Adults Crave Original Content while Tentpole Enthusiasm Wanes

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by Sophia Savage
July 5, 2012 4:18 PM
9 Comments
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"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 "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?

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9 Comments

  • Michael Medeiros | July 10, 2012 9:02 AMReply

    I’m sure Hollywood thinks that the “formula” is much more of a success predictor. And they cling to it because ultimately those people don’t know what makes a good movie. I am one of those boomers heading toward retirement age. Only instead of retiring, I’m using my increased leisure time and discretionary income to make movies. Hopefully movies that I’d want to see. The information about the hunger and potential power of this demographic seems to be making the rounds with increasing frequency. Ultimately it’s the “build it and they will come scenario.” You’ve got to have the courage of your convictions. Hey, my hat’s in the ring.
    –Michael Medeiros is currently in post production on Tiger Lily Road, a dark comedy about the sex lives and relationship struggles of middle aged women. http://www.bennettparkfilms,com

  • Peggy | July 9, 2012 8:48 PMReply

    America is starved for great films. The youngsters brought up on blockbusters and video games could be brought over from the Dark Side to love great films. As supposedly good some TV shows are, they are not and will never be better than a real film. Compare Beasts of the Southern Wild with ANYTHING on TV right now. Case closed.

  • Natalie Herron | July 6, 2012 6:16 PMReply

    "good old-fashioned story telling"....That's people want to see. Old fashioned storytelling not just special effects and some guy wearing spandex. Hollywood needs to go back to it.

  • g. | July 6, 2012 1:50 AMReply

    I agree with this. If a good movie comes out and earns its buzz, I will track it down and see it. But if they are not good, then I have plenty of options these days on my tv: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, etc. etc. It goes on and on, and I haven't even started on the comedies. I would rather watch one new episode of these shows than 90% of that comes out in major theaters. I love movies, I love going to the cinema. As a kid, I would use any excuse to go. It's not the price, I will still fork over extra dollars to see a movie in IMAX or 3D, but when the product doesn't compare or doesn't register or is just plain bad, can you blame me for sticking to my Tivo and my Netflix? I think not. G.

  • Alton | July 5, 2012 7:39 PMReply

    This is the same kind of horseshit thinking that got Hollywood into the malaise it's in now. Every year, there are dozens of columns written about what "people want to see", when every year, it's the same thing: a good movie. Claiming that "tentpole enthusiasm is waning" when the Avengers became the third most successful movie of all time in just under a month is ludicrous. Avengers succeeded because it was a good movie, just like Moonrise Kingdom succeeded because it was a good movie. Meanwhile, R rated movies that adults are supposedly "craving" like That's My Boy and What To Expect When You're Expecting bombed, because they sucked.

    It's not a secret. Make a good movie, and it will do well, make a crappy movie, and it will do poorly. There are exceptions on both sides, sure, but the bottom line is, it's not a question of people being tired of subject matter or genre, it's a question of is the movie any good?

  • Natalie | July 6, 2012 6:13 PM

    Let me guess, you are mad because many grow ups dismissing your childhood fantasies.

  • Bobby | July 5, 2012 9:18 PM

    Spot on. You are absolutely correct.

  • fun times | July 5, 2012 5:18 PMReply

    It doesn't matter if the American audience for movies dwindles; Hollywood will now be catering to a new audience in China, who are considerably less sophisticated and experienced in being able to tell a good movie from a bad. At least for now.

  • illthoughts | July 5, 2012 5:04 PMReply

    I couldn't agree more. They rebooted Spidey five years or so after the last one. Everything else is a remake or it's utter nonsense like Battleship. Inception, Black Swan were somewhat original fare and made tons of cash but Hollywhite sees them as flashes in the pan. Beasts of the Southern Wild looks welcoming but yet it's in limited theatres and most of us will not be able to see it until DVD.

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