As someone who still regularly goes to movies, I’ve seen things change recently.
Theatres died down during the pandemic. Of course not completely, but there was a time, when I was in a room with 196 seats and I was the only one there (the movie was Spencer – I was also the only one to see W, but I assume for different reasons).
And why shouldn’t they? We have seen a lot of movies fail this year. Flash, Fast X, the new Indiana Jones, whatever the new Ant-Man & Wasp movie was called, Shazam! 2, Dungeons & Dragons and probably some others I’ve already forgotten about.
One movie I didn’t mention there was Elemental, because that belongs to a category different from the above. Elemental specifically is doing okay, but I do think it is a prime example of a category that’s just not going to work as well in the future. Movies targeted at children are a problem, because ticket prices are rising and that hits families worse. Elemental is definitely not the worst example of this. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken has made a little over 40 million worldwide. This is kind of obvious actually. Or should have been. Say we have a family with three kids. That’s almost 80 euros just for the tickets in my local cinema. With popocrn and drinks, that’s going to be around 100 euros. If you just wait for the movie to be available on streaming, you can get the same movie and whatever you want to eat for probably 20. When inflation is already hitting everyone hard, how is this not obvious to studios?
Also, the marketing has no idea about what they are doing. I went to see the animated TMNT yesterday (recommended, btw). There weren’t many people there, but everyone I saw was adult male. What did they have trailers for in the beginning?
We had one for Wish, a Disney princess metamovie for Disney’s 100th anniversary.
We had one for Titina, a Norwegian animated family film about a dog that visited the North Pole in the 1920s.
We had one for Migration, an Illumination movie about some ducks leaving their pond.
Okay, so how do these relate to the TMNT? Sure, they are all animated, but they are not the same genre. These movies don’t really share an audience. Still, because the marketing people have no clue about what they are doing and instead just throw around often more than 100 million dollars on the marketing of a single movie (not Titina, but the other two probably had such budgets for marketing, which is on top of the production).
Currently, there is an opportunity. Barbie brought so many people back into theatres. It’s the fourth weekend for Barbie and there were still plenty of people seeing it with their friends, dressed in pink. All these people see the posters, the trailers and the screening times for other movies. This is all something they should be doing their best to use to encourage people to return. Instead, they just squander all of it, because they don’t bother understanding the products they are trying to sell.
Considering the audience, this might have been an opportunity to push Blue Beetle or Equalizer III or the actual best one from movies opening soon would have been Project Wolf Hunting, because I doubt very many people have heard of that, but it might be of interest to people, who enjoy the more irreverent side of TMNT. But because some Excel spreadsheet somewhere said that TMNT is an animation, so they put animations in front of it.
On a different front, screenwriters have been striking for three months now and one of the key issues is that they don’t want AI replacing them. Looking at how badly the sequels are doing right now, this doesn’t feel like a good idea from the studios. People don’t want to pay to go see creatively bankrupt franchise movies, so one would assume the studio bosses wouldn’t want to just make reiterated versions of those, but that’s exactly what an AI would do. It is not creative, it doesn’t understand the human experience on any level. It can only try to mix the elements from previous movies in a new way, but that has been shown to fail already with this batch of box office bombs.
Disney went on a spending spree. They bought Marvel, Star Wars and Fox. In 2019, their market share in the box office was over 33% (in the US). Warner was second with 13,9%. Right now Disney has a market share of 20,4% for this year and is losing to Universal’s 21,6%. This is somewhat hard to tell, because of AI news publishing, but it would appear that Disney has lost close to a billion dollars on failed movies just this year. What’s the answer to this? There are also rumors that they are looking to sell themselves to Blackstone.
That couldn’t end well. A company that has widely shown itself to be completely uninterested in anything other than money. Blackstone is the avatar of late-stage capitalism. It’s a faceless entity bent on consuming everything on it’s path and making it much worse just to make a few pennies more. Not that it would change the way the function that much.
And getting back to Barbie. I guess it’s a surprise hit. I mean, sure, I would have expected it to be a hit. Why not? Barbie is beloved doll, which did actually change the way we see toys. As described early in the movie, the toys for girls before Barbie were just dolls they could play mothers with. Barbie brought a whole new dimension to the concept. I would not have believed it was going to do the business it has, but it was obvious that the combination of talent and theme were a winner.
So, what did Hollywood learn? Mattel has already started selling lisences to their various intellectual properties to various interested parties. The reasoning for this was that of course people want franchises. Do we? Really? Sure, it makes decisionmaking easier. You want to go out and see a movie, but don’t really bother to research the movies available. Okay, so you go and see the latest sequel to a movie you sort of like or the movie with that one star you’ve liked before or the director who has been solid in the past. But who wants a Polly Pocket movie? Who is clamoring to see that just because they saw Barbie? When I heard the name (and it was the example used by the executive as an example), I knew I had heard the name before, but I had no idea what it was.
And these are the people making tens of millions. They have no ability to make decisions on things regarding the actual business. They are just managers looking to cut costs as much as possible. That could easily be done much better by an accountant with a $100k salary, who actually probably does already figure everything out.
At the same time, A24 is allowed to make movies during the actor strike, because they just said yes to the demands. Clearly they are doing fine even if they took a huge risk with Beau is Afraid and it did not pan out (although apparently it was partly a message to filmmakers to let them know that they are willing to do that and I bet even Beau is Afraid will make it’s money back at some point). Blumhouse continues to make quality horror with comparably miniscule budgets and while not all of them are huge hits, they are making money.
I’m just afraid that capital will eventually come in and buy out those little companies. That’s what they have been doing for a long while now.