Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

More Hollywood, Please

Posted by hyperpat on March 17, 2008

Hollywood needs to make a lot more movies. To which you say “I’m already drowning in them, I can’t keep up!” And if you just look at the total number of movies that are made, you’d probably be right.

But consider this: I typically watch about two movies a week on TV (I watch very little else except House). Over a year’s time, that adds up to a hundred flicks. Does Hollywood make that many in a year? Sure. But not the kind I like. I want good, well acted movies, that have a plot line that’s at least a little different from the last 50 they made in that particular genre, have decent production values, intelligent dialogue, characters I can relate to, no obvious factual boners, and in a genre that I like (i.e, I almost never watch what passes for ‘horror’ movies today, ditto most of the mindless comedies). Given the number of genres (Western, science fiction, romance, comedy, mystery, horror, drama, historical, animated, etc.) the number made in any one genre is not that great. Applying Sturgeon’s law (90% of everything is crap) to those that do fall within genres I will watch, and the number of new movies made in a year that I’ll will watch with satisfaction is perhaps 10. Clearly this leaves a large gap, which up to now I’ve had to fill with watching the better movies of the past, sometimes multiple times. This situation can’t continue forever – eventually (like now!) I’ll run out of decent older movies to watch. Worse, all the TV stations that specialize in movies seem to think that I want to watch the same movie 27 times in one month before they will deign to put a new movie into the lineup, which often leaves me with absolutely nothing to watch on a particular night (Nope, seen that one already; nope, that’s one’s terrible; nope, that one’s in a genre I don’t watch as it doesn’t interest me; etc, etc, etc.) As I hate commercials interrupting a movie, this limits my choices even more to those channels that show movies without them.

Now I’m probably fairly typical in terms of my total movie consumption, though other people will probably prefer movies I won’t touch – which is fine, everyone has their own tastes. Hollywood should be aware that there is a demand which they are not satisfying, and which should translate into more profits for them. But there’s a problem. Say they actually produced 10 times as many movies in a year than they do today (assuming they could find enough actors, writers, producers, cameramen, stuntmen, grips and what have you), how are they going to make money off of them? Right now, most movies are expected to at least come close to making back the costs at the first-run movie theater, with (hopefully) some chance at real profits from overseas and DVD sales. This requires enough theater screens to actually show all these movies, and an audience willing to shell out 10+ dollars for every movie they see in the theater. I don’t think these exist. Some other means of distribution needs to be found that pays real dollars to the studios. Pay-per-View and Video-on-Demand has started to fill some of this, but right now this is pretty much limited to movies that have just finished their theater run. Why not open up their entire catalogue to the stay-at-home movie watcher? Or for that matter, put the catalogue on the internet, and let people download what they want without clogging up the limited bandwidth available to satellites and cable networks (or course, this would then clog up the internet pipes – let’s build that high speed pathway out to the final home connection!). If they can get enough people to go the Pay-per-View route, they can probably make more money than in first-run movie theaters and still keep the price down to something the average viewer can afford (like $3-4 per new movie, maybe $2-3 per for older ones).

Of course, one of the other options Hollywood could choose is to quite making nine bad movies out of ten, which would give them more than enough material to satisfy the movie demand. But that will never happen.

4 Responses to “More Hollywood, Please”

  1. Peter said

    What a sad day. The Great One – A.C Clarke has left us. Here I am in my mid-40’s, and I am just finishing up his Rama series. He will be missed

  2. hyperpat said

    The first Clarke I ever read was Against the Fall of Night, and I still think it may be one of his best works (I’ve never been able to decide if The City and the Stars, the rewrite, is better or worse than the original). But Clarke’s influence has been enormous, and not just on sf fans and writers. The 2001: A Space Odyssey movie probably did more to awaken the general populace to the potential of space travel than anything else ever written or shot; it’s one of those movies that I can watch again and again, and The Blue Danube waltz is forever attached in my mind to this movie. If Hollywood could make all of its movies of this caliber, I wouldn’t have to worry about finding something to watch (just to relate this to the original post).

    Two works of his that are rarely mentioned, but I think should be: Earthlight and A Fall of Moondust. Clarke was very much a writer in the Wells/Stapledon tradition, with much of his work concentrating on where mankind was headed rather than being grand adventure stories, but these two works have more of that ‘adventure’ feel than was typical for him.

    His death leaves me with great sadness. Now all of the first trio of grandmasters are gone, and with their passing sf is left with a hole: that great ‘sense of wonder’ seems diminished, and perhaps sf will never fully recover that sense again.

  3. fencer said

    I was never a big reader of Clarke’s, although I loved that short story, The Nine Billion Names of God. (Always more of a Robert Silverberg fan, not sure what that says.)

    Anyway, I wanted to comment on your post about movie DVD’s. I’m not sure whether it’s the chain movie stores who refuse to bring in any other titles but the most popular, but I’ve noticed the dearth of watchable titles too. I don’t know how many horrow movies there are, but they must be cheap to make… why do people want to watch Saw XXIV or whatever?


  4. hyperpat said

    Of Clarke’s short stories, my favorite has always been The Star. More commentary and emotion packed into those few pages than most novels even think about having.

    As far as Saw XXIV, there does seem to be some kind of audience for these things, enough, anyway, for the studios to continue to make money on them. Of course, that’s also a function how much they spend to make it, and by the fourth sequel, what they spend is probably a tenth of the first movie’s budget – and it shows. What that says about those who continue to watch the nth sequel, well, let’s just say there’s not much brainpower there.

    But I find it very annoying that these studio’s can’t think to take a walk back through their vaults and pick out at least the good ones to transfer to DVD, before the film/tape totally deteriorates. They almost lost the excellent Becket (O’Toole, Burton) and LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven this way. And they really should think about promoting these older movies on the TV, especially as an On-Demand type thing, with a fee set for enough to cover their transfer costs and perhaps a little for profit. They might be very surprised at the viewing numbers.

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