So The Lion King Topped the Box Office Again

What does this prove? That a 17 year old movie is better than the current offerings? That it’s actually better in 3-D than we ever thought possible? Or is it that because it’s aimed at families, you know they’re selling more than two tickets at a time?

It’s hard to say. It would be nice to think that The Lion King succeeded because it is a really good movie that outshines whatever was offered this past weekend. However, the truth is probably not near as exciting.

First of all, at 17 years, The Lion King is bordering on nostalgia at this point. I was 10 when it came out and I’m 26 now (thanks to the ever-present international delay, the numbers don’t quite add up). So it is surely ripe for claiming a whole new generation of kids and re-capturing their parents.

Secondly, the box office really does mean squat in the grand scheme of things. Saying that such and such a film is top of the box office is really only saying that it sold more tickets than the others. It is not a reliable indicator of tastes or indeed quality as The Smurfs so perfectly illustrated.

Naturally this will be trumpeted by various marketing departments as a sign of the Lion King’s strength and quality as a film. Yes, this might be true, however it is alarming that we are not seeing a re-issue of other films from the same period. While they obviously do not meet the same lofty status of The Lion King, they were certainly just as popular at the time and have not dated as badly as other films the same age.

Couldn’t all the effort that was put into 3-D-izing The Lion King have been better used to clean up and re-issue some other films?

The point is that the Disney Renaissance films were all spectacular when they were released and they are still spectacular now. Making them 3-D is not going to increase their appeal. I’m willing to hazard a guess a that most people simply wanted to see it on the big screen again and nothing more.

 

Is Animation Really Killing the Movie Business?

Exhibit A, this quote from an article by Mark Harris in GQ Magazine (I profusely apologise, I would never consider linking  to, much less blogging about, an article from such a rag unless it is under exceptional  circumstances similar to this one) which came my way via Marco Arment.

As recently as 1993, three kid-oriented genres—animated movies, movies based on comic books, and movies based on children’s books—represented a relatively small percentage of the overall film marketplace; that year they grossed about $400 million combined (thanks mostly to Mrs. Doubtfire) and owned just a single spot in the year’s top ten. In 2010, those same three genres took in more than $3 billion and by December represented eight of the year’s top nine grossers.

Let me posit something: That’s bad. We can all acknowledge that the world of American movies is an infinitely richer place because of Pixar and that the very best comic-book movies, from Iron Man to The Dark Knight, are pretty terrific, but the degree to which children’s genres have colonized the entire movie industry goes beyond overkill. More often than not, these collectively infantilizing movies are breeding an audience—not to mention a generation of future filmmakers and studio executives—who will grow up believing that movies aimed at adults should be considered a peculiar and antique art. Like books. Or plays.

Where to start? If you have read the rest of the article, you will know that is a passionate lament about the slide of the quality of Hollywood films over the last 40 years or so. He talks about the seismic shift towards more family friendly films and how they are strangling the mature films that he decries as a rare find today.

In my (admittedly) hard-headed Irish opinion, it’s a complete load of bullshit that smacks of both desperation and a complete misunderstanding of the facts. He focuses solely on content and uses that as a crutch for why films made for adults are becoming more and more scarce. Harris bemoans the fact that R rated films have to be made on a relatively small budget. He goes so far as to say:

The economic pressures the studios are facing aren’t just an excuse—they’re real. Movie-ticket sales may be reasonably strong, but any number of economic forces are conspiring against the production of adult dramas. They don’t generally have the kind of repeat-viewing appeal that would make them DVD smashes. They often end up with an R rating, which puts a ceiling on their earning capacity and makes a modest budget absolutely essential. Oscar nominations or even wins can no longer be relied upon to goose a quality film’s revenues.

The kicker to the entire article is that it seems like one big advertisement for Hollywood, in particular the large studios.

Studios make movies for people who go to the movies, and the fact is, we don’t go anymore

Duh, no shit sherlock. It costs a fortune to do that and the films are generally not that great. Besides, I can’t watch the film in my underwear or drink beer at the cinema, which I can at home (not that I actually do, but it’s nice to have the option).

Harris completely (and I mean utterly) misses the point, which is that animated films have become successful over the last number of years because they’re great films, and their suitable for all ages too!

He fails to mention the seismic shift in cinema over the last number of years, namely the rise of the internet and the total failure of Hollywood studios to adapt a new business model. They keep spending tons of money suing fans that completely pisses them off and make life difficult for them to enjoy what they love.

Harris’ position is that because animated films are successful at the box office, they will eventually push out “real”  films that are ultimately less profitable to make because they are appropriate for a smaller audience. As any business student can tell you, that’s basic economics. If a film is suitable for a larger audience, it will of course, make more money. That is a simple fact that has been true since the dawn of time. The only difference is now there are many more animated and family-friendly films being made than in the past. A fact that zooms straight over Harris’ head.

Overall, this article was not worth blogging about because I have only served to call attention to it and the nonsense contained within. The only reason I do so is because it is featured in GQ magazine, one that I can only presume people other than myself read and respect. As a result, I cannot allow such readers to believe that what the article says is the truth.

Animation is an artform for filmmaking. It does not purport to usurp the crown of the classic American dramatic film. It is also not guilty of ‘gaming the system’. many have tried that game and failed miserably. Hollywood as an industry is in a time of great upheaval and those who do not adapt are getting left behind. it is these tragglers that Mark Harris is lamenting, because there continues to be plenty of fantastic, dramatic films being made outside the system, and their often much better for it. This includes animation, the supposed slayer of the industry.

So don’t blame animation and children’s films for the demise of Hollywood, it’s their own damned fault.

 

The economic pressures the studios are facing aren’t just an excuse—they’re real. Movie-ticket sales may be reasonably strong, but any number of economic forces are conspiring against the production of adult dramas. They don’t generally have the kind of repeat-viewing appeal that would make them DVD smashes. They often end up with an R rating, which puts a ceiling on their earning capacity and makes a modest budget absolutely essential. Oscar nominations or even wins can no longer be relied upon to goose a quality film’s revenues.

The economic pressures the studios are facing aren’t just an excuse—they’re real. Movie-ticket sales may be reasonably strong, but any number of economic forces are conspiring against the production of adult dramas. They don’t generally have the kind of repeat-viewing appeal that would make them DVD smashes. They often end up with an R rating, which puts a ceiling on their earning capacity and makes a modest budget absolutely essential. Oscar nominations or even wins can no longer be relied upon to goose a quality film’s revenues.

Toy Story 3's Record-Breaking Box Office Haul

It hit the news over the weekend that Toy Story 3 is now the highest-grossing film of all time, with $920 million overall in the bank. While it is commendable that it has achieved this level of success, all is not what it appears to be.

There is a fairly comprehensive article over on Forbes.com that establishes how TS3, as successful as it is, has not quite broken the ultimate record for an animated film. That belongs to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which, when adjusted for inflation, raked in over $800 million at the US box office alone!

Of course there are a number of factors at play besides inflation. For one, ticket prices for 3-D movies have resulted in higher gross figures from smaller audiences. The latest Shrek film was blatantly pulling off this trick by having a higher gross than its predecessor with only half the audience.

Besides that, studios these days make more money from the likes of DVDs, broadcast rights, merchandise, etc. than back in the 30s, when a film had to make all its profit at the box office if its financiers stood any chance of keeping their shirt.

The best part of all this hubbub, is that the focus will once again be on animated films and their usual success. This can only be good for the artform as a whole and will hopefully encourage others to take a risk on an animated feature.