Posted By:
Craig Newman
April 16, 2012
Filed Under:
Other Cool Stuff

Has Hollywood Lost its Way?

This is a fantastic post from Short of the Week and I just wanted to share it!

We love short films, but we also follow the larger film industry and how the web is changing how we watch films.

Much has been said over the last few days about the bleak year for theatrical films with year-end box office sales down 3.8% compared to last year and attendance down 4.7% (Box Office Mojo). But there’s been less coverage of a bigger problem looming over the film industry—one that would be hard to blame on a bad year—the growing scarcity of original stories coming from Hollywood.


In small ways, we’re all aware of it. We’ve all seen a preview and asked ourselves, “Another sequel?” And yet it’s still staggering to take a step back and see just how bad the situation has become.

And if that isn’t frightening enough, the success of The Lion King 3D is already kicking off what may become a new creative low—re-releases. The Lion King 3D, at a cost to Disney of less than $10M, took in nearly $100M—not a bad ROI for a struggling industry. TitanicBeauty and the Beast, and Star Wars, all planned for 2012 releases, may mark the dawn of an era of blockbuster re-releases as Hollywood longs for its glory days.


At first, you might think box office numbers are down because of all these unoriginal films. But that’s actually backwards. In fact, unoriginal movies are being made BECAUSE numbers are down. Let me explain:

Hollywood filmmaking is an investment business—studios give money to filmmakers hoping to make more money back. Now put yourself in the shoes of an investor. When times are good, you have extra cash flowing in, and you can invest in riskier investments where many fail but a few hit big.

But when times are tight, one failed investment can sink you, so you’re more inclined to turn to safer investments. And in movies, the safest investment you can make is in either a sequel or a story built from an existing franchise with a large fan base. In other words, making a sequel is Hollywood’s way of playing it safe. Because right now, original stories are just too risky.

How difficult is it to get an original story made in Hollywood today? Even director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) had a difficult time getting Inception made (The Day the Movies Died by Mark Harris). That’s how hard it is.

Now I hate to say “Hollywood” like it’s one entity because in reality it’s made up of people, some of which are very talented and inventive people who want to tell great, original stories. But like many other industries facing the speed and transformative power of the web, its size and bureaucracy have made the film industry slow to recognize and react to change.


Despite all the prophecies, this won’t mark the end of Hollywood or the film industry as we know it. In fact, filmmaking is more important now than ever. Roger Ebert said it best in his recent article on the current state of the industry that, “Americans love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm.”

It only takes a few minutes with Facebook, Kickstarter, and Vimeo to see that movies and storytelling are fast becoming the preferred way of understanding this complex world.


To someone like me, who wants to tell stories for a living, or someone like my compatriot, Jason, who watches stories for a living, all this change means looking broader. Theatrical may no longer be the place to bring a grand vision to the public. Those “risky” original stories are more and more being told elsewhere on television and in new media formats like branded and interactive films.


We can’t know what making and watching films will look like in 10 years, but whatever becomes the dominant model, it’s likely to make its first appearance in a short film. Always a testing ground, short films are where the most interesting new models are being explored today. Filmmakers like Spike Jonze and Chris Milk are experimenting with new formats and distribution models with shorts like We Were Once a Fairy TaleI’m Here, and The Wilderness Downtown.

We’re in the hazy stage where the old structures are falling and new ones are yet to be built. The landscape is open. Go explore it.


RobertApril 17th, 2012

Can’t say i care much about Hollywood. The studios have been doubling up

I doubt short films will make that much of a return. If i had to guess, the old B-feature length (roughly 45-70 minutes) will become the new benchmark, as it’s long enough to realise an idea properly but short enough not to bore anyone painfully. The real question is how these films will make money from distribution. I’m guessing that four-walling will have to be re-invented, with people touring their films the way bands tour albums. If it was good enough for John Waters….

PS. Don’t use Inception as an eg of a film which should have been easier to make. Over-budgetted & under-achieving, it symbolised everything that’s wrong with film language today. It wasn’t made, it was achieved….

RobertApril 17th, 2012

My dumb. What i meant to write was:

Can’t say i care much about Hollywood. The studios have been doubling up like a loser in the casino for thirty years now

(Line expanded for what its worth – probably not much)

Has Hollywood Lost its Way? « Video Production Sydney and the Central CoastMay 3rd, 2013

[...] Read more at Entendre Productions. [...]

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