The Hollywood Mentality

November 21, 2011

Political economy


Gore Verbinski, director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, is known for his high budget epics. Recently, Disney greenlit a property to be directed by Verbinski at a whopping $215 million dollar budget (Goldberg 1). Disney had settled on this price after reducing the cost by 45 million dollars  (Bettinger 1). Would you believe that all of this money was set aside in an attempt to reboot the early-mid 1900s action hero franchise, The Lone Ranger? Honestly, who needs 215 million dollars (let alone 250 million dollars) to tell a story about a cowboy and his Native American compadre?

director Gore Verbinski

High budget films like this are often referred as ‘tentpole’ films- the studio(s) focus most of their time and money on a single film in hopes that said film gains blockbuster status, resulting in a high capital gain for the studios and their associates. And, of course, there is a possibility that the tentpole film can fail. Take this past summer’s Green Lantern. This Warner Bros. tentpole, which cost 200 million dollars, made a worldwide profit of roughly 220 million dollars after being in theaters for a little over three months (“Box office/business for ‘Green Lantern”” 1). A 20 million dollar gain in a little over 3 months is not much for a movie that was crafted on the notion that it would rake in much more.  It was a flop, a failure that was criticized by critics for its poor writing and execution. Who knows how much money went into the marketing campaign. I myself was in Los Angeles this past summer and promotion for Green Lantern was everywhere.  There was everything from large billboards to metro buses to Subway restaurant promos, all with Ryan Reynolds in his glowing green spandex encouraging you to see his new film.

Should we find it bothersome, at least to some degree, that the film industry operates by means of pumping millions of dollars into films, even though there is a good possibility that the film could easily fail? What does that say about our economy in general? (the film industry is a portion of our economy). In the case for Green Lantern, millions upon millions of dollars were wasted on a film that will probably not be remembered 5 years down the line. It’s kind of frightening that such egregious amounts of money are tossed around by the film industry with such ease. 200 million dollars could go such a long way in regards to providing food and drinkable water to a starving country, but it is instead blown on a star vehicle for Ryan Reynolds.

a promotional poster for the film "Green Lantern"

And, I am totally being hypocritical as I write this because I plan on working in the film industry once I get out of college. That’s why I was in Los Angeles. And yeah, I love the industry for a variety of reasons, but that still doesn’t mean I am not a bit disturbed by the whole thing either. I remember scanning a check into the computer while at the talent agency I worked for this summer. It was for $20,000, which was granted to my agency, for the film rights to a book that were sold to a film production company for $180,000. I asked an office worker what was so special about this property for it to be worth so much. When I was told it was a story about a cat in a library, I couldn’t help but smirk. I mean, for all I know, it could be a great story (the Marley and Me of cats, I guess some people would dig it). Still, Hollywood’s cinematic ventures are a bit laughable sometimes- “Yeah, we just bought a new property. Yeah, we are trying to bring it to the big screen. What’s it about? Oh, it’s about a cat that chills in a library”. What is even more laughable is the price Hollywood is willing to pay for these ventures, which brings us back to Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger. For all we know, I could be a great movie  (I mean, Johnny Depp is playing the Ranger’s Native American sidekick, Tonto, and the coveted role of the Ranger is the dude who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network). But man, how much is that gonna suck for those investors in case the film ends up in the Green Lantern club? Is the risk worth it?

Works Cited

Bettinger, Brendan. “Disney Will Not Make THE LONE RANGER with Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, and Gore Verbinski [UPDATED] .”Collider 13 Aug 2011. n.pag.Collider.com. Web. 20 Nov 2011. <http://collider.com/the-lone-ranger-movie-canceled/109181/&gt;.

“Box office / business for Green Lantern.” Internet Movie Databasen.pag. IMDb.com. Web. 20 Nov 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1133985/business&gt;.

Goldberg, Matt. “THE LONE RANGER Comes Back from the Brink; Expected to Begin Shooting in Early 2012.” Collder 23 Sep 2011. n.pag. Collider.com. Web. 20 Nov 2011. <http://collider.com/lone-ranger-shooting-early-2012/116567/&gt;.

