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Is the Movie Slate Just ... Well ... Bad?

25 Jul, 2011 By: Stephanie Prange

Every couple of years, a movie or movie series comes along that re-energizes my enthusiasm for the movie business.

I felt that upon seeing The Matrix, and, even further back, upon seeing the first rough cut of Shrek.

Ironically, at a recent Fortune magazine conference, Jeffrey Katzenberg (head of DreamWorks Animation) voiced my same concerns over the recent slate of movies in theaters (see story, p. 8).

“Let me have a show of hands of people that would say the last seven or eight months of movies is the worst lineup of movies you’ve experienced in the last five years of your life,” Katzenberg said. “They suck. It’s unbelievable how bad movies have been, right?”

I guess I am not the only one worried that comic book movies and aging sequels can’t carry the entire movie business. We’ve got to have some true innovation and excitement in movies. But with all the studios running scared from an onslaught of services and consumers who believe they should get entertainment practically for free online, I just don’t see how that is going to happen.

When DVD and, before that, the video rental business, propped up the movie industry, we got hit after hit, certainly not all of them memorable, but many of them entertaining and, for the most part, worth the money.

Now, the streaming business is profiting from that catalog wave of hits, but it isn’t contributing to the studios’ bottom lines so that more such hits can be made in the future. As income shrinks, the studios have become more and more conservative in launching so-called tentpole titles. If the film isn’t a sequel to a proven hit or based on a comic book, forget it.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds them! For the most part, streaming and online services have profited from content they didn’t create. If we cannot find some way of paying those who create and finance content, that gravy train is going to stop.

While the growth of online delivery may not be the only reason the movies this year “suck,” as Katzenberg so eloquently put it, devaluing content by giving it away practically for free on the Internet isn’t the path to better content, in my opinion.

Netflix this month raised its prices for the first time in a while. It’s about time. All those customers who squawk should contemplate a future of crappy sequels at the movie theater.

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