I’m not sure the movie industry has ever been in a stranger place than it is now. Watching movies has never been easier than it is today. Streaming services have literally put entire catalogs of feature films at their fingertips. We can watch them on our big screen televisions, on our tablets or on our cell phones. We can watch them in the comfort of our living room, on an airplane, or in the waiting room of a hospital. Streaming has forever changed the way moviegoers consume content.
But what about the way we used to watch movies in the old days? And the cinemas? It goes without saying that streaming has undermined the movie theater business. It’s hard to say how hard it is to tell and it usually depends on various factors (ticket prices, market sizes, etc.). Yet, while many theaters and movie chains are feeling the impact, they are kept afloat by a select group of films that fans will flock to no matter what. And while this constant trend helps theaters, it highlights a bigger concern – one that could have a far-reaching effect on the type of movies made.
Last week, filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s bubbly “West Side Story” hit theaters. It is the latest film from one of America’s most renowned directors. The Man Who Made “Jaws,” https: //www.nwaonline.com/news/2021/dec/31/musicals-and-marvel/ “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” https: // www. nwaonline.com/ news / 2021 / dec / 31 / musicals-and-marvel / “ET the extraterrestrial,” https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2021/dec/31/musicals-and-marvel/ ” Schindler’s List, “https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2021/dec/31/musicals-and-marvel/” Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Saving Private Ryan” to name a few -a. Still, its critically-acclaimed musical adaptation only took home $ 10 million at the box office on its opening weekend.
Given the poor returns on other 2021 musicals like “In the Heights” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” no one expected record numbers from “West Side Story”. But for a movie that needed around $ 300 million to break even, it’s safe to say the expectations were above $ 10 million. Hours after the disappointing figures were released, articles began to appear citing the reluctance of audiences to go to the movies due to covid issues. It sounds reasonable, and it’s an explanation that would be easy to digest if not for one thing – “Spider-Man: No Way Home”.
Just a week away from the disappointing debut of “West Side Story,” “No Way Home” (the latest installment in Marvel’s ridiculously lucrative Cinematic Universe) broke records, grossing the nation $ 253 million in its weekend. end of opening. To add a bit of context, this is the third Spider-Man film starring Tom Holland as the beloved webslinger. The Dutch debut film grossed $ 117 million on the opening weekend of 2017. Its second film “Spider-Man” grossed $ 92 million in 2019. Both were pre-pandemic releases.
Suddenly, the pandemic hesitation excuse for “West Side Story” and other films doesn’t hold up as much. It is clear that people will always go to the theater. But they won’t see “West Side Story” or “The Last Duel” by Ridley Scott or the formidable “Nightmare Alley” by Guillermo del Toro, which just opened and was only able to raise $ 3 million when it opened. first weekend. Without a doubt, there are variables at play. For example, there are older moviegoers who would likely go to these movies if it weren’t for covid-19 reasons. But such massive differences in numbers seem to indicate that something else is happening.
To get a better idea of the situation, just look at the 2021 box office numbers. Eight of the top 10 earners of the year were franchise movies. The two movies that weren’t (“Free Guy” and “Jungle Cruise”) are essentially franchise starters as sequels to both have been confirmed. It is therefore not difficult to see what attracts the most people to the cinema.
Tentpole’s chart-topping blockbusters are nothing new and they happen to be an important part of the movie industry. But with the infusion of huge, interconnected, crowd-pleasing money makers like the Marvel movies (and we get several of them every year), they seem to have completely taken over. And there is no sign that it will change anytime soon.
What does this mean for films unrelated to the franchise model? What does this mean for filmmakers willing to take risks and create something new and original? What does it mean for them to get funding? How long will companies be willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in projects just to take a bath, even if the director is Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott or Guillermo del Toro?
On the surface, these might seem like internal issues that studios have to grapple with, but they could very well affect the type of movies we produce. Blockbusters make money (minus the occasional bombshell) and independent films operate somewhat in their own sphere. But could we be heading to a place where low budget original movies are too big a bet to make it to the big screen?
So what is the cause? Are we finally getting to that point where the influx of big-budget star-studded franchises has diluted public tastes? Basically, I don’t think it’s a clear black and white concern. There are a number of factors that play into the equation, including the pandemic and the growing popularity of streaming platforms. But I also believe that something has changed with a fairly large segment of moviegoers.
With the exception of moviegoers who watch more or less everything, it seems a lot of people just have little interest in seeing movies that aren’t related to a franchise. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but the numbers are pretty telling and the potential consequences are concerning, especially for someone like me who loves low- and mid-budget features as much as blockbusters. What will it take for people to try other movies? I don’t know, but the studios are feeling it. And at this rate, you can’t really blame them if they decide to cut their losses. I hope we never get there.