So you’re young, and you like movies.
Well, most everyone likes movies. But let’s say you like movies more than the average person. You’re a bit of a film buff. A fan. Great! Me too. It’s wonderful to see young people taking a marked interested in films.
Now, for the sake of my arguments, let’s establish that “young” is totally subjective. The truth is that a lot of the things I’m going to talk about in this series apply to movie fans in a broad range of ages and demographics. But I think good habits and practices are best established sooner rather than later. Also, a lot of what I’m going to talk about will also presume that you’re fairly tech-savvy. That’s clearly not limited to the young, but if you’re a young movie fan reading this article on Fandom, I’m willing to bet you know your way around the web.
In this multi-part series, I’d like to talk about ways in which young fans can get more out of their movie-watching experiences. I’m not saying that the way young people watch movies is wrong, though I do believe there are better ways to watch. And that’s what I’m going to explore here. In this first part, let’s talk about the current state of cinema and how you can get the most out of it.
How the Mid-Budget Movie Disappeared
I hear a lot of concerns from young fans about the current state of cinema. I frequently hear that genres have stagnated. Horror is stuck on zombies, demons, torture, and hauntings. Superhero movies are all the same, and there are too many of them. Everything is a sequel or a remake, and original movies are disappearing. So on and so forth. Some of it’s true — but only if you limit yourself to what’s heavily marketed to you in theaters, on TV, or on YouTube.
In the theaters, you’ll get your blockbusters and event pictures — movies that can take hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) to get made and marketed. You’ll get your low-budget stuff (movies that get made for $20 million or less). But for many economic reasons (full disclosure: I’m neither an economist nor an industry analyst), the mid-budget movie, the movie that gets made for $20 to $50 million, is endangered.
Sure, they still get made, and some are very successful, but fewer mid-budget pictures are being made now. Why? A studio’s return on their investment can be much higher when they make huge blockbusters. Making the next Avengers or Jurassic movie can be risky, but it isn’t the same kind of risk studios take when they make original, mid-budgeted movies. We already know Marvel movies and the next Jurassic are gonna make a ton of money. But on the other side of the coin, if a company like Blumhouse can take small risks and make horror movies for only a few million bucks that make $160 million worldwide, that’s great! The only trouble with that is it provides less incentive for studios to make bigger horror movies like The Cabin in the Woods, a great mid-budget movie that wasn’t a financial hit. This is happening in the comedy genre as well, but to a lesser extent.
It’s harder these days for studios to make big money on mid-budget movies because people don’t go to the movies like they used to. Yes, technically, big movies today make more money than they ever have before. But that’s due to inflation and a whole bunch of economic reasons I’m not comfortable talking about. But adjust the gross for the original Star Wars for inflation and it blows The Force Awakens out of the water. The reason? People just don’t flock to the theaters like they used to. Going to the theater can get expensive, especially if you’re seeing a 3D or IMAX showing. There are more types of entertainment now than there were back when Star Wars came out in 1977. And of course, people can steal movies online or just wait three or four months to rent or buy them.
It’s Your Responsibility
We live in a time when more movies are being made and released than ever before. You’ll never see or hear about most of them, but it’s important to know that they’re out there. We live in a time of extreme cinematic convenience, in which we have unprecedented access to an unthinkable number of movies.
But the current cinematic landscape and state of the economy have changed things. The mid-budget movie may be in decline, but if you want more original movies, genre movies that don’t follow popular trends, or movies to help you catch a break from the cacophony of blockbuster cinema, they’re all out there. But these movies either aren’t in the theaters or only show up in relatively few theaters for only a couple of weekends at most.
Finding the movies you want is on you. It’s your responsibility. And in this age where so many good movies are outright ignored or dismissed, we should talk about how and why you should find them.
But that’s a topic for next week’s installment of The Young Fan’s Guide to Cinema.