Hollywood Keeps Playing it Safe

Now that it is 2018, Hollywood has changed, in terms of the content it produces. It is also changing, but very, very  slowly in terms of representation in front and behind the camera as well as content/movies that are being shown in theatres and on tv.

When Hollywood started making movies and trying to capitalize on them, there would be some films that turned out to be a huge success and others that flopped and that brought the company way down. There had to be something that would be done in order to make sure that films that were made on a huge production budget would make back that money and even more. There needed to be a certain way to predict the domestic gross and what kind of content people want to see and make sure that this story is popular to the audience. In Tim Wu’s book, The Master Switch, he says that,

“We might as well ask why success in entertainment is so hard to predict. It’s a tricky question, through one can start to answer it by looking to the nature of the demand…That uncertainty and variable demand at the heart of the entertainment industry has led to a wide range of countermeasures…These range from the obvious – for instance, betting on well-known stars or directors (more typically the former) and sequel (rerunning a past success in the hope that lightning will strike twice)…All of these techniques have in common the way they end up altering the face of both American and global popular culture” (Wu, 221-222)

To ensure that investments put into these films that were being produced and made were going to make them money, they would look at previous films that were made and were successful, look at the director, the actors and actresses and bring them and put them in future movies so that audiences that loved them in their previous movies, will come back and watch their future movies. It was all a tactic and it is still alive and well today.

As I grew up, I remember there was a time around 2008 and on where Hollywood churned out the same kind of romance, comedy and horror films. It was practically the same plot that everyone loves with different and a lot of the times, the same, but well known actors. In the last few years, I think I can count the number of times I went to the movies on my hand, the amount of remakes and sequels to movies that should have ended years ago are still going on such as Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out with the 3rd sequel 50 Shades Darker and there is a Fast and Furious 8 as well as another Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie.

When Diary of a Wimpy Kid, first came out in 2010, its production budget was 15 million and its domestic gross was 64 million dollars. There are 4 sequels of this film and according to Box Office Mojo, the two other sequels came after in 2011 and 2012 and then the fourth sequel came out in last year in 2017. The production budget for the 2017 film was 22 million and it only made 20 million, not even succeeding its production value cost. Every year that Diary of a Wimpy Kid was made, the domestic gross cost plummeted and it is confusing why these kinds of films that were made years back are now making a comeback and it is obvious why they are tanking.

Hollywood has a problem with taking risks and starting a new movement or bringing fresh faces on the screen and behind the camera. Tim Wu says,

“To be sure, as long as there’s been a film business, the necessity to contain inherent risk has figured in the equation…likewise, the cartel’s enforcement of a certain homogeneity of product – simple plots, short films, no stars, and a ban on most imports – had the effect of ensuring that one film as good (or as bad as ) another; by making all their offering “fungible:, as an economist would put it, the cartel sought to iron out the discrepancy between the hits and flops, making the fate of any one film that much more predictable” (Wu, 222-223)

Sure, that may make sense back then, but now there should be a rise in risk taking and trying to get new kinds of content with different kinds of people who bring a whole different background in storytelling how films are made. Hollywood is not giving a space for new content and stories to be made and told. With the rise in films that are being directed by minorities, black filmmakers, female filmmakers, their films are being shown and their films are done well. They are exceeding their production budget costs and bringing in millions more dollars domestically and internationally.

For example, films such as  Moonlight, Black Panther, The Shape of Water, Get Out, Coco and tv shows such as Master of None, Atlanta, The Mindy Project, Empire, and Insecure who are made up with minorities, who are not only in front but behind the camera, their films and shows have been extremely successful. Change is coming but it is creeping in at an extremely slow rate, I’m tired of the same plots, the remakes and the same faces on screen. There needs to be more risks that are being taken, different stories being told and more representation shown in screen.

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