What killed Hollywood? Reliance on DVDs as the revenue stream, says Lynda Obst. Once that dried up, half of the profit for the studios dried up with it.
... [Without the profit margin from DVDs] [t]here was none of the extra cash that fueled competitive commerce, gut calls, or real movies, the extra spec script purchase, the pitch culture, the grease that fueled the Old Abnormal: the way things had always been done. We were running on empty, searching for sources of new revenue. The only reliable entry on the P&L was international [sales]. That’s where the moolah was coming from, so that’s what decisions would be based on.
... "The big implication is that those studios are — not necessarily inappropriately — terrified to do anything because they don’t know what the numbers look like."
Hence, tentpoles based on guaranteed properties like comic books. Hence, internationalized titles that favor action over plot over character development. Hence, the way everything feels like a copy of a copy of a copy.
It's not that I think no movie should have a budget more than $50 M. It's that the stakes for failure are at the point where it's not possible to make anything other than blockbusters, because no reliable mechanism exists anymore to get a smaller movie out to an audience that cares about it and will support it ... except for, say, NetFlix streaming. Quel irony.
There's no point in expecting the past to come back. Not even having an Alamo Drafthouse in every state would be able to return us to the days when a My Dinner with Andre or even an American Graffiti could stay in theaters for months on end. Not least of all because the whole idea of theatergoing is becoming passé, as screens at home get bigger and ticket costs go through the roof and gimmicks like $50 "mega-showings" come to the fore.
Like I said before: not sustainable.
And under it all, there's the larger problem of the movies being just one of many, many choices that have mushroomed in the past thirty years. Video games, made-for-cable TV, MMOs, online RPGs, fanfiction — there's far more competition from all directions. Why spend $50 for a super-ticket on a movie when you could spend the same $50 and get 100 hours of gameplay on your PS3?