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Comment: four New Year's resolutions for the film industry in 2017

Unlocking the youth audience and moving beyond the superhero glut are among resolutions the industry might have in mind this year.

The start of each year usually involves the swift abandonment of new year’s resolutions, which for me are mostly connected to a briefly determined resolve to get fitter, eat healthier and lose the mid-riff.

Given the latter keeps expanding every year, my personal resolutions clearly aren’t sticking, so in the interests of a less navel-gazing approach for 2017, here are a few resolutions that I’m sure most in the industry are already percolating in their minds.

I hope the sector can take it upon itself to be more resolute and determined than I am when it comes to eating more kale and getting my heart rate pumping above an at-rest pace.

In no particular order:

Unlock the youth audience

Yes, I recognise this is like saying, “Find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

But when I’m around nieces, nephews and godchildren during the holidays, ranging in age from teens to late-20s, and we discuss what they’re watching (and how they’re watching it), it’s rarely the films that we in the industry rate most highly - the films that travel the international festival circuit and receive the critical and arthouse seals of approval.

In fact, less and less does it seem to be films at all. When an outstanding picture such as Andrea Arnold’s American Honey isn’t making box-office waves with this group, there’s a missing link that urgently needs to be found, or rediscovered, because the industry must engage with this younger content-hungry generation.

It might alarm me when my 17-year-old niece shows me the latest YouTube craze at her high school (anyone heard of Filthy Frank?). But it also heartens me that she adores Japanese anime (she named her dog Ponyo) and wants to see as much in that genre as she can.

Trying to understand the viewing wants and needs of digital natives is already an industry obsession, but as the next generation of primary consumers, how to bring them into the fold should be an increasingly urgent priority.

Embrace diversity

In many ways, 2016 marked a sea change in industry attitudes towards diversity, but it is certain many still don’t view this as a crucial topic for their own businesses, whether that be in the realms of production, festivals or any other sector (and we in the media need to put our money where our mouth is in this regard as well).

It really is time to recognise a diverse industry that better reflects the make-up of wider society can only pay dividends across the board, from inclusiveness to opportunity to storytelling to audiences.

Hollywood, please move beyond the obsession with superheroes and nostalgic reboots

There is so much the studios get right with their franchise movies on the creative and marketing side, particularly in entrusting the keys to these tentpoles to smart young filmmakers such as Gareth Edwards, Taika Waititi, the Russo brothers and Rian Johnson.

Global box-office results for these mega-movies remain potent, but keep feeding the audience the same formula for too long and fatigue is bound to set in.

Surely it’s better to start taking risks again with the increasingly scarce middle-range projects while you have audiences on your side.

Be more flexible about windows

There are so many titles for which the rigid theatrical window just doesn’t make sense, and forcing distributors to stick to these in an age of downloads (and the aforementioned younger generations for whom piracy is not a taboo) seems short-sighted for all, especially since it is the independent distributors who suffer most.

Major US theatre chains have recently been less opposed than previously to the idea of a premium VoD service that could kick in as soon as 17 days after release, and this is just one idea being floated. Now is the time to come up with more flexible solutions for a rapidly changing world.

Happy 2017, everyone. I hope your new year is off to a flying start.

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