A couple years ago, it seemed like we were seeing the end of the mid-budget film. Between Transformers and every comic book superhero under the sun, you were hardpressed to find a flick that fell between $20 million and $100 million in its budget. At its most base form the logic was as follows: audiences go to theaters for either spectacle or a unique experience. At $20 million or under, the studio can afford to take risks, as making back its money isn’t too difficult, and at $100 million, they can afford spectacle. In the dark realm of the in-between, a film is too expensive to take risks, and it’s too inexpensive to afford spectacle.
Simply put, I thought the mid-budget film would be edged out of theaters by 2020.
Looks like I was wrong, and I couldn’t be happier. 2016 may have had its low points, but it seemed to bring about the return of mid-budget films. Just off the top of my head, we had three mid-budget films that, by all accounts are successes: Deadpool, The Accountant, and Arrival. All three of these films had between $40-$60 million in their production budget, and all three connected with audiences in some way. Deadpool showed that not all superhero films need be huge spectacles, The Accountant had all kinds of fun action, and Arrival proved to be the smart sci-fi film the world really needed right now.
So what does this have to do with anything? Well, a couple months back, I wrote a piece about film fans who complain about Hollywood doing nothing but sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots. I won’t bear repeating the whole thing, but if you want to check it out below feel free to do so.
For those with better things to do than click through the site, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version: the stuff film fans keeping pining for is out there. You just need to look for it.
This has never really been more true than in 2016. Yes, we have more comic book movies hitting theaters than ever before (a whole lot of good ones, too), but as evidenced by the films above, there have been a decent number of solid, mid-budget, non-superhero-related fare as well. If you’re one of those who have been complaining about all the superhero films hitting theaters by the handful each year, then this is actually the perfect time for you to actually cast your vote with your wallet.
As of this writing, Arrival is just shy of $100 million at the box office. This is by no means a smash hit. At this point, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be profitable, but when all said and done, it’s not the biggest indication that fans are hungry to see more films like this. The flick however, is still in theaters, and you happen to be someone who is craving something different, and you haven’t been to the theater lately, now is the time.
Hollywood seems to be getting wise to this whole thing. I know it sounds obvious, but they’re realizing that if they spend less on a film, there’s less risk involved, and they’re more likely to make their money back if they hire the right talent, cater to a specific niche, and make a good flick. It’s the kind of logic that seems to have disappeared in the past decade, and when Deadpool managed to reel in wads of cash of its modest budget, it seemed to rekindle that old school logic.
But don’t let this opportunity go to waste.
The entertainment industry doesn’t seem to have much of an memory span, and if enough of these good mid-budget films fail in a row, they may start to believe that all cinephiles want to see are superhero films. So put your money where your mouth is and get out to see these movies and send a message to the studio heads that while we enjoy our comic book movies, we also like to have our film diet supplemented with more low-key pictures.
So head out to your local cinemas and start supporting these mid-budget films. I’m not saying you need to start shooting towards Oscar fare, but keep an eye out on those non-tentpole films. It may not seem like a big deal, but the only way we can ensure a thriving, varied film ecosystem is to vote with our wallets. It may have started with Deadpool, but if enough of these films succeed, we can see the re-emergence of a previously-dormant type of film!