Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why Question Viewer Choices?

Kristen Thompson has a nice post over at the B & T Blog that analyzes the the ascertation by some movie industry pundits that 2006 saw "too many toons." She points out that the fact of the matter is that many animated features were very profitable, with 4 features showing up on one analyst group's top 10 films in terms of ROI. In fact, Ice Age: The Meltdown netted the number one spot.

As she notes, the bottom line is we need to just look at the bottom line. And this year, as in the past, folks turned up at animated, usually CGI, features. Some of the numbers are even more impressive because, as she mentions, many of the tickets being purchased for these films are more inexpensive children's tickets, meaning the actual number of viewers is actually higher than the B.O. alone would show.

CGI continues to be profitable, and so no matter what these industry pundits say, we're going to continue to see it. The same applies to another genre maligned more in the press than by the pundits. It seems that we are thoroughly ensconced in a cycle of horror films these days, and one of the particularly telling reasons for this is the genre's strong performance at the B.O., relative to the investment necessary to bring these films to the screen.

Films like Saw III ($80 mil B.O. on a $10 mil budget), Hostel ($47 on $4.8) and even a piss poor remake like When a Stranger Calls ($48 on $15), present low risk/high reward options to studios primarily interested in making a profit. Why else would studios be setting up specialty divisions just to work in this area? Of course not all horror features fare as well as those above, but virtually all make their money back, and in an era where DVD sales are playing an ever increasing role, that's really all one can ask.

Thankfully, those in charge of green-lighting films don't necessarily take every pundit's analysis to heart. They know better than anyone, that if something isn't broke, you don't go around trying to fix it. And often, as Kristen's post discusses, these pundits need something to talk about at the end of the year to validate their own existence, and thus will question just about everything. In the end though, you really can't debate box office returns, and so letting audiences vote with their feet should continue to be the law of the land.

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