Monday, 20 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #942: Movie Budgets Are Too Damn High!

A tip of my jaunty sombrero to reader Blast Hardcheese for aiming my jaded eyes at this article from the LA Times.  If you're too lazy to click the link I'll sum it up for you: J.J. Abrams, the man behind the Star Trek revival and other major projects on the big and small screen, say that movies, especially big studio movies, cost too damn much.

He's right, while he's made some big budget movies, primarily for Paramount, the films that he tends to have complete and direct control over are relatively inexpensive. Films like Cloverfield and Super 8 were large scale science fiction projects, but were done for budgets that wouldn't cover the cost of James Cameron's ego polish.

It's a philosophy I'd like to see spread through Hollywood because the industry is intent on pricing itself out of business.

The major studios are spending more money on fewer films than ever before. Yet despite a handful of hits, the summer movie season, usually pure gravy for the industry, is most likely going to be either flat, or slightly down from last year.

Folks are blaming the flat to dwindling state of the box office on the expansion of entertainment options to be found on TV and the internet, and that the studios need to make these mega-sized blockbusters to get the teenagers to spend money in theaters, and hopefully pay extra for the 3D.
I call bullshit on that.

Thanks to technological advances the movies should be cheaper than ever to make and distribute.

But they're not. 


There are no natural market reasons for their prices to go up, this inflation is purely artificial and comes from an unspoken collusion between studios, stars, and filmmakers, and each have their own reasons.


1. The more money being spent on a movie, the more control they can exert over the project. Mo'money, mo'power!

2. Tossing money at a problem is easier than using imagination.

3. If they throw lots of up-front money at the big stars they're less likely to make a stink about the outright looting of the "back end" profits.

4. When the movie costs a fortune and a half, it's way easier to claim the film lost money at the box office than if it was a smaller budget movie.


1. It's assuages their anger at not getting as much of their share of the profits as their contract stipulates.

2. It makes them feel important, and gives them more power and status on set, and in the Hollywood community.


1. The bigger the movie the better the chance that it'll get a big release, even when it's a piece of steamed over shit.

2. Outside of stars the biggest thing a movie buys a filmmaker is time. The more time you have to fiddle and tweak, the happier a lot of filmmakers are. 

3. Money is easier to use than imagination. When in doubt make everything look busy, complicated, and loud.

Do I see this changing anytime soon?

I really can't say.  Reform's necessary, but too many people are too heavily invested in the inefficient and expensive status quo to accept change at the speed that's probably necessary.

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