Hollywood has the same problem as comics …on September 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm
… and it’s dealing with it the exact same way.
There have been a lot of articles about the “death of the blockbuster” lately. Here’s a sample here: Hollywood’s Tanking Business Model from the New York Times. The writers of these pieces always fret that audiences just aren’t showing up for blockbusters anymore, for reasons no one can fathom. Some writers have hinted darkly that “Ryan Reynolds can’t open a movie” or something like that.
But to a comics fan, this is pretty obvious.
1. Movies used to be cheap entertainment for the masses, but their popularity peaked in the 1940s. Sounds very familiar. A movie today starts around $7, plus $6 for a bucket of popcorn, and double that for babysitting. A comic used to be a nickel, and now it’s closer to $4.
2. Audiences today have tons more (cheaper) alternatives. If I want to see things blow up, I can fire up my PlayStation and blow up things myself. If I want adult drama with a touch of humor, I can fire up Netflix and binge on “Orange is the New Black.”
3. Movies are chasing hits. There’s a reason every movie is a franchise these days, and it’s the same reason every comic has Batman or Wolverine on the cover. With the pie shrinking, movie studios want to make sure they get their piece.
4. Go bigger. One of my personal peeves is that movies are too damned long today. I have a wife and a kid, so I basically never have time to go see a movie that runs 2:45. By the same token, I don’t have the cash or patience to chase a crossover that stretches between 10 ongoings, a miniseries and 6 one-shots.
Consequently, I am no longer the target market. Movie companies aren’t going to make money off the casual fan, not when you factor in items 1-3. So you may as well swing for your base of committed fans. And those guys are happy to see 2:45 of Batman.
Honestly, putting Batman in it is about the only way to get me to spend 2:45 in a theater.
5. Gimmicks help, but they can only take you so far. Remember the 3D movie fad of the last few years? Remember the gatefold chromium cover on ShadowHawk Vol 2, No. 3,? The one that punched out and unfolded so you could see ShadowHawk’s true face? There you go.
Here’s the thing: A movie is a premium experience. You’re going to a specific place at a specified time. You’re giving up 3-4 hours of your life, which is time you could spend with loved ones, with video games, or just fooling around with your iPhone. You’re used to convenience, watching things when you want, and not having to worry about some dumb-ass kids throwing jujubees at you. You’re used to having your phone and your tablet with you while you watch. So the movie folks need to push the geek button pretty hard to get you to come out.
People have been proclaiming the death of movies since the advent of radio, and it hasn’t come true yet. But the business model has some severe flaws, and it has little to do with how much people like Ryan Reynolds.