Hollywood has always managed to adapt to evolving times and moviegoers have continued to watch movies on the big and small screens. We constantly see changes, but the big question on everyone’s mind is, “How will Hollywood recover and adapt from the latest major shifts?” Can we expect to see studios focusing more on quality or continue to diversify? Will there be more collaboration between tech and entertainment sectors? Can we expect to see the focus of talent shift from the actor to the director? What type of real impact will the #TimesUp movement make? And can we expect to see feasible market opportunities for mid-level studios?
Studio executives are still clinging to the fact that 2017 could have ended a lot worse. By the end of the year, theatrical revenues only ended up decreasing roughly 2% while international revenues actually increased 3%. So, I guess Hollywood is also doing something right.
Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong in 2017 as we review this year’s Do’s and Don’ts List for 2018.
DO - Focus on the cinematic experience.
Catching the likes of Pennywise on an IMAX screen isn’t the only thing dragging audiences away from their streaming apps and into the theaters. “Dunkirk”, one of the summer’s most unlikely hits, managed to break through the competition because of its focus on the cinematic experience. The film was shot with IMAX cameras, which gave it a sense of scope and drama that needed to be experienced on a wide screen - a mobile phone could not have contained the action. In addition, the film’s director Christopher Nolan, also used his media tour to advocate on the importance of movie theaters, arguing that Netflix presented sub-standard product. (Source: The Verge)
DO - Horror films.
2017 was the biggest year for horror in box office history. Not only are they typically a more cost-effective option for filmmakers, but audiences enjoy them as well! “Get Out,” for example, grossed an astounding $175.5 million on a $4.5 million budget. “There’s something about that shared experience of being in a theater, viewing a horror movie, that can’t be duplicated at home,” said Jeff Goldstein, domestic distribution president at Warner Bros. “You have people jumping and making noise and being shocked and scared together. Something that differentiates from streaming on Netflix or watching it on your phone.” (Source: Variety)
DON’T - Worry about Netflix.
There is no doubt that Netflix continues to be one of the most feared forces in Hollywood, but it may help studios to know that the streaming giant is facing growing pains of their own. While Netflix has captured audience’s attention with their original shows, it is still unsure whether or not they will be able to create the same hype with their original films. Last month, Netflix released “Bright”, a $90 million-plus fantasy cop thriller with Will Smith, which was meant to be the company’s biggest film bet yet. Unfortunately, the Netflix was faced with a rude awakening as the film was not well received by critics and dubbed the worst offering of 2017. Much like the big Hollywood studios, Netflix will have to go back to its drawing board to rethink its strategy for it’s already green-lit “Bright” sequel. (Source: IndieWire)
DO - Know when it’s time to reboot your franchise.
After a series of poor box office performances in 2017, it’s become clear that major franchises are running out of steam. “Transformers: The Last Knight” was the lowest grossing entry in the long-running series and Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” could barely squeeze out $240.7 million worldwide of its $100 million budget. “Returning franchises can’t just lean on familiar characters or well-worn story lines”, argues Adrian Smith, Sony’s president of domestic distribution. (Source: Variety)
DON’T - Be afraid to learn from your mistakes.
Other studios, however, are already ahead of the game. After a disappointing release of “The Amazing Spiderman 2”, producers were smart enough to realize that they needed to revive the brand 2017. In the third reboot of its series, “Spiderman: Homecoming”, Sony introduced a new spin on a familiar tale by sending its hero back to high school, where saving the world is just as important as finishing his homework. Audiences swarmed theaters to see a new side of their favorite character and as a result, “Spiderman: Homecoming” became the studio’s second highest opening at the domestic box office. (Source: Huffington Post)
Another Marvel franchise that also got a face-lift in 2017 was the great legend of Thor in “Thor: Ragnarok”. After, a series of critically-mixed outings in “Thor: The Dark World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, Marvel worked hard to differentiate the God of Thunder’s third solo adventure from his previous two turns. The studio gave him a different weapon, different armor, a different sense of humor, and different hair to show a funnier, more relatable and human side of the character – which audiences loved! In less than 3-weeks the film topped the $650 million milestone as well as its lifetime totals of both 2011’s “Thor” ($449 million) and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World” ($644 million). (Source: Forbes)
DO - Re-Think Rom-Coms and R-Rated Comedies.