Photo Works Cited

Gore Verbinski: http://www.beyondhollywood.com/uploads/2010/06/bioshock-movie-1.jpg

Green Lantern” Promo Poster: http://www.movienewz.com/wp-content/gallery/green-lantern-poster/green_lantern_movie_poster_01.jpg
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13 Comments on “The Hollywood Mentality”

  1. ymsyed Says:

    It’s cool to hear from someone who has actually had firsthand experience in the film industry. I agree with you, that some of the decisions that Hollywood makes can seem excessive, but as they say, hindsight is always 20-20. Had Green Lantern been a huge success, we would not be sitting here criticizing the huge amount of money that was spent to make it.

    In my opinion, it is all relative. While I personally do not see any reason it should take a quarter of a billion dollars to make a movie, the industry, which has been in business for decades, does. I’m sure (or at least I hope), that Disney knows what its doing when in green-lighted the production budget for The Lone Ranger. If I had to guess, there is probably countless individuals who did a ton of research that determined that it was worth the investment.

    However, I definitely agree with you that there is certainly a sense of decadence, with companies such as the one you mentioned spending countless dollars on absolutely crazy ideas (not to offend cats in libraries in any way).

  2. weinben Says:

    Film studios look at the money they put into each of their movies as an investment; productions with larger budgets are generally seen as safer risks, given that they generally are either the most established franchises, are about topics which guarantee a large audience and thus a large box office, or are made with the highest caliber talent (the best actors, directors, production teams, etc). Furthermore, if a studio heavily believes in the success of a quarter billion dollar film, they will promote it across the globe using every imaginable tactic to build rapport with movie goers all over to insure that the film has a built in audience before it premieres.
    Studios employee analysts to study the movie market and estimate with great accuracy the success of a film or its potential for large gains. These people also look into a film’s crossover ability and its potential for franchise status, which grants the future films a large budget and almost guaranteed success at theatres. Thus, when a studio puts one hundred million behind a product as opposed to a few million, they project that product has the highest ability to make all its money back and make huge profits.
    So, when Disney states its Lone Ranger movie will have a two hundred million dollar budget, they believe the movie is actually a fairly low risk project because it is almost guaranteed to be a success: it has a high profile and very commercially viable director, a superstar actor behind it, a new, up and coming star, and the production quality that a Disney movie is known for. In fact, just because Disney makes it, people assume the movie will be top notch. This is a very fair guess, given Disney is not only the most financially successful studio, but almost every one of its films are highly reviewed by critics.

  3. rfieds Says:

    It was interesting to hear the point of view of someone who is and plans on being in the film industry. I think that the choices that hollywood makes can sometimes spiral out of control in that the money spent on certain movies undoubtedly exceeds what should have been spent. However, these are decisions that Hollywood takes upon itself. It risks the chance of losing millions or the chance of making millions. While I think movies such as Green Lantern are complete wastes of money and time and are terrible decisions, it does not fall upon me rather it falls upon Hollywood itself. These decisions are decisions that firms have to make on daily basises. Just because we are dealing with hollywood does not mean that Hollywood is ethically wrong for spending money. Hollywood makes it decisions with the mindfulness that consequences are plausible. I agree that we should be speculative of the decisions that Hollywood makes, but we can also be speculative of other industries that are seemingly spending too much. Hollywood will obviously get a bad rap because of its reputation, but compulsive and wild spending are prevalent in other industries, not just the film industry. Furthermore, the film industry remains intact and is doing well, so why change it up when your still doing well?

  4. dhp27 Says:

    I also think it is very interesting that you had first hand experiences dealing with movie industry to see how some movies are handled. In my opinion I feel that movies need to spend that kind of money to make certain movies sucessful. In the example of the Green Lantern, I think they definitely needed to spend that kind of money. When I saw the movie, I wasn’t expecting an oscar worthy movie with excellent writing. I was looking to see cool animations and brilliant action scenes. While I personally didn’t think the movie was a huge hit, I got what I expected and was happy with the result. Even if the move only made 20 million dollars in profit, the fact is, is that they still made 220 million dollars. That is a lot of money.

