An Arkansas Video Production Company

The State of the Movie Industry

 

So we're going to take a little detour from subjects connected to Element Studio's work. Sometimes it's just fun to talk about movies. And this subject has been a pretty hot topic for the last couple of years.  So let's talk about it.

There’s a lot of complaining these days about the state of the movie industry. There are controversies of whitewashing, complaints that superhero movies are destroying film, and that there’s no more originality in Hollywood. The list goes on and on. As movie fans, we can all agree that there are some issues in the industry. There always have been, and there probably always will be.  But, have we ever really stopped to think about why Hollywood makes these decisions? If we know, maybe we’ll be able to help move the industry in the direction we want to see.

To put it simply, all of these issues stem from money. When it comes down to it, Hollywood is a business. So they make decisions based on what is going to make them the most money. Let’s take a look at the originality/superhero movie issue. First of all, sequels, remakes, and spinoffs are very safe movies to make. They already have an established fan-base and proven popularity. So there is usually very little risk in making these movies. At the time I wrote this, 22 of the top 25 highest grossing movies of all time (worldwide gross) are sequels, remakes, or spinoffs (6 of these are superhero movies). It’s no wonder that studios are so eager to make non-original movies. As much as some people complain about them, everyone goes to see these films. Why wouldn’t studios keep making these movies?

When it comes to whitewashing, the reason is very similar. Hollywood doesn’t really like taking risks. This is especially true when it comes to the cast. They want the most popular movie star possible to bring in audiences. So rarely will they take a risk with an unknown actor/actress that audiences aren’t familiar with. Historically, this makes sense. Some actors and actresses really have brought in audiences due to their popularity (or familiarity). And for a long time, people didn't care about representation in Hollywood. You know, because racism was in style.

 
 
Figure 1 : From the film,  Breakfast at Tiffany's . Can you IMAGINE if this was done today?

Figure 1: From the film, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Can you IMAGINE if this was done today?

 
 

But, that's not the case anymore. We live in an age where racial equality and representation is important. But there is still a conflict that Hollywood deals with. Familiarity and popularity of certain actors and actresses still sells tickets. Some movies have the luxury of having unknown actors because the movie will be successful regardless (like Star Wars). But some movies need whatever help they can get. So they'll cast popular actors to try to sell tickets, even if their casting doesn't fit the material. Let’s take a look at a real world example. In 2014 a movie called Exodus: God’s and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott, opened in theaters. It was riddled with controversy when it was announced that the cast would consist of Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Sigourney Weaver playing Egyptians. There was so much outcry, that Ridley Scott had to respond.

 
 
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
— Ridley Scott
 
 

...yikes...he could've said that in a different way, but looking at history, he unfortunately has a point. However, due to recent events, I have a feeling times are a-changin'. What makes me say that? Well, for one, Exodus: God's and Kings went on to be a box office flop. After accounting for the film's budget, marketing, and all other expenses, the film was unable to break even with its box office return. In the last decade, many other films that had whitewashing controversies ended up loosing money as well. To name a few, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Pan (2015), Gods of Egypt (2016), and Ghost in the Shell (2017) were all box office failures. And with the recent MASSIVE success of Black Panther and the accurate representation in upcoming movies like Aladdin and Mulan, I think Hollywood is starting to get the memo. 

When you take a step back and look at why Hollywood makes certain decisions, it makes sense. Again, Hollywood is a business. Of course they will make decisions based on what they think will make more money. So we can't just assume that Hollywood is run by a bunch or racist rich people. Because, studios really don't care who the cast consists of, as long as they make money. The great part about this is that we actually have some power to change things as movie-goers. We're the ones with the money that they want. So, we can support the types of movies we want to see. And if you have a problem with a certain movie, don't go see it. It's like voting, but more fun.

 

- Trevor Davis