Over the weekend, I read an interesting article in the LA Times about how studios are currently shuffling leadership around as they attempt to adjust to the declining revenues of films in theatres. The explanation that was given was that the business model of the film industry is changing. The only “successful” movies on the big screen are the blockbuster tentpoles; the previous mid-market movies just are not succeeding in the theatres (although they do well on the smaller screen). The other “success” are the very low budget movies, but it is easy to make money on those with a modest success.
This is a clear demonstration of being careful what you wish for, combined with not understanding the market. First, we have been pushing the quality of televisions up and up. We had HD, and UHD, and 4K, and even more. So for stories that are more slice of life, non-special effects, stories, why do I need to go to the theatre to see them. Further, I think filmmakers and actors are discovering that the 2-3 hour movie is limiting, and a story can be told with more depth of character as a 10 episode limited miniseries (which is also why you’re seeing more sequelitis).
So what will succeed?
Blockbusters work for a number of reasons: first, you need the big screen for the spectacle, the sound, and most importantly, the shared experience. If you are watching something where the mood of the audience will feed into the reaction, it works better when you watch surrounded by people.
What else? One word: Live.
Broadway musicals are growing because the live experience is different every time, it is a shared experience, and it is something that cannot be duplicated in the living room. “Live on Film”, such as the limited one-or-two time broadcasts of shows, can also be successful because of the limits. Live is why professional sports remain successful: the shared live experience is unique, and time sensitive.
Could this be why many big name studies have gotten into the Broadway show business?