Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Film Blues

Tonight, I had planned to have a review up, and I did finish it earlier today. However, upon rereading it, I don’t feel satisfied with it enough to post. The ideas are there, but not executed to my liking.

Instead, while I take a day or two to rewrite the review, I am going to take a few moments to make comments on a point of interest to film geeks, and will repeat this tomorrow as well.

If nothing else, 2010 could be dubbed “The Year Hollywood Looses Contact with Audiences.” Well, that is assuming it ever understood its audience in the first place. However, this year has almost unarguably been one of the worst years of film in the medium’s history, and even by the populist standards of summer blockbusters, this year has come up short.

While the mainstream press once again seems to be taking this as an opportunity to claim film dead as an artistic medium, I am oddly enough looking at this as being a potentially opportunistic situation, if studios and filmmakers pay close attention. Hollywood has been hit where it hurts most, in the wallet, and while it might take a second disastrous year for those in charge to take notice, there is the off chance that this could force them to change their business plans.

The problem with Hollywood right now is that they are all seeking to score major blockbusters, and to that end have been mostly producing homogenized, safe material, backed with obscene budgets where seemingly half of the money ends up in the hands of the “top talent.” This has usually been justified by the attraction of stars and name directors, but this line of thinking has some up short this year. When a Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe Robin Hood film cannot make back its budget, something is wrong. Hell, the fact that such a film cost over $200 million to produce, before marketing costs, should have been a clear indicator that something was wrong from the start.

While I hate to point to a remake for guidance, and while I still think that at $40 million to produce it is way too expensive for what it is, The Karate Kid, on a financial (though not creative) level should be looked to as Hollywood’s new model for most (though not all) of the film’s they produce. While it is basic common sense, lower costs mean lower risks, and potentially make riskier projects an easier sell. What is worth more to you Hollywood: one Spider-Man every year, or several District 9 type films which earn $100 plus at the box office?

In fact, I would honestly be looking towards lowering the costs of the average film to below levels of $30 million dollars. Insane you say? Perhaps. But then again, the fact that the average romantic comedy seems to cost around $40 million, when most of the film is centered around people talking, sounds insane to me.

This isn’t to say that $100 million dollar blockbuster needs to disappear, but rather that it needs to be removed from being the center point of the studio business model. Moreover, the old star system of the multi-million dollar pay days need to end, because let us be honest, it doesn’t seem to be doing jack for the selling films in the first place. And when a large part of the world is going through a recession, the fact that ANYONE is getting paid the kind of money the “A-list” crew makes is insane.

Think of the trickle down effect here Hollywood: tick prices increase because films become more expensive to produce in order to pay the costs of these wannabe blockbusters. Cut the costs, pass it on to the consumer. If the tickets get low enough, then attending a theatre might just be more affordable for many to go on a regular basis. If that’s the case, than you might just your audience attendance up, rather than relying on jacking up ticket prices to make up for lost revenue. Isn’t that better in the long term?

Maybe it is crazy for me to hope that Hollywood will learn anything like what I describe, but I would rather hope for this than accept the calls for film’s demise. Because if film were to die, than for people like me, that really is a depressing thought.

EDIT: and then there is this, which just goes to prove my point all the more -

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