The Value of Movies as Art Versus Movies as Business

I should start this week’s column off by telling everyone to read this great, and disheartening article, by Mark Harris on Grantland.


The article details, in greater precision than I will here, essentially the state of the film industry, particularly in regards to franchises. According to Harris, “Twelve of the year’s 14 highest grossers are, or will, spawn sequels. (The sole exceptions – assuming they remain exceptions, which is iffy – are Big Hero 6 and Malificent).” The reasons for this being iffy are fairly intuitive if you know the films. If you don’t, Big Hero 6 is an animated film about a robot and Malificent is a live-action film centering on the villain ofSleeping Beauty.

These numbers are dramatically different than what we’ve seen before. In the next five years, Marvel and DC will release 32 comic book movies between them. Movies that twenty years ago would have been one-offs, like say, Kung Fu Panda, are now made in four (and possibly more!) installments. These decisions were reiterated and detailed in areas of the Sony hack, such as: “Need to improve the creative staff in Motion Pictures. Seems like we just reboot old product instead of coming up with new ideas like the Hunger Games. We need new fresh ideas that can drive franchise product. Go out and hire the best.” And, “Be more focussed and ruthless in directing our resources to businesses that will sustain the long term health of SPE – networks, broadcast TV shows, new movie franchises, digital distribution. By the same token, stop or reduce support for areas that have no more value (Sandler movies, DVD).”

Now, I’m sure there aren’t many people who would bemoan the funeral of Adam Sandler’s career. However, what about the rest of the areas “that have no more value.” I assume the use of the word value here is monetary not cultural, so what of independent film? When 12 of the 14 highest-grossing films this year were franchises, is there the same impetus to focus on movies that objectively won’t make a comparative profit? The unfortunate answer, presumably, is no.

The only way to walk away from this piece without feeling like art, and by proxy the world, are doomed, is to know where your support lies. Now, more than ever, it is important to catch that small movie you’ve been wanting to see in theaters. This article hammers home that none of us are in a position to not turn up. If this industry is capable of being saved and that’s a big if at this point, the people fighting for art and small projects need to be visible. And truthfully, even if I can’t fix this situation, I can know that it went down with me doing everything I could. And that’s not nothing.

Author: Madeline Meyer

Madeline recently graduated from Oberlin College where she studied Cinema Studies. She writes screenplays and ill-received dad jokes. She likes board games and olives.

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