For the last decade the studios have looked at the dwindling number of North Americans willing to pay money to see their endless parade of remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and sequels of over the top effects heavy superhero-action-fantasy pictures and said:
"That's all right, we will always have the foreign audience. They love explosions and simplistic repetitive story lines. Especially China, and China's massive and growing audience will solve all of our economic ills!" - Bob Hollywood, President of Every Studio.
Are these experts, these insiders, these Ivy League educated Masters of the Universe right?
Recent polls and box office results show that Hollywood's fiscal panacea China is starting to get sick and tired of special effects heavy superhero-action-fantasy sequels, remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings.
That's not good.
That's not good at all.
I've discussed China's status as a cure for all of Hollywood's financial ills before. I explained that while it is a growing market, especially for movies, since the Chinese love movies and the theatre going experience, it is not a free market, and that comes with its own set of troubles. I also discussed how the Chinese government won't allow their market to become too free, because that could cost them their power.
What I didn't expect was a shift in taste.
I feel kind of stupid about not seeing that coming.
Like the studios I just assumed that effects-heavy action was what translated best around the world. Humour, romantic/sexual ideals, and cultural references differ wildly between countries, and even between regions, but explosions, shoot-outs, and over-the-top chases and stunts were fairly universal.
That was stupid of me, and stupid of Hollywood.
But I have an excuse, I'm just some dork on a computer, I don't have an Ivy League degree, and a fat salary and expense account based on my alleged expertise.
What I think we, Hollywood and myself, forgot are the first principles that made Hollywood movies the standard of quality and an inspiration to artists around the world.
Okay class who can tell me what Hollywood was created to sell?
Movies are a medium. They are a means of getting a product to a customer, they are not the product itself. So try again.
Have a cookie.
Selling stories is like selling produce, you know, fruits and vegetables. You might get away with selling a bunch of bananas one at a time, or selling the same orange over and over again for a while. However, eventually, you will either run out of bananas, and your orange is going to rot.
If you want to stay in business you have to have a steady supply of fresh and tasty product. Sure, some things don't sell to everyone, but there are buyers out there, even if only a few, so you only buy what you think you can sell for a profit.
The problem is that the studio's business practices are pricing themselves out of the market. Despite the "synergy" they allegedly have with their sibling media outlets, the costs for making, releasing, and advertising a movie have skyrocketed.
The studios feel they need to release a mega-movie to attract blockbuster size audiences to cover these sky-rocketing costs. They dumb down stories thinking that helps them translate better.
This dumbing down is probably the reason why home video sales are down, because that's for movies you want to see again, and how many recent films do you want to see again, especially with so much good stuff on TV these days?
How many recent big Hollywood movies have been better than television in anything other than scale?
What Hollywood needs to do is to think "Story First."
It probably won't happen, since it requires effort, intelligence, and taste and those are not considered virtues in Hollywood.