In 2017, settling for easy jokes and gags rather than deconstructing them led to a series of wasted opportunities. Audiences are tired of the same old rom-coms, R-Rated comedies and poor imitations of “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids”. Not only has our sense of humor changed in the Trump Era, but more often, studios are infusing comedy into other genres in a way that better resonates with the audience. Despite the success of “The Big Sick”, “Girl’s Trip”, and “Get Out”, which spoke to the greater market value of diversity, other comedies with bigger budgets such as “The House”, “Bay Watch”, “Chips”, “Rough Night” and “Snatched” all failed to spark audience interests. (Source: Deadline)
DON’T - Just launch a new franchise.
Launching new franchises to replace the old and staggering ones can be hazardous. Universal’s 2017 release of “The Mummy”, for example, was supposed to introduce the studio’s “Dark Universe” franchise, a new interconnected series of monster movies. Despite the $150 million price tag and $100 million promotional costs, the film only debuted a modest $40 million in the US opening weekend. As a result, the studio has been forced to push back production and rethink the quality of content for its upcoming “Bride of Frankenstein” reboot. (Source: The Hollywood Reported)
DO - Focus on Directors.
Directors are taking over the Hollywood spotlight. Star driven films such as Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s “The House,” Scarlett Johansson’s “Rough Night,” Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy,” Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” all failed to deliver audiences to movie theaters. The directors were the focus of the buzz on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”, Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” (Source: Variety)
DO - Invest in Women.
Just this past week, Director/Writer Greta Gerwig won the Golden Globe for best motion picture – musical or comedy with “Lady Bird”. This year has also been a big breakthrough for many female directors including Patty Jenkins, whose film “Wonder Woman” became the highest grossing title of the summer, Dee Rees with amazing vision and leadership on “Mudbound”, and her Director of Photography, Rachel Morrison who has stirred up a great deal of Oscar buzz. (Source: Deadline)
DO - Notice Big Studios are Getting Bigger.
To keep up with streaming services as well as audiences changing tastes and demands the major studios are heading back to the drawing board to focus on quality. Big studios are consolidating and pursuing much bigger box office per film. With Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, we will see a “combining of resources to further spur content creation – the bar for quality of the content will raise overall, which helps the overall industry in terms of driving people to the theaters,” said Bob Berney, head of marketing and distribution at Amazon Studios. (Source: Variety)
DO - Take advantage of the Opportunity for Mid-Level Studios.
The Disney-Fox deal also shrinks the number of major studios from six to five, meaning that there are now fewer homes for great scripts and talented directors looking to make a mark. Bryon Allen, stand-up comedian turned filmmaker, has already identified potential in this new market. His company, Entertainment Studios is getting into the mid-budget business that major studios have abandoned in favor of comic book movies and special effects opuses. So far, the strategy is working. “47 Meters Down,” a low-cost movie about two women fighting off sharks, was the company’s first release. It went on to gross $53.2 million worldwide, against a production budget of $5.5 million. (Source: Deadline)
DON’T - Discount New Apps.
MoviePass, which aims to be the Netflix of cinema going, has attracted more than 1 million subscribers to its service by charging $9.95 a month in exchange for enabling customers to see a movie a day. “Young people have been abandoning theaters, but they make up our first wave of customers,” said Mitch Lowe, MoviePass’ CEO. While the company is not currently making money, what they do hope to do is gather all the data on its customers, which will eventually be so valuable that studios or movie theaters will give them a steep discount or that it will be able to monetize the information in a different way. (Source: NY Times)
DO - Acknowledge the Disconnect Between Critics and the Audience.
Rotten Tomatoes scores don’t impact box office earnings. If you want a better box office, make better movies – it’s that simple! (Source: IndieWire)
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