Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Something about big and small studios

Okay, I hate to be a complainer, but today, I guess that's what I am. What's worse is that I want to complain about complaining. I apologize in advance to anyone who doesn't want to hear it, especially from some guy who never even bothers to update his blog anymore.

I was reading an article about RedBox agreeing to wait four weeks before renting out Warner Bros movies. To be honest, it makes no difference to me. I'm rarely in a huge hurry to see anything. I like RedBox because I'm cheap. There, I said it. I'm cheap. So, realistically, the whole thing means little to me. However, I made the mistake of reading the comments on the article. That's where I got kind of annoyed.

There is a certain type of person who will make the argument that Hollywood sucks and if only they made movies like foreign/indie movie "insert title here" Hollywood would be awesome. Basically, "movie X was so awesome, the big studios are stupid for not doing something so original".

It's a terrible argument. It's a terrible argument because the big studios just aren't in business to take those kind of chances. The big studios exist to make big movies hoping for big returns. They're the Microsofts of the industry. They've got the big directors, the A-list actors, the name recognition, etc. It costs them more to make the bulk of their movies, and they have to make movies that will create a return on that investment.

Meanwhile, a smaller studio is constrained by it's budget. They have to make movies that can compete with what the bigger studios are putting out, but without the financial resources. By their nature, they have to take more chances. They have to hire people who can do a lot with a little. This forces a different kind of creativity.

Big studios like Warner and Fox and Sony are trying to make movies that will appeal to the largest number of people. That's their business model. Big movies, big opening weekends, big DVD sales. A smaller studio can make movies that just appeal to a particular niche. Being small gives you that kind of flexibility in a lot of situations. You can hire actors that people have never heard of to be the lead in your movie, you can bring in an unestablished director to helm it. You can take a chance on a script that may not have wide appeal because you're doing it cheaply enough that you don't need to make $100 million dollars on a theatrical release.

The fact of the matter is, you need a system like this. The big studios can't take a chance on an unknown script/director/actor too often. The independents can. They can give someone a shot, and once established, the bigger studios can give them a chance. For all the love Christopher Nolan gets for movies like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I guarantee that Warner never would have let him pitch his idea without doing Memento and Insomnia first. The big studios are the companies that want experience on your resume.

To say that the big studios should make movies more like the independents do is a terrible argument, the big studios just aren't designed to make movies that way.