The film industry cannot base its hopes for expanding audiences on a diet of recycled ideas, says Leonard Klady.
One of the most oft-heard industry phrases contends that 'it's a product-driven marketplace'. The simple implication being that good movies will bring more people into the multiplex.
As with most truisms, it is inanely simplistic at best and patently absurd when subjected to intense scrutiny. Putting aside all notions of what constitutes a good movie, the product-driven perspective suggests the industry can strategically create peaks and valleys in film attendance. If that were the case, movie-goers would have reason to wonder why all movies are not good and the local cinema does not play to capacity audiences 365 days of the year.
The Hollywood majors and the exhibition chains that feed on their wares have promised a summer season of films the public will devour in unprecedented numbers. The basis for their claims is a release slate largely composed of sequels to such past popular fare as Spider-Man, Shrek, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Die Hard, Fantastic Four and ascending Ocean's. Essentially, the theme is that of a golden oldies compilation.
There is no reason to believe that any industry can evolve when its product line is largely informed by - if not dominated by - recycled material. While both film production and exhibition are pushing forward into a digital age that promises to revolutionise what we see and how we see it, the movies themselves have taken a step backward and raided the vaults for familiar stories. Internally, at least, there is a disconnect.
The media largely heralded the release of Spider-Man 3 and there are certainly aspects of the film and its distribution that are noteworthy. It is unquestionably a Herculean feat that the picture opened in every corner of the globe simultaneously. There is also a laudatory note to be extended to the marketing of the film that translated into four of every five movie tickets sold being bought for the webbed crusader during its opening weekend.
However, neither of these facts reflects a product-driven marketplace. There was unquestionably an immediate surge for one picture and it effectively deflated the commercial life of dozens of other movies. Two weeks later, a similarly devastating onslaught occurred with Shrek The Third and one can expect more of the same with the arrival of Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End.
An industry pundit once observed (with a dollop of humour) that what Hollywood really wanted to do was make a single picture that everyone would go to see. It is a prophecy that does not seem so bizarre today. Still, that statement was predicated on a movie that would have appeal that extended to all ages and the current manifestations of that manifest cinematic destiny are largely targeted at a small segment of the population.
The product-driven marketplace that appears to be so much of the fibre of movie-making cannot exist unless it expands the audience on more than an anecdotal basis. And it certainly will not thrive on a diet of movies of questionable nutritional value produced for the most indiscriminate segment of the audience.