Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #975: What Doesn't Sell A Movie

A reader asked a question on last Friday's post about what sells movies:
Rainforest Giant here,

So sex no longer sells? Eyes Wide Shut seemed to be the last nail in that coffin. Was Tom just trying to convince himself Scientology was keeping those 'urges' at bay?
Okay, Rainforest Giant, I don't talk about celebrity's private lives, or whatever urges they may have, but your question is a good excuse for me to remind everyone of my theory about sex selling.

My theory about sex selling is as follows:

It doesn't sell.

Now you'd have a hard time getting some executives in Hollywood to believe you when you tell them that, but it's true nonetheless.

There are reasons for this...

1. Peer Pressure:  Imagine a major Hollywood studio releases a big budget movie containing graphic hardcore sex. Talking about that flick around the water cooler would be a little awkward, and possibly career ending. Then there's whole "man in the dirty raincoat" element when you go to see it in a theater.

So why bother paying to see it in a theater, just get it on home video where you can "enjoy" it in the non-judgmental privacy of your own home. 

2. Audience Suspicion: The audience possesses a sort of gestalt mass-mind that can smell a stinker from a mile away. A major clue is when the marketing emphasizes sex over story. That tells the audiences that the movie or TV show is going to be severely lacking in the story department and the network's trying to hide that with a thin coat of sexy-paint.

If they want titillation, there's the internet, so why waste time watching people painfully pretend to have a story while offering fairly tepid temptations? 
3. Old Hat:  There was a time when it was pretty hard to see nudity. There were naughty magazines, stag films, for a while, and then came the Sexual Revolution. 

The revolution brought nudity to mainstream cinema and for a while everybody was doing it. At that time it did sell, because if you wanted to see nudity, it had to be in a theater.

Then came pay-TV, then home video, then the internet, and why bother going out to pay for titillation when you can get it for free at home. The sense of social rebellion faded, and people just stopped caring.

Now I'm not saying that a movie featuring sexual content can't sell, just that the act of selling it must emphasize the non-sexual aspect first, or run the risk of looking pervy, badly done, or boring.


  1. Sex is still a big asset on TV, though, isn't it?

  2. Not as much as you think.

    Look at recent failures like Swingtown & the Playboy Club. Audiences saw them pushy the "sexy" angle & stayed away figuring it was a substitute for story.

  3. Your children's show is called "D's House of Sexy Sex"?

    Was it originally written for Jimmy Saville?

  4. Kit- In the wake of Jimmy Saville & Elmo that old gag-photo has a much creepier tone.

  5. Furious,

    You brought up Elmo. I read some folks were demanding that 'we stop calling it pedophillia. Not sure what else to call it. But why in the hell would the 'Slate' and 'Mother Jones' types be taking that position? Is it because Elmo is their guy or is it another re-norming?

    Rainforest Giant

    P.S. Spartacus did well and many called it softcore porn first and story second

  6. RFG- I try to stay out of such attempts to redefine things, which are often weighed down by political agendas.

    As for Spartacus, it promised the audience a story that they already knew was packed with action and drama, so the sex was essentially icing on the cheesecake.

    Market a show called "BOB" where no one knows Bob's story, other than that the ads say it will be loaded with sex, and they'll probably assume that it's going to be weak in the story department.

  7. I had a concept of a TV show called SEXTOWN, the land of SEX. Just 30 minutes of hot girls and nakedness. Then there is the film idea I had called Treatment Center: The Seduction, it would be a semi biographical story ofstar troubled Disney Star Demi Lovato and her treatment center experience, it would costar her long time friend selena gomez. It would have a scene that would make millions, basically it is an attempt for me to get them to kiss.