For a year when “bailout” and “layoff” became buzzwords in everyday conversation there was good news in Hollywood.
Attendance at U.S. theatres actually increased by five per cent in 2009 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 buzzword 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 of the 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.”