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Hollywood Behind the Scenes: For major studios the world market is expanding – while types of movies are shrinking

Filmmaker Stanley Isaacs

Hollywood Behind The Scenes

By Stanley Isaacs

THERE WAS A TIME…

The music business has changed. Not long ago, if you heard a song on the radio that you liked, be it classical, jazz, rock & roll or country, you went to the neighborhood music store and purchased the single or album. I even remember the listening booths where you could sample before you purchased… Then, with the advent of the digital world, music stores have become a fond memory. Now all you do is download or stream whatever song you want. Simple, quick and efficient.

Like the music business, the movie industry has changed but in a much more complex way.  Not too many years ago the major motion picture studios and a few independents made most of the  movies you’d to go to see in the movie theaters. Now anyone with an iPhone, Hi-Def camera or Go-Pro can make a movie and put it up on some website, whether its Vimeo, YouTube, or any one of a dozen other streaming services, and their movie can be seen by anyone, anytime.

Because of this and other factors, the major studios are now in a vastly different business than they once were. They have basically moved into “event” product. Huge, mega-budgeted action spectacles that demand to be seen on the “big screen”, which is the reason you see all of your Marvel superhero pictures, “Black Panther” being the most recent, and franchises like “Jurassic World”, “Fast and The Furious” and “Star Wars” dominating the new weekly releases.

And then there is the new and as yet untested realm of  VR (Virtual Reality) that will surely be another game changer. The risk may be huge but when they work, these pictures generate billions of dollars worldwide. There was a recent story in Deadline Hollywood that broke down the profit margin of “Black Panther”. A big risk for Disney and Marvel, but the risk paid off enormously. Bigger perhaps than they bargained for.

Of course, there are still movies, like most of the ones nominated for the Academy Awards every year, that don’t depend on spectacular effects and explosive action. They are smaller, more personal stories that rely on dialogue and great characters, but the audiences for these films is much smaller than the action spectaculars.

At the end of the day, no matter what product you make, whether you shoot a picture digitally on your iPhone or whether you shoot on  70mm film, like Christopher Nolan did when he made last year’s Oscar nominated “Dunkirk”, you have to have exhibition of your product.

More people will see these more intimate movies by streaming or on pay per view rather than going to the theater. The reason is because many of these smaller movies aren’t financially profitable enough to justify theatrical exhibition for the distributers because it costs too much to put a picture in a theater and make the public aware that its playing at their local Cineplex.

The smaller-to mid-budget movies that once were seen in theaters are now mainly a thing of the past. The major studios are spending their marketing budgets – tens of millions in advertising and marketing – on blockbuster films. This is why we’re seeing fewer personalized movies in theaters.

Consider this, after all the Oscar celebrations, best picture winner, “The Shape of Water” ended up only grossing $61 million dollars, a far cry from Black Panther’s almost $605 million in the US and more than $1.1 billion worldwide -figures that continues to grow.

Another other thing that happened to the film business is the world expanded. The burgeoning market includes China with its billions viewers that have over 80 years of movies to catch up on, and they love the action spectaculars and superheroes. The overseas market now accounts for 60 percent of a film’s revenue.

But how much is too much?

Is there is a psychological effect we must consider.

With studios making bigger, louder, more escapist, adventure films with daredevil action that can only be created by computers – because no human can live through some of the stuff these people do in these movies – the bar keeps getting raised.

I think that’s an interesting topic to ponder. With each picture that outdoes the other, in terms of stunts and action, explosions and chases, is there a saturation point? Will the audience fall out of love with those movies and lose interest?

My guess is the older generation gets bored with them quickly because of the redundancy of the stories and lack of three dimensional characters, but kids that are playing video games, seemingly can’t get enough of the jolt.

If you sit and watch kids play their first person video games, the better question is, when will their brain explode?

It’s no different than the amount of news we are bombarded with. How much can the human brain absorb before it gets numb?

The same is true with movies. How much can movies expand in terms of action, stunts, violence, and the insanity that they put up on the screen before you say, “I just can’t take it anymore”?

I think we are still a distance from coming to that point but it’s got to happen. For myself, I go to some movies, and I think, “What more can they do? How much crazier can they make this?”

With CGI technology (Computer Generated Images) a computer can literally create anything. They can create any environment, any world, any explosion, any action and, since there is no human being involved in the computer-imaging, nobody gets hurt.

Now you got people jumping cars from one tall building in Dubai to another, crashing through glass, landing, getting out of the car, and then blowing up the building, yet everyone walks away unscathed.

 

There was a movie, I think it was one of the Superman movies that came out a couple of years ago. Someone did make a computation and estimated that, in that movie, they probably killed a hundred thousand people in buildings that got blown up and the resulting destruction. And everybody just stood around and applaud it.

In a strange way, it ties into what is going on in real life, because we have become desensitized to things around us. There are kids who don’t realize these are just movies, and the violence that is going on in them is not real life. You can’t blow up buildings and kill people and walk away.

I’m sure it’s very small, limited group of children and adults whose sense of reality is blurred, but nonetheless, it’s out there, and who really knows the true number of people being affected by it.

About the author

Stanley Isaacs

Stanley Isaacs

Stanley Isaacs is an award-winning filmmaker, preservationist and educator. He has written, produced and directed a wide range of film and television projects in a career that spans nearly four decades. He is the founder and CEO of 100% Entertainment, Inc. (www.100percentent.com), an independent production company and The Film History Preservation Project, (www.thefilmhistorypreservationproject.org), a multi-award-winning documentary series, whose Mission Statement is to preserve cinema history by enshrining a legacy of priceless stories and insights from legendary producers that can be studied and appreciated for generations, by film buffs, fans, students, preservationists and historians around the world.

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