Food for Thought and Some Optimistic Conjecture
Recently I was struck by the sheer number of ‘good’/'artsy’/'pretentious’/'indie’ films playing at the cinemas around London. The listings were made up of smaller budget non-blockbuster releases; We Need to Talk About Kevin, Drive, Melancholia, Tyrannosaur and trailers for the now released The Artist. As a PPE graduate with too much time on his hands this got me to thinking about a number of things that I have been aware of and considering for some time. Tentatively, and with more than a pinch of optimism, it strikes me that there are a number of good reasons why we should think that this is a sign of things to come.
Hollywood currently generates most of its revenue from its foreign, and not its domestic market. This has led to a decline in the number of relatively cheap romantic comedies, ‘bromances’ and other films of the like being produced. Mostly this is due to them being relatively unpopular, or at least much riskier bets, in places like China, Russia and other big emerging markets. In their place major Hollywood studios have instead focused of producing only one or two $100/200m plus budget releases a year. These action and special effects heavy spectaculars, backed by massive advertising budgets and rapid release of DVD’s, BluRay and other merchandise, translate well across boarders and consistently do well at the box office, turning big profits. The most obvious recent example of this being Avatar and the Harry Potter franchise (‘The Deathly Hallows’ had a budget of $250m for the two parts combined) although the trend is also present in Hollywood’s appetite for more traditional fantasy releases like the Narnia franchise, The Golden Compass (I know it did badly) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is a trend that I don’t see changing any time soon and is also hopefully one that will continue to leave space on mainstream cinema listings for more independent /character driven films.
There is also a second force at play here. Not only is it the case that the listings have more space for films other than blockbusters, but also that consumers are able to satisfy their demand for glitzy action epics by substituting computer games for cinema tickets. It is no secret that Hollywood has been losing ground to the computer game industry.
Over the last decade it is a market that has grown exponentially with games like Modern Warfare 3 taking $750m in its first five days as compared to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows which took $169m in its first weekend. Games like Modern Warfare 3 or the recently released and heavily hyped Skyrim, provide viable substitutes for people looking to satisfy there desire for fantasy adventures, pornographic violence and battlefield action in a manner that is more cost effective than paying for a cinema ticket to Immortals, Transformers or Thor.
Looking forward into this year and beyond, maybe we can quietly hope that, if current trends continue, those of us of a more sensitive nature and an aversion to the usual ‘play it safe’ clichéd Hollywood fare will have a lot more opportunities to sit down and enjoy the silver screen.
This was written by Alex Megone.