Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Failing Box Office a Symptom of Bad Industry Leadership

Normally, during economic challenging times the entertainment industry continues to do very well. People need the diversion from their personal challenges. Yet, in the last decade, film and television projects have not had the ROI of previous years for three simple reasons.

* Diversification of venues
* Redundancy
* Lack of leadership 

The diversification and increase of venues gives the audiences more options, thereby increasing the competition for the audiences' attention. With every challenge comes opportunity. They are the flip side of the same coin. Yet, instead seeing the possibilities, studios are using it as an excuse for failure. The increasing venues also mean an increased need for content. However, instead of producing a couple of hundred low to medium budget films a year, studios have been gambling the whole pot on one role of the dice. The former spreads the economic risks among many projects and provides content for many venues, which decreases the gamble factor and increases the profitability margin for both the studio as well as the investors. The latter increases the failure rate and lowers profitability, while opening the door for competitors. The venues need content; they will get it from wherever they can.

The industry used to be about innovation and entertainment with 80% original projects and 20% remakes or rehashes. However, those numbers have been reverse. Instead of new films the SOP has become remaking, rehashing, and rerunning old television shows and film--good, bad or indifferent, it doesn't matter as long as someone else did it first it should be a safe bet. But following someone else' s lead means that the projects are always a day late and a dollar short.

Realistically, how many super hero movies to they think the audience will watch? How much gratuitous sex and violence can a film contain before it crosses the line into porn? How many animated features, which are little more than thinly veiled toy commercials, will parents sit through? Could that be why the July 4 box office receipts were down 44% from 2013 to 2014 even with the rainy weather? If it was because of the World Cup as some studio heads claim, why was June box office down 16%?

Thirdly, but more importantly the quality of the projects have become stagnant due to lack of leadership. In order for any company, but especially those industries that are so heavily dependent on the whims of the masses, to be successful the leaders must know their industry enough to know how to push the boundaries and have the courage to do take those risks. Front runners don't follow trends; they create them. That is the difference between Gone with the Wind and Transformers: Age of Distinction, which is latest of the super hero movies.

Early television was a new venue that became successful very quickly because the networks and studios were smart enough to bring on the people from film, vaudeville, and the theater, who knew what they were doing. They had track records for producing, directing, and acting in successful projects. The creative people created the projects; the bean counters followed their lead and took care of the financial details. However, the bean counters have been pushing out the innovative and creative leaders. In their little world of ledgers and spreadsheets, the numbers always add up the same. In accounting, two plus two always adds up to four. The reality is that people aren't so simple. They can't be summed up on a balance sheet. What worked once doesn't guarantee that it will even work once more. The failure of the leadership has been to keep the experts doing their jobs and to keep the budgets in perspective. Creative people don't always make good business people, nor are business oriented people always capable of seeing past the numbers. It is only by working together as a team that projects are successfully produced and make a profit. 



When promoting our Paranormal Thriller-Horror feature, Never Can Say Good-bye, I compared it to Ghost, Always, and What Dreams May Come. I was advised by a friend to change the comparison, because all three films were so old that no one in the industry remembers them. She advised that I update the list to more current projects so that the younger studio executives would be able identify with our concept. Her advice started me researching. However, with the exception of "The Others", there aren't any current movies that are comparable. Even then the only things Never Can Say Good-bye and The Others have in common are the ghost theme and the unique twist at the end. 



Part of the issue is that the leaders don't know their industry history. They don't know what has been done, so they don't know what can be done. In 1946, Howard Hughes produced and directed a western called, The Outlaws. Starring Jane Russell as the vamp Rio McDonald, Hughes created an immediate interest and a media flurry when he shelved the film for a year, claiming the censors said it was too racy to be released. By today's standards, the film would be considered tame. Most people think it was a dreadful movie, but it made history because of its presentation. John Carter on the other hand is an excellent movie that cost way too much, but it was horribly marketed. The marketing staff should have been fired along with the head of the studio. The lack of team work and fiscal responsibility turned what could have been very profitable venture into a financial disaster.

Until innovation, leadership, and team work once again become the standard in the industry, the audience will continue to look else where for their entertainment.

Love can be a blessing or a curse.
Have you ever met someone and suddenly felt love or hate? Did you wonder why? What if you had forgotten the reason? Would you want to remember if it could save you life? 

Never Can Say Good-bye is a paranormal thriler-horror that combines a traditional ghost story with unique plot twists.



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