Cassian Elwes, who has been a major player in the independent film business for the last 20+ years, recently gave a speech where he slammed the practise of the major studios to rely more and more on the "rubbish" model of making what are called "Tentpole" pictures than creating a wider variety of films at lower prices.
If you're not hep to the lingo of Hollywood business, a "Tentpole" is a big-budget, widely accessible film or television franchise designed to prop up the financial state of the studio or network.
He's got a point.
Since the majors are relying so heavily on expensive, special effects franchises to keep their corporate tents standing, it's having these effects…
1. FEWER MOVIES. Most of the major studios have slashed their outputs considerably. Basically most have boiled it down to three kinds of films FX heavy Mega-Blockbusters, Winter Oscar Bait, and Cheap Disposable Movies, like horror, comedies, and chick flicks, designed to fill time in between.
With all the money and effort going into the mega-blockbusters the costs and the risks go up and the profit margins shrink. So the studios pursue what they think are safer routes while still chasing the billion dollar blockbuster dream. This means sequels, reboots, remakes, rehashes, and other nonsense that will ultimately result in a studio releasing 5 different versions of the same superhero movie simultaneously.
2. COSTLIER MOVIES. As I mentioned before these blockbusters cost more and more, and its creating a spending mindset that spreading into other genres. Even romantic comedies are starting to crack the $100 million budget line, which is insane.
3. SWAMPED MARKETS. When a big blockbuster comes out the strategy is to put it on as many screens as possible and to flood all media with advertising and marketing for the movie. If there's another film out at the same time that doesn't have the same mega-money, they're going to have a hell of a time trying to get noticed.
4. SHRINKING AUDIENCES. The key to the mega-blockbuster are the child-to-teenage ticket buyers who will see a movie repeatedly, and buy any related merchandise that comes with it. Adults tend to see a movie once, and then maybe pick it up on some form of home video if they really liked it. That means that Hollywood is losing interest in those kinds of ticket buyers, and television is taking up a lot of the slack for them.
That means that while some films may break records, the actual numbers of individuals who have actually seen the movie is getting smaller and smaller.
Do I see any change coming?
The management of Hollywood has no investment in the companies they run beyond their next quarterly bonus. Too many are Ivy League MBAs and there are not enough street level entrepreneurs who saw selling stars and stories as their ticket to the American dream.