Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Movies like The Descendants or Melancholia aren't Blockbusters

We went and saw the wonderful and sad movie The Descendants with George Clooney that did not do well at the box office. It went out in limited release, and it was a very well acted and well done drama. When a friend of mine noted how great the movie was and how its box office receipts were weak, I said, "That's because it's not for 12-year-old boys." Did you know the core movie-going audience consists of mostly 12-year-old boys? So when you see a movie like Battle Ship that comes out May 18, and you think it looks like another version of Transformers only out out to sea; it's because of what I just said. Movies like Battle Ship or Transformers are what they call in the industry popcorn flicks. In the most literal sense of the word, these movies "sell popcorn" and they pander to a young audience.

While the rest of us adults grumble about this reality and suggest there are no good grown-up movies out there, it's because we tend to stay home or watch limited releases On-Demand. How many parents do you know with kids who regularly go out to anything more than the latest G-rated family movie? For parents to get a babysitter and go to the movies, it adds up to a pretty hefty bill. So you have a core part of your audience who doesn't go to adult movies at all and watches them on DVD or Netflix. Don't despair though. Smaller movies like The Descendants do continue to get made on lower budgets and often do a dual first-run On-Demand release and some into movies. Melancholia, the Lars Von Trier art house film that came out in November wouldn't have gone into mainstream movie houses. And frankly the "art house" films only mean I have to go sit in a rundown and often uncomfortable theatre. So when it plays On-Demand that is fine by me.

If you are a writer like I am, you need to know this information as you're out selling spec scripts. I doubt I will ever attempt to write a movie like Battle Ship mostly because unless it's more intelligent like James Cameron's Avatar, which to this day I could watch a dozen times over, and involves more story than explosions, I probably wouldn't enjoy writing it anyway. And you should never write something you personally wouldn't go see.

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