Last month, The Northman entered theaters with critical acclaim and solid audience satisfaction. An R-rated original tentpole film with an artistic vision pleasing everyone in theaters? Take note, Hollywood!
…They did. As of this writing, The Northman looks to lose A24 pictures $50 million. Why? They made $60 million on a $100 million budget. Film production takes an incredible amount of money from multiple investors. Weigh that investment against every type of media vying for audiences’ attention: streaming services, music subscriptions, podcast lists, etc. If a movie has a budget the size of a billionaire’s divorce settlement, they damn well better get some eyeballs.
The Northman simply didn’t get enough attention fast enough to fill seats. That film may eventually recoup its cost through word of mouth, rental, and streaming, but major studios can’t wait on that kind of return, much less center a portfolio around it. Franchises, by contrast, appeal to major distributors because they stand out in the media landscape, have a built-in fanbase, and come pre-packaged with customer loyalty.
Studios are also open to sequels of original films that do well. That’s usually why the second installment in a film series is way bigger than the original; A Quiet Place and John Wick are two recent examples of this trend. The initial film in both of those series, however, had to demonstrate a track record before getting a bigger budget.
While this explains why theaters don’t show original blockbusters, there’s a different reason why today’s theaters don’t get as many original mid-budget films: streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, and others offer a tempting “safety bid” for a film to premiere exclusively on their platforms. Unless producers and distributors are confident a theatrical release will pay higher dividends, the safety offer is too good to pass up.
This leaves low-budget films, which are usually happy just to have gotten released, and tentpole installments of the latest zeitgeist trend. So what can you do to change this? Champion quality original content when it does hit theaters—just make sure you bring enough friends.
Nearly 20 years after Revenge of the Sith, Hayden Christensen returns as Lord Vader. That, along with Ewan McGregor’s welcome reprisal, makes watching this series your destiny.
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Kongming was a brilliant tactician in third-century China during the War of the Three Kingdoms. On his deathbed, he wishes to be reincarnated into a more peaceful era. He wakes up in modern-day Tokyo and decides to pursue a singing career. He’ll soon find out that the music industry is just as cutthroat as war. Good thing he remembers his old battle strategies.
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