In a year when “bailout” and “layoff” became buzzwords in everyday conversation there was good news in Hollywood. Attendance at US theatres actually increased by five percent and research firm OTX reported consumers ranked movie going as the best value for their entertainment dollar.
That’s the good news, but even though movie money doesn’t seem to be in short supply it isn’t business as usual in Tinsel Town. The average moviegoer, however, probably won’t see a difference.
“In the end I don’t think the consumers will notice the difference at all,” says MovieCityNews.com editor David Poland. “It’s gotten to the point that there are so many studio movies in any given week there is often a lost movie or two. Customers may find it a little less frustrating [next year] because there may be fewer titles being advertised and fewer titles that make them think ‘I wish I could have gone to that if it was still in the theatres three weeks after I first saw the ad.’”
The business, however, is changing. The buzzwords of the biz is “risk displacement.”
“My sense isn’t that lower budget or riskier movies will dry up; instead, I see the big budget and low budget films continuing, but the middle dropping out,” says Cameron Bailey, Co-Director, Toronto International Film Festival. “Paramount’s recently announced start-up of an ultra low-budget digital division on the heels of Paranormal Activity is one sign. Avatar is another. What I think we’ll see much less of is the $15-$40 million star-driven drama, the kind that wins awards.”
2009 confirmed Bailey’s theory. Among the victims of downsizing were the $30 million Cate Blanchett vehicle Indian Summer and a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, starring Anthony Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts and Keira Knightley.
“I don’t like that hollowing out sound I hear in the industry,” says Bailey, “and I hope it’s just a stage in an ongoing evolution.”
Maple Pictures Co-President Brad Pelman has a more sanguine viewpoint. “The economic conditions will be challenging for film makers to get their projects financed, but as can be expected, the cream will rise to the top, and the best projects will always stand out. This year’s crop includes Precious and The Hurt Locker, two films Maple distributes in Canada. Our team will continue to focus on building relationships with film makers who clearly understand the end game of this business: entertaining the audience.”
SIDEBAR: MOVIES TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR IN 2010
Nightmare on Elm Street: Robert Englund is out but that’s OK, Watchmen’s creepy Jackie Earle Haley is in.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: The third part of the series and one of only two guaranteed hits of the year.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I: Harry, Ron, and Hermione star in the year’s other guaranteed hit, the penultimate Potter movie.
The Three Stooges: Not a biopic, ynuk, ynuk, ynuk, it’s a brand new Three Stooges comedy starring Jim Carrey, Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro.
Grown Ups: Former SNLers Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade play reunited high school friends.
The Last Airbender: Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel stars in this M. Night Shyamalan film based on the popular anime television series.
The Book of Eli: Based on the trailer this Denzel Washington movie will be the coolest action picture of 2010.
Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp in what should be the trippiest fairy tale of the year.
Inception: “A contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind” is Christopher Nolan’s description of his first post Dark Knight project. Cool.
Date Night: TV’s funniest actors, Steve Carell and Tina Fey, team-up for this story of a romantic night out gone wrong.