    The bottom line is that some movies aren’t just about the writing anymore. People go to see movies sometimes to see the interesting images presented and want to be wowed by the cool technology. Do others agree?

  5. nasearc Says:

    I also am planning on entering the film industry and I also have experience in this industry as I was an intern on the set of a TV show this summer. As said by dhp27, the green lantern still profited 20 million dollars, and believe me I saw this movie, it was awful. The big production studios do not risk a lot when they invest in movies like these because most of the time they make millions of dollars in profit. So I would say that it is worth the risk because there isn’t that much of a risk of loosing money. However in response to dhp27 said I would say that movies were never just about writing.

    Movies have always intrigued people because of multiple aspects, the writing, the directing, the acting and many other things that go into a movie. However in the recent decades technology has added many new aspects to movies. Although computer graphics and three demensional effects attract a lot of people to movies, the artistic aspects of movies are still appreciated by many. Many indie films and small budget films made by big production companies stray away from using expensive graphics and are still able to make money. Although technology seems to be taking over the film industry, small budget films, such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, which made an estimated 20 million dollars profit on a 30 million dollar budget, are still able to intrigue audiences and make millions of dollars.

  6. JustinMandeltort Says:

    Hollywood is a strange, strange place. In response to dhp, the Green Lantern was just an awful movie. By brilliant actions scenes I hope you mean very crappy action scenes performed by Ryan Reynolds in tights. The movie didn’t even deserve to make twenty million dollars, they should of paid me to see that movie. All the effort and resources put into the making of this movie is just silly and makes no sense to me. It was a poor script, with bad acting and just a lot of special effects. The Green Latern is reminiscent of many, many movies that are being put out these days. Big budget movies with tons of advertising and promoting seem to be typical these days.

  7. ayablan Says:

    Nowadays, everyone knows that the film industry is more about making money than about telling thought provoking and critically acclaimed stories. Going to the theater has become more about seeing movies that will get our adrenaline pumping and our legs shaking, not about seeing films that will make us question a controversial topic in todays society or the kind of lifestyle we lead. It is true that independent films or even the occasional high budget film differs from the current norm to make us actually think about what we just saw, but unfortunately more often than not, it features a mega-movie star who is only doing it for the chance at that coveted Oscar nomination. I am not one to say that I’m against the current state of the film industry, as I do enjoy the heart pumping, explosion filled action flicks. It reminds me of when my father used to take me to the movies when I was a kid and my favorite characters and scenes would always give me the chills.
    I will admit, however, that when it comes to the massive budgets spent on certain films, I do not think it calls for such insane spending. I understand that this is highly unlikely because studios will always rely on the fact that eventually they will hit that mark and release a blockbuster. It is sad to think that this money could be going to help starving children. This is really something I never considered, but to be brutally honest, it is just the nature of the business. As long as these studios continue to make money and remain in business, they will continue to throw unfathomable amounts of money at ridiculous titles like “The Lone Ranger” and “Green Lantern.” I believe that the best outlook is to go just go to the theater for the sole purpose of enjoying the experience. There is nothing we can do about the money spent on these movies, except ignore the fact that it is done so that rich executives can become richer.

  8. Matthew Vlasic Says:

    I find it pretty insane that movies are becoming such big productions these days. The amount of money invested in the film industry is incredible, but one has to realize that this is a business just as any other. Yes, Hollywood is a gossip-oriented place focused on good looks, sexiness, wealth and outward forms of expression, but it is an industry and a big one at that. I don’t personally support these gigantic budgets, but as the commenter before said, they are making profit and people will not cease to make these big production films as long as they’re bank accounts are gaining zeros at the end of the numbers.

