This is the summer of the mega-block buster duds from the Hollywood clone factories. Pacific Rim, Lone Ranger, White House Down, Turbo and others have gone down in flames. Given Hollywood’s pathological aversion to risk and long-ago succesion of power to accountants, these present day disasters aren’t surprising. All the above films were green-lit 3-4 years ago in the middle of a successful run of huge budget summer popcorn movies. The problem is, it’s folly to base future offerings on present day results. Too many variables. Too much will change. Too hard to predict the public’s taste. Yet they do it anyway.
The solution: Make more cheaper movies of varying genres and risk assumptions. For every Lone Ranger which clocked in at over $200 million, you could make almost seven $30 million dollar movies. Experiment. Run some of the films day and date in theaters, pay-per-view and online.
This is sort of what’s done in publishing with a high volume of titles produced for modest costs to deliver a few best-sellers — which in turn support the high volume of titles.
Of course, no one will take my advice because of the weak link in film making: humans. You get on the map making small movies that break out, but you don’t stay there by making small movies. It’s a front-end loaded business. Most of Hollywood, from everyone above the line to agents and lawyers all make money from failure. Or, more precisely, from pre-failure. When the economic model for success in Hollywood (for individuals) has nothing to do with whether a film succeeds or not then you’ve got a real long term problem. If Hollywood took my advice they would be shifting the risk from financiers to the individuals that package and make the films (which is happening to some extent). They would also be shifting the reward in the same direction (which is not happening to any extent). But it won’t happen, because most people are naturally conservative and will value stability over progress.
That is, until the stable life you’ve built slides into the ocean during a mud slide of mediocre movies.