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07 January 2011

Why Hollywood keeps making crappy action flicks: Because they make money internationally, and American comedy doesn't always translate overseas.[More:]
But these days, international distribution drives the rationale of most of studio decision making and is at the basis of the economics, even of indies. If they don't get it overseas these days, the movie will be much much harder to get made, if not impossible. Period.
I'm not sure that I'm upset that they aren't making more "comedies" like The Hangover.
posted by octothorpe 07 January | 10:08
Well, I think it's interesting that the rest of the world blames Hollywood for exporting dumb action movies, but Hollywood blames the rest of the world for demanding dumb action movies.

So, I've done a bit of quick number crunching with Wikipedia's Top 10 movies of 2010 list. I've calculated what percentage of the Total Top Ten US or Worldwide gross each movie got. That tells us whether a movie did better in the US or Worldwide, relatively speaking.

Movies that did better in the US:
Toy Story 3 (14.8% of US gross, 14.4% of Worldwide gross)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (10.7% of US gross, 9.4% of Worldwide gross)
Iron Man 2 (11.1%, 8.4%)
Despicable Me (8.9%, 7.1%)
How to Train Your Dragon (7.7%, 6.7%)

Movies that did better worldwide:
Alice in Wonderland (11.9% of US gross, 13.9% of Worldwide)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (10.1%,12.2%)
Inception (10.4%,11.2%)
Shrek Forever After (8.5%, 10%)
Clash of the Titans (5.8%, 6.7%)

So, I don't really see a lot of evidence that dumb action movies do much better overseas than in the US. The numbers tend to be pretty close for each.

"Clash of the Titans" did better worldwide, but "Iron Man 2" better in the US. "Inception" and "Alice in Wonderland" seemed reasonably smart for blockbusters, but did better worldwide.

So, I'd like to see some evidence before believing it's overseas audiences that demand "crappy action flicks". It should be pretty easy to prove. Do a similar exercise to the above but with a much bigger sample size than ten movies, show that the dumb action movies do better internationally, and the smart movies do better in the US. But at a quick look, to me it looks like the level of liking for dumb action is pretty much the same.
posted by TheophileEscargot 07 January | 10:31
But is it that international audiences demand crappy action flicks or that there is just lesser demand for other movies, thus the studios default to the guaranteed moneymaker?

I don't think it reads like "international audiences are driving the action movie production machine" really. Hrm.
posted by gaspode 07 January | 10:51
Yeah, what gaspode said. I took the article to say those action flicks get made because other types of movies (like comedies) DON'T travel well, so the action flicks are what's left. The essay is about movies that aren't getting made because they're considered too US-centric.
posted by BoringPostcards 07 January | 10:59
But Shrek 3 did better overseas. TV shows like the Simpsons and Friends and Cheers have always done well overseas. Movies from Mel Brooks to the Marx Brothers have done well overseas for a long time. Look at the Asterix books: even puns can be translated with creativity from the translators.

I get pretty skeptical about bland claims about something that should be pretty easy to prove from data.
posted by TheophileEscargot 07 January | 11:54
the studio economic system is massively perversely fucked up. A movie that fails to make a profit is called a success and movies that only double their cost are failures.

Planet Money Story
posted by The Whelk 07 January | 13:35
Fridge cleaning... || criminals from the 20s in Australia