    It is very unfortunate that we support these movies and this entertainment with our attendance. As you said, the money could be going to much better places. This kind of thing relates to the whole NBA saga, where the extremely rich players and the owners are fighting for millions of dollars because they are trying to pay off the mortgages to their multi-million dollar estates and trying to buy more Phantoms, R8s and other things to up their image and live to the max. Hollywood is also a place of excessiveness and unfortunately this is just how our world is. People who are deserving don’t get support, but instead we support NBA players by going to games or these celebrities by going to their overhyped and over-budgeted films. It is sad that our world is like this, but it’s the way things are. We need to take steps in the right direction to help those in need and we need to limit our support for those who are abusing their wealth, high status and fame to just gain more and more of it (celebrities, NBA players and so on).

  9. jsimon99 Says:

    Unfortunately this is the way our society works today. All people care about is money. People will do whatever it takes to make it to the top and be the best. People will do whatever it takes to have power and to have a reputation. That is why these big film companies spend all this money on “hopefully” big name movies because they know with all the big name actors, actresses, directors, and producers, come a lot of money and a good reputation. In the end, this is all Hollywood is worried about. Yes they are worried about satisfaction from the audience but money comes along with that satisfaction when making movies. Today we live in a society that is self-centered and seems to act as if it is survival of the fittest. The movie companies are just out there to make the most creative and best movies possible. They are not worried about how much money they spend when it can sometimes be put to use for better things, especially when a movie does not do very well. We live in a capitalist society where people can make and spend as much money as they want and sometimes it is unfair on how much Hollywood spends on movies even if they don’t turn out well, but it does not look like it will change anytime soon.

  10. luniho Says:

    I thought that this discussion of the film industry was interesting; the usage of insider terms like “tentpole films” helped bring relevance to the topic at hand. I think the amount of money allocated for movies is ridiculous; I think that the concepts introduced by John Rawls appear relevant here. In a society that offered the greatest benefit to those most disadvantaged, it seems like there would be a better use for the millions of dollar that go into movies like the flop The Green Lantern. As he believed that every person ought to have an equal right to the most liberty possible considering a similar state for others, this money could go towards promotion of proper nutrition in inner city areas or improvement in public school systems. The use of this money in such a frivolous manner flies in the face of Rawl’s views.

  11. aclieb Says:

    I remember hearing how this movie was killed before production and I had no idea it was back on until I read this post and googled it. I’m really excited to see it’s back on, but I digress. I do think making these huge, overpriced, blockbuster films are worth the risk. When I think of big movie flops I think of Pearl Harbor and Waterworld. I don’t know why, but those are the first two that come into my mind. Yes these movies made no where near how much money projected and they received poor reviews but at the same time they weren’t as big as a dud as people may think. First of all, as goofy as it sounds, some movies are remembered more because they were flops. I had only heard of Waterworld because it was a flop and then I decided to see it. Also, I know I’ve seen Waterworld on HBO or Showtime a bunch of times and Pearl Harbor is always playing on some sort of movie channel.
    It’s impossible to know which films will be huge and which will flop. I think the movies that turn out to be huge will outweigh or at the very least balance out the flops. So from the movie studio’s perspective, I say it is worth it.

  12. adamstillman2011 Says:

    I think that the risk of spending all of this money on films is worth it. If you think about it often times the expensive movies involve a lot of technology. This results in production companies and studios hiring people to work the tech crews and make the special affects. These movies employ many people as actors, camera crews, make up, costumes, and other random jobs. The movie industry keeps the Hollywood economy afloat and it puts people to work. As long as the movie doesn’t completely bomb I think the risk is worth it. Even if the movie does bomb it still put people to work for a few years so in the end it did have some benefit, even if it wasn’t worth your ten dollars at the box office.

  13. goldman13 Says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that today’s society is almost completely infiltrated by greed and a desire for money, AND there is nothing wrong with it. The job of agency executives, screenwriters, producers and directors is to create movies that generate capital. Of course, I’m sure that these individuals have personal goals; perhaps they want to make a highly controversial film that will change lives or make movies that expose an issue in a third world country. Whether that means investing 215 million into a movie to try and create a billion dollar franchise, or buying book rights that will most likely never make it to the big screen, these professionals are doing their jobs, and don’t deserve scrutiny for such.

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