“I’m sick of Hollywood doing nothing but remakes.”
“Hollywood never makes anything original anymore.”
I pretty much see some iteration of those comments a handful of times a week throughout all the comments in the articles we post. And I totally get it. Between all the superhero films, the movies based on books, and reboots of big budget franchises from the days of yore, it does kind of feel like that’s all Hollywood ever does.
And I can understand the sentiment from fans.
Most news sites like us tend to plaster the latest and greatest in the next big budget franchise without a second glance. These are the films that many geek audiences have been waiting decades to see brought to the big screen, so their hunger is there. Add in with that the good faith studios have made with mainstream audiences based on the inherent accessibility and quality of the films they’ve put out, and you have a heck of a lot of people excited to see the next Marvel film.
Of course, there are some unintended consequences to that, and it mostly manifests itself in a pushback from hardcore film fans — those who place their love of films above their love of big budget films or superhero adaptations. So why aren’t our voices being heard? Why can't Hollywood produce more original content?
While many of us film geeks say that we want more original titles, the box office history seems to prove otherwise. We only have to look as far as a movie like Kubo and the Two Strings — an original film with great critical response and word of mouth. Sadly, while the film was very well received, it’s only managed to make around $60 million at the box office on a $60 million budget. This doesn’t put it anywhere near breaking even when you take into account the marketing budget.
At the heart of it, Kubo is an animated film with a much smaller budget than your average animated fare. While it's very artfully put together aesthetically, it's not one that has big mainstream appeal. It's not smooth and bombastic. It's a more creative style that doesn't necessarily click with most audiences. Then there's the name, Kubo and the Two Strings, an unrecognizable one to those looking for a sure thing when going out to the theaters. Audiences want to know what they're getting into and are unlikely to take big risks on a night out.
In fact, let’s take a look at the top grossing films of the year thus far (domestically).
Out of the twenty-five top grossing films of the year, only seven of them are original: The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, Central Intelligence, Bad Moms, Sully, Sausage Party, and Don’t Breath — and of those, only three of them are in the top 15.
The message there is simple. Most audiences generally don’t like to go to the theaters for names they don’t recognize, and they're not going to generally waste their time on a non-spectacle film. It’s a trend we see on the site as well. Unless the film has some real name recognition, an article covering some art house film is unlikely to get a lot of love from readers, who are largely here to see the latest rumor regarding a big blockbuster.
Things aren’t all doom and gloom for film lovers, however. Even though a flick like Don’t Breathe was only number 23 for the year so far, it was still a success. It managed to make $129 million worldwide on a $9.9 million budget — more than enough to cover its expenses and marketing -- and ironically, enough to warrant a likely sequel. Unfortunately, however, when you compare it to the mammoth numbers made for a film like Captain America: Civil War, which made $1.15 billion at the box office, it becomes clear why studios are going out of their way to make these films.
Now, it’s around that time where some film-lovers say that that’s the big problem. Hollywood seems too caught up in making these big budget spectacles that they neglect smaller, more intimate films. I’m here today to tell you that’s a complete fallacy. Due to the accessibility of filmmaking equipment nowadays, we are getting more movies than ever.
More blockbusters. More indies. More experimental films. More everything.
Yes, the blockbusters are the ones, more often than not, getting the mainstream attention, but if you’re so concerned about originality, then I’m here to tell you things have never been better.
We’re around the start of Oscar season, when you’ll be seeing the more character-driven films hit theaters. If you’re not living anywhere near these art house theaters, however, you only need wait a bit before getting them on digital, Blu-ray, or VOD.
And if you’re looking for indie non-Oscar fare, then iTunes and VOD are great places to look. Our very own Edward Douglas, who writes the Weekend Warrior column every Wednesday, does a stellar job at picking out some of the best small, original films to come out, and if you’re actually hungry to see what the smaller side of Hollywood is doing, then I highly recommend you give him a read. The more indie films are in the second half of the column, following the box office predictions.
That being said, I will concede one point to those crying “unoriginality” in Hollywood: times are changing. Gone are the days where we can see a handful of character-heavy features on the big screen at once. Nowadays, those screens are largely reserved for those big blockbusters we all love to talk about so much. I can sympathize with anyone who laments that they can’t see these films on the big screen. The fact is that the game has changed, and most audiences don’t care to see those smaller movies on a big screen. With the improvements in home theaters and digital delivery, it’s almost unnecessary.
Why would an audience waste their time and money at the theater for a film that would be just as rewarding in their homes? The economics of the situation are simple. Not enough mainstream viewers go to the theaters for standard dramas to justify their getting into theaters. But stated above, that's not to say these films aren't out there for us to find. For those of us who are simply in search of the latest great story out there, things have never been better, so long as we're willing to consume at home!
What do you think of all this? Do you feel like Hollywood has run out of ideas, or do you think they’re as original as ever, and they just distribute it much differently than before? Is there some aspect of the question I left out? Let us know in the comments down below!