Romano II?

ozma

But if they listened to you, Pal (that's my new name for you until you yell at me) then most movies with stars and made for studios might not be horrible, unwatchable garbage. That could be very confusing for the public.

Slappy

Part of the problem is that "big stars" don't attract people if the movie is clearly crap.

norm

Exactly! People have come to expect horrible, unwatchable garbage as a complement to their giant-franchise-chain fast food washed down with industrial high-fructose-corn-syrup carbonated beverages. Getting people to watch good movies would be like trying to sell foie gras at McDonalds.




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