In 2007 everyone was blown away by the box office numbers with such releases as Spiderman 3, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean at Worlds End. No one thought the 2008 film slate stood a chance. That is until Batman raked in the cash, Iron Man blasted the competition, and Indy whipped his way to box office gold. Last year we saw records breaking left and right, led by an onslaught of well known superheroes. With the country suffering from an ailing economy, jobs being cut and companies crumbling, the box office is still flourishing. Although the entertainment industry appears strong at the moment, recent reports have stated that this may be the first time the entertainment industry won’t be able to hang on.
So we have to ask, will the film industry be effected by the economy? And what are studios doing to protect themselves?
Last year there was one word that received more airtime and print space than any other, “recession.” There is no doubt that our country is suffering and citizens are being forced to adapt to uncomfortable circumstances. Throughout history there have been recessions, depressions, and movies have always been their to cheer up the masses. The film industry has typically done well during financial turmoil, as shown by the success of Gone With the Wind during The Great Depression. This past year both the domestic and world wide box office showed a significant audience increase. According to Variety Warner Bros. and Paramount were the big winners of 2008.
Warner Bros.‘ 2008 box office haul of $1.77 billion was fueled by Christopher Nolan‘s “Dark Knight” — the No. 2 top grosser of all time after “Titanic” — and the unexpectedly strong showing of inherited New Line titles. Warner’s share of the market was an impressive 18.4%.
Paramount clearly had a great year, including…….”Iron Man” ($318.3 million), and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull” ($317 million). Studio claimed a hefty 16.4% of the 2008 marketplace, with ticket sales totaling $1.58 billion, ahead of the $1.49 billion earned in 2007.
Have you noticed something about these films which were deemed the most successful of the year? For the most part they were all “sure things.” By producing films that already have built in audiences, studios are pretty much guaranteeing that they will be able to make back their money. Granted no one knew The Dark Knight or Iron Man would make as much as they did, but there was an established consensus that they would both be blockbusters. Sex in the City and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were revamps of franchises that the public thought were dead and buried, so of course people were going to come out and see them.
My theory is that even though we’re in a recession, Hollywood wants to give the public the false assurance that their not effected by it. If we notice any drastic changes or cut backs in movies, then the escapism factor will no longer be relevant. As old school as it may sound, we still go to the movies to be engulfed in someone else’s world for two hours. It’s been that way since day one, but for the first time in a long time I think that’s about to change.
The cracks are beginning to show through the corporate Hollywood facade. Over the past few months dozens of scripts have been greenlit for production this year, do you know the one thing they all have in common? They’re all remakes! Once again, your putting out a familiar product that already has an established fan base, therefore insuring a profit. It’s starting to get very cut and dry in terms of who’s worth it, and who’s not. You notice how easily Disney dropped the Narnia franchise after it’s sequel Prince Caspian didn’t live up to expectations. Yet, who thinks remaking every horror film that was produced between 1970 – 1990 (good or bad) is a great idea?
The problem is, crappy remakes won’t last. As soon as everyone does the same thing, the money begins to flatten across the board. Now that we can no longer turn a blind eye to our current economic state, films are going for the cheap “assured” route, which makes me wonder how great this years film slate really be? If all we have to look forward to are remakes, and lackluster sequels, with the exception of a few, I don’t see 2009 as being one for the record books. People are being more selective about what they spend their money on because at this point they have no choice.
If studio executives want to avoid the economic crunch and get people spending their hard earned money, they need to up the quality factor, and producing a remake of a remake isn’t the way to do it (Yes, I’m looking at you H2).