The Big Business and the Hollywood Machine

By Allie Schoenauer
Elm Staff Writer

The complaint comes often enough: movies are expensive and unoriginal. Which is why I, personally, rarely ever go to them. That, and movie theaters around here rarely ever play the movies that I actually want to see. (“Wh-What do you mean the Chester 5 isn’t showing an Oscar-winning family drama spoken exclusively in Arabic? Doesn’t everyone want to see that?”)

My excuses seem to extend to most of the American viewing audience. For years, movie studios have been struggling to keep audiences coming back. Some years are better than others—2009, for instance, holds the record for highest grossing year of all time with an impressive $10.6 billion in tickets, an impressive achievement helped by James Cameron’s “Avatar,” the highest-grossing movie of all time. It was also backed by a major movie studio that knew how to advertise, was directed by a recognizable director, and had a pre-built following of nerds willing to see anything with blue lion-people flying on pterodactyls. It also looked really, really cool.

Studios, despite making really, really bad decisions at times, do understand that recognition will bring an audience to the theater. Why do you think there are so many sequels? Why do you think so many books are being made into films? They’re recognizable. In some cases, books have a pre-made fanbase that will come to see the movie.

The most recent example of this is current box office smash “The Hunger Games.” Sitting pretty at over $302 million, “The Hunger Games” and its sequels were already hits, all of them becoming New York Times bestsellers with the final book, “Mockingjay,” topping all of best seller lists in the U.S. before the first novel was even optioned.

This is all ignoring the artificial inflation that 3D technology gives movies. 3D movies naturally are more expensive, and that gives theaters the excuse to jack up prices.

Quick, go on the Internet and Google “top 5 grossing movies 2011.” The five highest grossing movies of last year just support my point. What are they? They are all sequels to franchises with large followings, and most of them had a 3D option.
There had been some buzz that this year would be different. Some weeks ago, the top-grossing movie was an indie shaky hand-camera movie about a house party. A few weeks later, it was a cartoon movie about environmentalism—based on a popular child’s book, mind, but “The Lorax” was up against “John Carter,” a massive science fiction epic originally predicted to crush at the box office that ended up painfully underperforming.

At the time, the 2012 box office was pulling in comparatively more money per movie than any previous year; impressive, especially when it was still only the first two months, a time when quality movies drop off.

Then “The Hunger Games” premiered. It would’ve been a hit if it had premiered in the summer, when big blockbusters are normally slated to premiere. In the middle of movie wasteland, it’s already brought in over a disgustingly high amount of money for only two weekend’s worth of audiences, and it’s defeated the 3D re-release of “Titanic,” the most recent entry in the new Hollywood trend to re-release modern-classic movies, a trend that needs to be stopped.

The Hollywood machine likes to crank out sequels because, really, what else are we watching? Look at last year’s top five highest grossing movies. Four of them are sequels. And you know what? You went and watched them. You couldn’t help it. Just like you won’t be able to avoid going to the fifth “Twilight” or the next “Star Trek” or whatever else is being released this year.

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