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Adults Crave Original Content while Tentpole Enthusiasm Wanes

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood July 5, 2012 at 4:18PM

The Austin Film Festival's film program director Stephen Jannise argues that "a new demographic is there for the taking"...
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"The Avengers"
"The Avengers"

Austin Film Festival program director Stephen Jannise argues in The Grown-Up Stays in the Picture that "a new demographic is there for the taking." Using the recent success of "Moonrise Kingdom," "Bernie," "To Rome with Love," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Magic Mike," "Ted" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" as evidence, he writes that "grown-ups want to go to the movies, too, and they’re looking for something original." Sure, "The Avengers," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and in all likelihood "The Dark Knight Rises" are still tentpole moneymakers attracting the 18-25 crowd (and others), but Jannise lays out a theory as to why a new demographic is emerging and urges Hollywood to take note. It boils down to this:

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Fox Searchlight "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"

The "Gone with the Wind" generation only went to see a new film every couple of weeks, and Hollywood gradually stopped catering to them. But now that the generation that came of age during the profitable blockbuster (i.e. "Jaws") era has grown up, Hollywood can't keep up with their programmed need to see something new every weekend. Unfortunately for studios, much of that grown-up generation has grown tired of aliens, sequels and spandex and doesn't want to pay upwards of $15 to be bombasted with it all on a regular basis. But that doesn't mean they are tired of movies; the recent success stories suggest that returning to original content and good old-fashioned story telling could be the key to owning the adult demo. Shocker!

Meanwhile, Variety's David S. Cohen asks if tentpoles are Too Much of a Good Thing, worrying that "the more I see, the less I want to go to the movies." He senses that he isn't alone. He believes that the studios should be worried, too, as he feels a "growing dread in Hollywood that America's moviegoing culture is withering."

Sure, the tentpoles look flashier than ever -- because studios need to bait those who are reluctant to shell out for the increasingly expensive movie-going experience (and compete with each other to claim having the movie of the week or season) -- but, Cohen argues, this results in a vicious cycle wherein the tentpoles are no longer the "best advertisement for movies." They may actually be harmful to the industry, with the "overstuffed spectacles, hard times and pricey tickets" resulting in "a zero-sum game."

Cohen compares the current state of blockbuster tentpoles to super-size MacDonald's meals. We're full, but are we nourished and satisfied?

This article is related to: Features, Box Office, Sequel, Franchises, Studios, Marketing


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.