5 Trends Making the Movie Business Lose Sleep

Five trends worrying the film industry
Fox Searchlight/Warner Bros./Roadside Attractions/Columbia/Universal

Blockbusters like “Jurassic World” and “Furious 7” powered the movie business to record numbers in 2015. But not everything Hollywood touched turned to gold. There were plenty of “Pans” and “Victor Frankensteins” to splatter red ink around. Here are five things that should keep the studios and filmmakers up at night.

Indie Crisis

Arthouse cinemas are beginning to feel like ghost towns. Sundance favorites like “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” scored big deals, only to die at the box office. In response, distributors kept their checkbooks closed at the Toronto Film Festival. Plus, there are fewer buyers after Relativity Media went belly up and the Weinstein Co. cut the number of movies
it will release in half.

Incredible Shrinking Stars

Norma Desmond was wrong. It’s not the pictures that got smaller, it’s the stars. Big names like George Clooney, Channing Tatum and Adam Sandler couldn’t save “Tomorrowland,” “Jupiter Ascending” and “Pixels.” Diminishing drawing power threatens that most cherished of Hollywood institutions — the passion project. Hoping to nurture relationships with the likes of Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie, studios greenlit such risky projects as “Our Brand Is Crisis” and “By the Sea,” losing millions of dollars in the process.

Netflix and Amazon Fail to Make a Stir

Streaming services can write big checks and field buzzy TV shows like “House of Cards” and “Transparent,” but they haven’t had a breakout movie. Netflix says “Beasts of No Nation,” a brutal drama about child soldiers, was widely viewed online, but it was barely seen in theaters. The company’s  deal with Sandler also raised eyebrows after “Pixels” flopped. Amazon has been more tentative, launching its first theatrical release with Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.” Though the services have revolutionized the way content is watched at home, they haven’t made many revolutionary movies — yet.

R-rated Comedies Are Running Out of Laughs

Amy Schumer emerged as a bona fide star with “Trainwreck,” but most films hoping to ride raunch to box office gold derailed. “Vacation,” “Ted 2” and “The Night Before” left audiences cold,
and even well-reviewed “Spy” fell short of previous Melissa McCarthy efforts such as “The Heat” and “Identity Thief.” Nothing matched the success of 2014 smashes like “22 Jump Street” and “Neighbors,” and some studio executives fret that gross-out gags aren’t delivering belly laughs.

Feast or Famine

The hits were big, but so were the flops. For the first time, at least five films this year will top $1 billion globally. But even as movies like  “Jurassic World” mint money, misses like “Pan” are leading to nine-figure writedowns. Fall was weighed down by adult dramas that cannibalized one another, leaving the likes of “The Walk” and “Steve Jobs” to wither. The year had two of the 10 best openings in history with “Jurassic World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but also suffered four of the worst wide-release debuts ever with “Burnt,” “Victor Frankenstein,” “Jem and the Holograms” and “Rock the Kasbah.” Not every record is worth breaking.

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  1. cadavra says:

    So far this year, 12 of the top 20 movies are sequels (make that 13 next week), and one more was a straight-up remake (CINDERELLA). Six of the other seven were derivative of previous films (e.g., SAN ANDREAS, THE MARTIAN), brand extension (ANT-MAN) or best-seller adaptation (FIFTY SHADES OF GREY). That just left STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON as the only generally original film on the list, and it had a built-in audience from fans of the music. Clearly the audience has voted, and their candidate is The Same Old Thing Over And Over Again.

  2. Spiderwood says:

    The industry should work more towards ‘story’ and stop allowing the accounting offices from dictating the business. There’s need in develping good “creative works’ through story and stop *chasing incentive deal, *thinking there has to be so much visual effects action and *let actors, act! “my thoughts”

  3. Donna says:

    In light of your article, how would everyone like to know that the Century Theater (CineMark) in what is known as tthe the socialist republic, Boulder, Colorado, according to the booking agent, will not screen the quality film “Trumbo”…in fact last Friday the only movie released there was “Krampus” instead of Trumbo. Management has tried to change that to no avail.

  4. JR says:

    Too bad the little, truely independent filmmakers have such a difficult time getting distribution deals. Some of them have fresh voices and talent.

  5. GKN says:

    Hollywood has just grown far too derivative, like a serpent always swallowing its own tail. Nothing but sequels and stuff we’ve seen before – done better in the past.

    Get some new blood. Give the ladies a chance (without making imitate boys). Do something “out of the box” or rather your boxes, for heaven’s sake.

    • CelluloidFan35mm says:

      Let’s be honest. Even if they did bring in some new blood and go “outside the box”, I feel that the results would be the same and it would be naive to believe otherwise. It’s all about the bottom line, period.

    • meta says:

      I honestly didn’t really think that until I heard they are trying remaking memento

  6. XiaoMaoMusic says:

    Also, if you are going to try to court fans, do it BEFORE you make your movie, not after it is released. Especially in the age of social media, fans want a voice and they are now savvy enough to make your film better in certain ways. Jem and the Holograms is a textbook example of not knowing who your audience should be, alienating what was “pre-sold” about your property, and then not supporting the film with marketing that would connect it to who it was made for (young girls and tweens).

  7. Just show us good movies when we have the time to see them. says:

    Too bad about struggling indies and the streaming services still trying to find a foothold. Good luck to them. But all the other trends are sensible messages:

    1. Make good movies. Let the crappy ones fail and fail hard for wasting audiences’ time and money.

    2. Don’t wait to release your best movies within weeks of each other. Spread them out (and to hell with the “awards season” and the awards bodies if they can’t remember worthy films earlier in the year).

    3. Stop it with “stars” already. People are finally choosing to see movies based on content, not “star power,” which is as it should be. Hollywood can have their movie stars… in GOOD movies.

    4. Gross-out gags? Yeah, see 1.

    • CB says:

      I agree. The first step to not loosing money is make good movies. Well actually, just a decent movie will do! Jurassic world and furious were only decent movie, acceptable, not good.

      Most movie stars are overpaid and should be capped at say, 5 million. No more 20 or even 10 million dollar paychecks for stars. Put that extra money into the movie and make your supporting roles better.

      Why release crap during the spring? There is about 3 months after the oscars to release good movies that will have little competition because the studios deem this time as a dumping ground for crap they waste money on. A few films have capilized on being released during this time of little competition, the first hungar games for one.

      Gross out gags are dead.

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