May 02 2006

Gone Tomorrow

Published by at 9:45 pm under The Business We've Chosen

The Revolution has failed.
Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios is winding down operations, just six years after it burst on the scene with the promise of quality movies at modest budgets. Well, I guess if you consider Gigli quality filmmaking…
It’s interesting to me that an autonomous studio predicated on “quality” films turned out such an unimpressive slate. There were a few fine films, like Black Hawk Down, and there were quite a few dogs — Hollywood Homicide, XXX, The Forgotten, the aforementioned Gigli (which has become synonymous with failure). But, perhaps most tellingly, the slate was comprised largely of films I’d never pay to see — Radio? Stealing Harvard? Christmas with the Kranks?
In other words, the Revolution slate was more or less exacty the same as every other studio. And I wonder if that isn’t indicative of what’s really wrong with Hollywood.
During Hollywood’s golden years, the studio logo at the head of a movie usually told you something about what was in store for you. MGM, for example, was known for its bright, lavish musicals and literary adaptations, Warner Bros. for its darker, grittier gangster pictures, and so on. But nowadays, to a large degree, studios really don’t have much of a brand — at least not in the eyes of the moviegoing public.
And it’s not even that I think studios need a brand so much as a passion for something — anything! Instead, what we get are movies that are born not from a desire to create something interesting, but from a desire to turn a profit. I’m not naive enough to believe studios should operate as charities or artistic patrons, but, in modern times, the business has changed in ways that encourage studios to focus solely on the bottom line.
Films are — by orders of magnitude — more expensive to make and market then they were just a few decades ago. And that has contributed to massive wide release patterns that put all of the studio’s eggs in one basket: the opening weekend box office reports.
Movies live or die based their opening weekend returns, which means that a film’s success is no longer determined by how much the audience likes the film (i.e. word of mouth). Instead, it’s determined by how many people show up on that opening weekend. So, we become more reliant on known quantities — sequels, prequels, remakes, etc. — in order to get asses in seats in front of 3000 screens on that first Friday night. If those people universally hate the film, no big deal. We’ve already got their money.
It’s this attitude that leads to movies like XXX: State of the Union.
It’s a scorched-earth policy. We make shit because we know the audience will buy it. But when all we sell them is shit, eventually they stop buying it. They stop trusting us.
And, as a result, it’s not just the movies that are disappearing by the second or third weekend. Now, apparently, the studios are becoming disposable as well.

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