Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Marketing Killed The Movies

Memo to Lynda Obst: it doesn't take a two page article to come to the conclusion that the reason that people are not going to the movies is because the movies SUCK.
It's not Netflix, and not videogames, and not ADD and not theaters that stink of popcorn farts where you freeze to death in the Summer, and not 500 TV channels, and all the other lame excuses that Hollywood bigwigs find to avoid taking a good hard look at the unspeakable crap they put out. It's rather stuff like this:
July brought Stealth, Rob Cohen’s $135 million . . . what, exactly? Thriller? Action movie? Starring Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Josh Lucas, it opened to a measly $13 million. And October brought Doom literally... Based on one of the most successful video games of all time, it would have to be a blockbuster, wouldn’t it?... If the kids didn’t come to Doom, starring The Rock, we could no longer call anything.
Stealth? Doom, with none other than that respected thespian, The Rock? Based on the best-selling video of all time? This garbage should not even be called a movie. If people want to play videogames, why on earth should they pay 10 bucks to watch them passively in a giant screen?

Hollywood has lost touch with reality. The reason is marketing. Listen to this:

We were seated at small round tables with marketing types from the studios (and many ex-marketers; they are the first to be fired when movies flop—i.e., it’s the marketing, dummy! Not the movie!) and assorted producers like me looking to figure out what was hot and what was not, and why. And the gist of what we heard was this: Young men were too busy to go to the movies anymore. They would rather play video games on Friday nights or be on the Internet playing video games with strangers or hooking up or pretending to be hooking up or playing video games with or without the person they had just hooked up with.

As for the baby-boomers—or the “upper-quadrant audience,” as we know them—the movie experience had so deteriorated (bad food, sound, seats, etc.) that they would rather wait for the DVD. They all now had fabulous home entertainment systems, which their teenagers appropriated when they finally felt like seeing the movie they had missed playing video games.
So for Hollywood types the world is divided into some sort of humanoid constructs called young male teenagers and boomers. There is no one else of interest. In its obsessive segmentation of the audience, marketing completely forgets to ground itself in real life, missing the forest for the trees. As Miss Obst slowly realizes:

...we spend zillions and gear the products to teen boys—the most easily distracted audience. Not only are they the ones with the most choices on Friday night, but they also know within a second of our holding a preview anywhere in the world whether a movie stinks or not. These guys cannot be fooled by marketing anymore. The harder we hype them, the harder we fall.


That year saw the perplexing, terrifying failures of T3 and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Matrix Whatever. We thought it was about sequels, when it was really about word of mouth.

It's not perplexing to me. Those movies SUCK.

So we can’t put a bad blockbuster over anymore, as in the golden era of 2002, when The Scorpion King could open at $36 million, or Blade II at $33 million. And we have to kill our singular addiction to teenage boys. We need to diversify the meaning of “our audience.” We have a few audiences. Baby-boomers have a movie habit and an IV hooked up to pop culture (look at Inside Man or The Interpreter). You would have thought that Something’s Gotta Give proved that older women were worth making movies for, but one strike with In Her Shoes and we’re out. Young girls, reliable last year, have been rationalized off the screen (their tastes this year considered to be entirely driven by boys).

Tell me that this is not Orwellian. Tell me that this language doesn't scare the bejesus out of you. How dare this woman call a Golden Era something that spawned a movie called Blade II?
And then a true Eureka moment, by gosh! I'm glad Ms. Obst noticed. What would we do without such keen insight? There are other kinds of humanoids that may want to sit in a dark theater and watch A GOOD STORY unfold. Women, thirtysomethings, fortysomethings: people.

Did Scorsese, Altman, Truffaut, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Coppola, Malle, Fellini, Schlesinger, you name em, make their movies thinking of snotnosed teenage males? Or because they thought the female 18-35 demographic would tell their friends about it? Or they made movies because film is an art form, not an extended commercial for brands, or a formula for morons.
I know that Hollywood needs to make money. But I don't know how these people can live with themselves, rationalizing the violent, pointless, moronic shit they spend millions on with a marketing bromide or two.

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