Although the headline to this post is admittedly grandiose, so were this summer’s movies, several condemned as enormous flops. But despite some of the biggest studio write downs in history, Deadline Hollywood recently reported that 2013 was actually the biggest grossing summer to date (notwithstanding higher ticket prices and inflation). With a bottom line like that from a record number of mega budget “tentpoles,” I was wondering what it means for the future movies… Will studios continue to swing for the bleachers with superhero franchises, end-of-the-world spectacles, and TV show redux, or will they go back to developing modest budget original content so they can make more films and spread the risk?
I have always been an avid filmgoer, but I’m seeing fewer movies every year – partly because we have two small kids at home – but mostly because fewer and fewer theatrical releases interest me. The buzz for the past few years has been that all the good dramas are on TV. Since so few small and mid-range movies are getting made, that’s probably true, and probably the reason so many great actors have migrated to the small screen.
No question TV is better than it has ever been, now exploring risky subjects and complex anti-heroes; in short, doing what movies used to do. But TV is a different form, and format, with open-end stories that elongate (and often dilute). No TV show has ever influenced or inspired me as my favorite films have. But movies that blow me away have been more infrequent and rare.
The Place Beyond The Pines was released last April. I had read a decent review, liked the trailer well enough, but it didn’t lure me into a theater. I had added it to my Netflix Queue, and it arrived this week.
I loved this movie. The acting, directing, and cinematography were stunning, and the story had me thinking about its themes for days. It’s not without flaws, however, it’s dark and it’s long, almost two and a half hours – but it didn’t matter to me. I was riveted and I was moved and I was inspired. The movie has heart. And I hope that there will be more movies of this scope and impact as a result. So I checked the numbers: It was made for 15 million and grossed 35 – not a Hollywood grand slam – but certainly a respectable single or double.
I’m not one to begrudge big blockbusters, and maybe they’re the only way the studios can stay in business. Lynda Obst’s new book Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business explains that foreign revenue now accounts for over 70% of the gross, so studios are using all their resources to market movies that appeal to Russia, China, and beyond.
But after big costly flops like The Lone Ranger, White House Down, The Internship, After Earth, Turbo and R.I.P.D., I’m hoping studios will open up their coffers, and minds, to develop more original content for movies like The Place Beyond The Pines, and that more great actors will break from big movies and lucrative TV work to make films that leave us thinking and feeling again.
We don’t all have the same interests and tastes, and it’s great that we have more choices. But as technology keeps bringing us more spectacular delivery systems for our entertainment, I just hope we don’t forget that entertainment comes from stories that enrich us and give meaning to our lives, not just vehicles to help us escape.