The movie business may be coming off a record year at the box office with $38.6 billion in revenue in 2016, but underneath those numbers is a film industry with some systemic problems. At the 2017 edition of CinemaCon, the annual trade show in Las Vegas where the studios and exhibitors get together to pat each other on the back, there’s no hiding from the fact that the movies face plenty of uncertainty.
Disney head of distribution Dave Hollis noted that movie attendance has actually fallen during the past decade, from 1.4 billion tickets to 1.32 billion last year. “Attendance has been more or less flat — not really changing — in the last handful of years,” Hollis said during a state of the industry presentation. “The media environment that we all participate in and that our consumers participate in continues to change rapidly. Our consumers, as you know well, have more choices before them than ever before.”
Here are four other problems that the industry needs to fix as soon as possible if it wants to help turn things around.
Attendance among moviegoers aged 18 to 24 has declined in recent years, Hollis noted in his presentation, but there’s evidence to suggest this trend can be at least partially reversed. For example, some 40 percent of millennials say they go to the theater more often when there are reclining seats. This highlights the need for exhibitors to invest in theatrical experiences that include premium features like large, comfortable chairs, immersive sound, large-format screens, alcoholic beverages, and reserved ticketing.
Being Smarter About Remakes
As “Blair Witch” producer Keith Calder recently explained, remakes can feel like “riding a sled downhill,” while original films often resemble “pushing a boulder uphill.” Why? It’s much easier to attract audiences to see a movie when they’re already familiar with an existing property. While remakes are never going away, studios need to be smarter about which properties are worth resurrecting. Warner Bros.’ $25 million remake of the 1970s California Highway Patrol TV hit “Chips,” for example, took in less than $8 million during its opening weekend, in part because the underlying intellectual property had no real value for audiences. There’s also the example of Disney’s 2013 remake of “The Lone Ranger,” which had a $225 million budget but failed to crack $90 million at the domestic box office, likely because the original film was made in the 1950s.
Getting Real About First-Run Home Viewing
The Screening Room, Napster co-founder Sean Parker’s proposed day-and-date premium VOD service that would charge $50 fee for watching new releases, failed to take off at CinemaCon last year. But it’s clear that studios are leaning toward making new releases available for VOD consumption earlier than 90-days after their theatrical debut. The technology required to bring first-run movies into living rooms has been around for a while now, and with companies like Netflix already bypassing cinemas altogether, it’s only a matter of time before new titles can be streamed at home for a higher rental price. The sooner the studios accept that it’s time to innovate in this area, the better.
Stop Whitewashing Casting
“Ghost in the Shell” opens Friday and is one of the most highly-anticipated action films of 2017, but the movie has faced a backlash for casting Scarlett Johansson opposite Japanese actors in a story set in Japan. It wasn’t the first time that Hollywood has been accused of whitewashing, nor was it the last. Netflix is currently under fire for casting white actors in nearly every role for “ Death Note,” Adam Wingard’s horror movie based on the manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba. There’s even an online petition boycotting the movie. If Hollywood wants to avoid this kind of criticism in the future, it needs to put an end to whitewashed casting, once and for all.