I think the way we view and consume movies needs to change. I love film and I’m worried that the current path the industry is on is simply not sustainable long term. For example, take a look at the rising cost of film. The budgets for Hollywood’s biggest motion pictures are astronomical. It’s been reported that Infinity War / Avengers 4, both movies are being shot back to back, had a combined budget of $1 billion dollars.
It’s absurd that any piece of entertainment would ever cost that much money to make. And that isn’t even factoring in the films marketing budget, it’s not unheard of for a studio to spend almost as much marketing a movie as they do producing it.
I understand that Disney is a bit of an outlier here. They’ve built the Marvel brand up to the point that they are willing to risk spending a billion dollars making two movies and good for them for achieving that. Unfortunately this is causing unrealistic expectations for what films are supposed to achieve at the box office.
Justice League has been deemed a box office failure, despite pulling in $656.6 million at the box office. I’m not quite sure how we reached a point that $656.6 million dollars is a flop. Of course Justice League had a severely over-inflated budget of $300 million compared to say Thor: Ragnarok, which only cost $180 million to produce.
My biggest fear is that movie studios won’t learn the obvious lesson and simply spend less money making films. They will continue with these massively big budget flicks, continuing to chance that illusive Disney money, and even if we all go see them in theaters it won’t be enough to make (most) films a financial success.
So why continue to make them? That is the unfortunate question which I feel like will be answered in the post Infinity War landscape. If you want to compete with Disney you either spend a billion dollars or you go home. What happens when the next big action film script or sci-fi thriller gets rejected because it’s simply to risky to make?
We could be right on the cusp of an entertainment void of sorts. One in which our only movie options are the next Star Wars film, the next Marvel film, and whatever IP’s are deemed nostalgic enough to be recycled and rebooted endlessly. Some would argue we are already there.
On top of these studio related problems, I haven’t even touched upon how expensive it is to simply go to a theater and watch a movie. Yeah, I’m looking at you AMC Theaters. $17.69 to see a movie in 3D. $13.69 for a regular showing, IMAX tickets clocking in at a whopping $19.69 each. By the time you factor in concessions it’s not at all unheard of to be just north of $50 by the time it’s all said and done.
It’s a wonder anyone even goes to the movies at all.
Which brings us to Netflix and how I think they are they studio that can save the film industry. As I mentioned earlier, with how much it costs to make film nobody is willing to take risks anymore. Why would you? It’s much easier to convince a board room to reboot Ghostbusters, which already has built in name recognition and market value attached to it, than to take a shot on some unknown property like Stranger Things.
Do you know how many studios passed on The Duffer Brother’s pitch for Stranger Things? Virtually all of them. Between 15-20 studios all turned down Stranger Things before Netflix picked up the series up. It’s baffling to me that it was not only rejected but how most studios didn’t even fundamentally understand the concept of the series:
“Other execs had balked at the idea that the show featured four kids as lead characters but that it wasn’t TV for children. “You either gotta make it into a kids show or make it about this Hopper character investigating paranormal activity around town.” Matt recalls replying, “Then we lose everything interesting about the show.” — Matt Duffer via Rolling Stone
Netflix is in this amazing position where they don’t have to sell movie tickets or spend an inordinate amount of money on marketing. Since you are already paying for the service whatever they chose to do is almost like bonus material. It allows them to take risks that other studios wouldn’t.
And we need risks now more than ever.
Maybe you aren’t the biggest fan of Bright or didn’t get caught up in the hype of Cloverfield Paradox. That’s OK, you don’t have to love those specific films to respect the model that Netflix is trying to push forward. It’s an alternative to the big budget studio system, the same system that rejected Stranger Things. The same system that spent $300 million on Justice League for some reason.
We are inching closer and closer towards one large omnipresent form of entertainment. Disney is set to acquire 20th Century Fox and as excited as I am to finally see the X-Men set in the same universe as Avengers, I know that on the back side of that we have one less studio out their taking risks. One less place for creators to pitch content. I believe the Netflix model is the one true alternative to this.
Now… I’m going to go watch Altered Carbon. Care to join me?