Alan Horn: Hollywood Has to Make the Economics Work for Smaller Movies

Alan Horn Obama fundraiser
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This column is part of Variety’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

I’ve long been a believer in the power of tentpoles to drive our business, but there’s a special place in my heart for smart, emotional films on a smaller scale. I think that’s true for all of us who love movies. Great stories come in all sizes, but the economics of the business have made it increasingly difficult for smaller movies to be profitable and, in turn, to get made. Audiences have so many things competing for their time and attention that just having a good movie with big stars from a reputable studio isn’t enough anymore; it’s extremely difficult to break through the noise.

As an industry, we really have to look at how we can reduce the cost of making non-tentpole movies, and it requires action from everybody who believes these pictures deserve to see the light of day, from the studio level to the producers, directors, writers and actors. We have to be innovative about marketing; these movies can’t sustain the same media campaign that they might have had 10 to 15 years ago. We need to build the conversation organically, and we need to find release dates that allow for space to grow with word of mouth.

Some distributors have had success experimenting with alternative distribution models, but as a matter of practice for the industry as a whole, forgoing the all-important theatrical window is not a viable solution. There are stories that deserve to be told, and ultimately it’s on us to be smarter about how we make and market them. When we get it right, the audience is there.