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Thursday, November 28, 2013

The changing film and tv industry...

The Summer Blockbuster Flop 

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are warning that Hollywood is on the verge of a meltdown. They say that studios' reliance on big budget action movies could doom them.  And so far this summer, there have been six major flops. So is the movie industry going through some soul searching? 

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg launched the era of the modern blockbuster with their movies Star Wars and Jaws.  So people took note when last month they warned that Hollywood could suffer big for its reliance on huge action movies. Indeed, there have been six big budget flops in the last few months.  The latest -- R.I.P.D. which cost 130 million dollars to make and has earned just 23 million worldwide.

The number of people who could be put to work on lower budget and even large budget traditional films for the money it takes to make and market one blockbuster, Spielberg argues, could fund a new Genesis of film making and a new Golden Age for film.

The flops are films in the works from two to thirteen years. You cannot shift the industry on a dime.  And the industry focuses on television, games, theme parks, music, toys or products, and other revenue sources.

Breaking through the clutter is harder than ever before. There are many other intriguing alternatives for your recreational dollar, and your time. The younger, most sought after audience is even more cluttered with alternatives than those over 40. The add the larger number of films opening each weekend, and hanging on from previous weeks, and the movie going public has more choice then ever before.

In response studios are trying too hard to launch new big budget block busters in an age of DVD, Blue Ray, on-demand streaming and Netflix. But existing sequels are making money while new big budget gambles flop. 

Meanwhile low budget low humor films are breaking through on dimes for the dollar. 

Independent films are finding a niche, partly in theaters and partly in ancillary markets, such as on-demand and unit sales. But even the indys cost more to produce then ever before, at least those what gain theatrical release and are deemed worth the high marketing costs to launch in theaters.

Movies are green-lighted by committee, with the age of the mogul and the producer product centered break through are limited. 

Could it be marketing to the lowest consumer at the lowest taste and education level to guarantee maximum possible tickets sold?

Marketing cost has skyrocketed, with the global market the new primary target. So recouping the cost is double or even a much as five times the production costs.

It is difficult to sell audiences on traveling to a destination, risking neighborhoods or locations, putting up with poor service, cell phones in the theater and so on.....

The movie going experience needs an overhaul.

Meanwhile five years ago everyone was crying about the death of television, and now television is its most profitable ever, even being called the new Golden Age of Television. Even large Hollywood film producers and stars are now doing television, even down to obscure cable channels and gambles like Netflix and Amazon.

Small films are going direct to cable, Netflix or on-line distribution. They may not make tons of money, but they are profitable and often finance the next movie while keeping its creative staff in house and home.

Back to movies...the international market is now primary, with the entire international market being dwarfed by the growth of China as a market for films. Rural people are being forced to move to new cities, making non-traditional (read Western) entertainment a new market. 3D and iMax have an advantage, as those screens equal traditional screens in the "new China". The government distributes films, funds films and decides which foreign films get distributed, where and when. Production in China is growing, with American and International film companies investing heavily in the fastest growing production and audience in the world. China is number two to North America as the biggest grossing market in the world, due to overtake the US within six or seven years.

In terms of content humor, locations and "things" that may not be "legible" to the world wide market are being taken out of films, reducing dialogue, historic references from the US point of view, and strictly US cultural references.

The basic model of working within 'the industry' has changed, become more complex, with additional update work and expenses in 'specs', alternative finance and distribution options, the celebrity model, foreign pre-sales, studios as distribution partners or simply requiring you pay them to use their name, multi-platform marketing and much more.

This is a time of evolution, revolution and change in this industry. The digital revolution, the Chinese and foreign markets, shifts in cultural norms and beliefs, multi-liqualism, inflation is costs and the role of film and video entertainment in our cultures.

Can the movie theater's be saved?

Will there be television in its traditional network form in the future?

In a world where people watch or consume only what they want, will they be open to the variety and diversity of opinions that they were forces to be exposed to when there were fewer entertainment options?

What is the future of the movie business? Television? Entertainment?

From KCRWs to the Point and other research and notes....(click here for To The Point)
First published 9/6/2013

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