Disney Blog: Holiday Film Industry

November 14th, 2008

According to Claude Brodesser-Akner in Advertising Age the movie industry is in for a rough Holiday Season…

New Movie Critics are Negatively Affect Hollywood

"HAVING SPENT the last several years marginalizing film reviewers either by making "critic-proof" blockbusters or by refusing to screen certain films for critics at all, Hollywood has suddenly presented itself with an awkward Christmas gift: A year-end glut of expensive, hard-to-market films whose success depends on critics."

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Tom Bernard's, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, believes the current situation to be "about as bad as can be." His outlook is tied to the notable declines in attendance in major specialized film markets such as Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, San Diego and Seattle, which he believes are tied directly to the departures of influential film critics in those cities.

"It's the consistent relationship [with a critic] that gets people to go to these movies," said Mr. Bernard. "[Editors] felt they should get critics that connect to that younger audience that's getting its news online, but they're not looking at how the box office is affected when the critic changes."

Motivating by increasing advertising revenue, dozens of long time newspaper critics are being bought out and replaced (if they're replaced at all) by stringers, wire-service copy or cheaper, younger critics.

"Our [audience] numbers in Chicago are down 20%, and it's only been three months since [critic] Michael Wilmington left," said Mr. Bernard. Other notable critics, such as Newsday's John Anderson, Newsweek's David Ansen, The Village Voice's Nathan Lee, The New York Daily News' Jami Bernard and Jack Mathews, the Chicago Tribune's Mr. Wilmington, The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Eleanor Ringel Gillespie and the San Diego Union Tribune's David Elliott have also departed from the papers.

For Hollywood, with upcoming Christmas debuts that are supposed to be blockbuster hits, the timing is horrible :(

The Specialized Film Divisions are Hurting

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What is also hurting the film industry is that studios are closing expensive specialized film divisions. This spring, Time Warner ended New Line Cinema and shut down both Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures specialized labels. Specialized films are traditionally designed to reach certain target demographics, and their distribution was incremental, building from a handful of screens and cities to a few dozen to a few hundred or thousand.

However, recently, breakout hits such as "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Juno," the major studios developed unrealistic expectations for the potential of specialized film divisions and flooded the market with releases. Unfortunately, this had dire consequences: After a high of $418 million in 2006, specialized grosses plunged to $330 million last year and have yet achieve $200 million mark this year, according to Variety and Rentrak figures.

As huge fan of specialized films, this news is sad to me. I can't image that larger film companies can give films the unique and off beat touch that I crave and can't get from most "mainstream" pictures.

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