Movies are made for shareholders and rarely because there’s an organic storytelling need. There has always been show business, but today there’s a capital ‘B’ in the business side of things. A lot of money is being pumped into big ‘event’ movies and this means they have to work on a global level – and be suitable for all audiences. The Avatar sequels are perfect example of this – it’s all about the visuals (although James Cameron can tackle race, colour and religion in the subtext and nobody gets offended). The expanding film market in China is where Hollywood has put its focus, partnering with a lot of Chinese companies to make sure their product gains attention and money.
Good writing has migrated to TV and VOD, while cinema is now for spectacle rather than story. The target audience for most films is 12-24 year old males, who only care about action – not nuance. The rise of VOD means that the ‘little movies’ can find a market and not have to compete with Fast and the Furious 19 at the local megaplex.
Big budget franchise films (in 3D) are here to stay. Most movies with depth are shoe-horned into the ‘awards season’, meaning that they often cannibalise each other’s audience (usually an older demographic). The days of star-driven, non special effects film like Rain Man scooping a lot of green at the box office look like they’ll soon be a distant memory (or at the very least a rarity). The critically lauded Birdman for example (at the time of writing), has grossed just under $18 million in the US, a number which is a mediocre opening day for a franchise movie.
Most movies are aimed at foreign audiences, meaning that even if a film under performs at the US box office, there’s hope it will score abroad. Studios are eager to scoop the now magic $1 billion global box office number and it’s easier to do this with special effects that work in every language than dialogue that needs dubbing or subtitles.
We’ll always have great movies, but there’s an ever dwindling chance that we’ll get to see character-driven movies on the big screen.