Friday, 7 February 2014

Movie Genres and Economics

From the Telegraph

But the upsurge of cable TV (with HBO its aggressive creative spearhead) has diluted the networks’ power base, offering a greater diversity of programming for grown-ups. And in the past decade, DVD sales (which once helped many a box-office flop out of the red and into the black) have waned dramatically. Relatively cheap viewing options such as Netflix have rushed in to fill the gap.

...

The phrase "public service" isn’t one you’ll hear on Hollywood studio lots, except as a term of derision. Yet indirectly that was what major studios used to provide, making wildly varied films for a broad range of audiences and demographic groups.
Well, we can kiss that era goodbye. Now it’s all about brand-name franchises, toys, superheroes, comic-book adaptations – anything, in other words, that’s kid-friendly and has built-in pre-recognition: even the success of the previous film in a series.

It's funny how the author can't grasp that the two things are connected. TV is now producing more programming for "grown-ups" at the same time that cinema isn't.

If you go back to the early 80s, you see lots of what might be called "films for grown-ups" near the top of the charts (e.g. On Golden Pond, Terms of Endearment, The Color Purple). They don't have big action sequences, they aren't outrageous comedies that groups of men will go and see together and they aren't date movies. They're films that maybe a middle aged couple will go and see.

By the mid-90s, those films had disappeared from the top of the charts and the reason was that audiences stopped going to see films like Sense and Sensibility at the cinema and started seeing them on VHS instead. You didn't lose much of an experience seeing those on VHS. But the switch to viewers of those films on VHS is that the film gets less revenue. So it's harder to make money from those films. Meanwhile, other genres of movies, like those that have lots of actions or those that people go to take a date to see retained their audience.

There's still some demand for well-written "grown-up" drama and a lot of that's been filled by cable TV. The writers who would have once written a movie are now writing series like Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire for TV. They're not cheap, but as per-hour TV, they're much cheaper than per-hour movies and get a lot of revenue from cable subscriptions.

But people continue to carp about how cinemas are only producing epic robot/monster movies or kid's movies or date movies, when, well, that's what people go and see. The people who complain that they'd go if cinemas put something on that they wanted to see are the cinema equivalent of the non-smokers who claimed they'd start going more regularly to the pubs after a ban. Films like 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine aren't even in the top 40 films of last year.

2 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

I like epic robot/monster movies, kids' movies and rom coms!

If they had a rom com set against a background of a robot battle but made for kids, that's the best kind of film of all, i.e. the Transformers series.

I don't see why anybody in his right mind would go and watch BLue Marigold self indulgent crap.

The Stigler said...

I didn't get on with the Transformers series, but loved Pacific Rim.