Monday, May 9, 2011

Summer Blockbusters and the Global Market

Summer is Hollywood’s most important time of the year. It seems to start earlier every year and go later. School is out. Families, teenagers and young adults have more time on their hands looking for things to do. That means the cash registers will be working overtime at your local multiplex.

This season, we are off to an early start with Fast Five and Thor. And with a full slate of special effects and action laden movies planned for the summer, expectations are running high. It looks like an impressive list: Captain America, The First Avenger, X-men First Class, Green Lantern, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cowboys and Aliens, the final Harry Potter movie—Deadly Hollows and Stephen Spielberg’s throwback 1970 alien movie, Super 8.

Do you see anything familiar? Can you detect a pattern? The movie industry and particularly the studio system are adapting to a new business model in order to compete and be financially solvent. As the song says, “The Times are Changing”. With average budgets approaching $100 million, the film industry understands that they now must reach out to a global audience. With DVD sales, rental profits, domestic box office shrinking, Hollywood realizes the future lies in overseas markets. We now live in a global economy.

Do you remember the old saying, “Will It Play in Peoria”? Nowadays, when Hollywood produces a film, they ask the question, will it play in Tokyo. Will it play in Moscow? Will it play in Hong Kong? As you can see, it’s a global community. So what does this mean to you and me as filmgoers? Exactly what the summer suggests: more action and more special effects movies.

A perfect example for today’s new global movies is the recent movie Fast Five. It’s easy to understand—less talk and a whole lot of eye candy. Fast Five has the perfect formula: fast cars, beautiful people, and an exotic location, Brazil. It’s perfect for a global market. What that means for you and me is that Hollywood will be making less dramas and comedies. These types of movies are often too culturally difficult for foreign audiences to embrace. In the future, Hollywood will be more interested in making cross-cultural movies that speak to a broad global audience. Unfortunately, that will mean less compelling stories. The industry will not be interested in producing films that are hard for a global audience to understand.

So what if you are a filmmaker and you want to make intelligent and compelling films. Where does that leave you? What if you just love movies? I’m talking about movies that actually have a good story. Will you be able to find them in the future? These are all good questions. I’m convinced there will be new opportunities. They may not be within the current Hollywood system, but I’m convinced there is a market out there that wants something more than just action and special effects.

Who will make those movies and how will they get made is still a work in progress. It’s going to require innovation, hard work and determination. But for those who love to make movies, it’s always a work of passion.

In the meantime, there is still the summer season, and Hollywood is prepared to roll out a full lineup of films which will embrace the growing global audience.

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