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Industry Navel Gazing '05

Summer is over, and the box office returns are in. According to Hollywood Reporter, the results are not pleasing to the powers that be. It was the worst summer in terms of gross since 2001 and the worst summer in terms of attendance since 1997. After several years of growth, the industry was expecting more of the same, but in turn was handed a setback.

Explanations for the downturn abound. They include competition from other media outlets, antiquated business practices, and most bluntly, a bad crop of films. Additionally some views on the market sound like a desperate gambler's mantra: "If only we had one more hit, we would have turned it around."

All of these explanations ignore the positive feedback loop in the industry right now. The industry tries to play it safe and yield big returns on their investments. Blockbusters are the current path to create those returns. The formula to create a blockbuster is spend lots of money on stars, spend lots of money of effects, spend lots of money on advertizing. All that money means that films have to look like a sure thing on paper. A pre-created story vein (sequels, comic books, TV shows) are what look safe on paper. After a while, though, the public tires of a story vein and moves on, usually right before the last batch of expensive potential blockbusters comes out. They lose money, which forces the industry to try and play it safe...

The cycle needs to be broken. Production costs need to be trimmed, (especially actors salaries.) Use either second tier, or up and coming actors. Come up with some new, innovative, worthwhile concepts (i.e. not sequels) that will lure normally expensive top name stars away from their mercenary projects. Cut the marketing budgets, focus on heavily targeted niche markets instead of shotgun blasting all demographics.

If Hollywood could do this, reduce risk by extending less capital in the production and marketing of the movies, the movie going public would come back. Until they do this, people will continue to skip past the likes of "Dukes of Hazzard," "Bewitched," and "Starsky and Hutch", no matter how many A-listers and cameos they cram into them. -- Terrence Ryan

Posted by on September 7, 2005 03:58 PM
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