-- Hosea Ballou
The idea that Hollywood can be so bottom-line obsessed, simply using a formula to determine at what point the profits no longer outweigh the budgets, flies in the face of the idea of art. The schism between the studio heads, classic CEO-types whose only concern is profitability, and the cast and crew of movies who are genuinely in it to entertain, has never been wider. I'm even including the sequels I'm railing against in the sample size, because they're either small enough productions that the cast and crew just need a paycheck, or if they're big budget sequels, interviews tend to reveal a naiveté about the film they're making that absolves them in my mind.
The blame lies as equally with the studios as it does with us, the movie-goers. I'm guilty of it as well, waiting in line at the midnight release for each Matrix sequel, blindly hoping that they'd always intended to make these two convoluted sequels to their original masterpiece, just as Star Wars fans convinced themselves that George Lucas always intended to make prequels (he didn't). But as moviegoers, I'm not nearly as forgiving of our naiveté. The filmmakers have the benefit of tabula rasa, and empty canvas their mind fills with a worthwhile product. We have early reviews (or lack thereof; always a red flag) and uninspiring trailers to warn us. We should know better at this point.
Even as Disney acquires Pixar and Marvel, seemingly attempting to corner the market on derivative sequels, there is hope. Some enterprising minds are entering the game, such as Megan Ellison and her Annapurna Pictures, whose mission statement is, "produce sophisticated, high-quality films that might otherwise be deemed risky by contemporary Hollywood studios". Reading their list of produced movies, they've more or less delivered on that promise. The cynical side of me suggests that this is just more of the same thinking; a finance-minded executive who simply sees a market inefficiency and is aiming to carve out a niche. But if it results in higher quality, original movies, doesn't everybody win? Hollywood gets back to being a mecca for artistry, by hook or by crook, movie audiences get better entertainment, and my faith in humanity is restored by showing me that good, creative movies can still turn a profit.