Last weekend, The Guardian wrote an article about the recent downfall of Paramount Pictures. In 2011, the studio was Hollywood’s most successful, generating a box office of over $5billion.
Thanks to multiplex fodder like Transformers, Paramount was at the top of the pile. The Mission: Impossible franchise and the first two Star Trek movies added to their success, but recently they’ve hit an all-time low.
In 2016, Paramount posted a $455million loss. It placed them at the bottom of the ‘big-six’; the studios regarded as Hollywood’s most lucrative. At the other end of the table, Disney’s $7billion global box office cemented them as the most fruitful.
Their acquisition of Pixar, Marvel and Lucas Film has garnered unprecedented good fortune. So in modern day cinema, is buying your way to the top the only option?
Speaking to The Guardian, Richard Broughton, Research Director at Ampere, said, “The recipe for studios in recent years has been to scale back and make fewer films by defining successful franchises and bludgeoning the way to the top of the charts”.
Lets take a look at the top 10 highest grossing films of all time.
- Avatar (20th Century Fox)
- Titanic (Paramount)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney)
- Jurassic World (Universal)
- The Avengers (Disney)
- Furious 7 (Universal)
- Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Disney)
- Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warner Bros)
- Frozen (Disney)
- Iron Man 3 (Disney)
It’s hard to argue against Broughton. All but two are franchises. Four of the films on the list are Disney franchises, three of Marvel origin. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has generated an incredible $9billion.
Paramount recently hired former Disney executive Dan Cohen to head the studio. He will be baby-sitting the distribution of all studio releases and look after global-licensing. I.e. Cohen will most certainly be looking to buy franchises.
Hollywood no longer prides itself on the quality of its output. Instead, movie making in the 21st century is about financial gain, producing movies with universal appeal to mass audiences. Actors demand high salaries and portions of the profits, leaving the studios with no option but to green light only the most ‘bankable’ films – although William Goldman, author of Adventures in Screenwriting, will tell you that a ‘sure thing’ does not exist.
The recent success of Oscar-winner Moonlight glimmers in the distance. Can the big studios start looking more towards the distribution independent filmmaking?
I’d argue no, at least not for the foreseeable future.
That’s because despite a US box-office of over $27million, on a budget of just $1.5million, the estimated profit for Moonlight is miniscule in comparison to the likes of Disney.
Number 2 on the all-time box office top 10 is Titanic, a Paramount picture. James Cameron’s epic love story has takings just shy of $2.2billion. But it wouldn’t survive in today’s franchise-occupied market. A quick Google search will reveal why many think it is the worst movie of all time.
The big Hollywood studios are no longer willing to take risks. Universal may find themselves in a similar situation in the years to come. Their haul of $1.4million in 2016 landed them fourth place in studio box office charts. The upcoming releases of The Fate Of The Furious, along with Despicable Me 3 and Pitch Perfect 3, will no doubt move them up come the end of 2017. And 2018 will see the release of the Jurassic World sequel. But then what?
Paramount’s acquisition of Dan Cohen is a safe move. And with modern day cinema as it is, don’t expect any drastic changes to that model in the near future.
(Featured image – Paramount Pictures)