Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street investment house, is reportedly harbouring plans to make its ‘Hollywood Stock Exchange’ fake money spread-betting game a reality, offering investors the opportunity to make real-money bets on the financial performance of films.
Though the concerns around this are far beyond the movie world – insider trading likelihood, expanding the volume of risky products at market etc. – this could likely have some serious consequences for the quality of movies that come out of Hollywood.
Studios are already overly-focused on money-making in the films they release. This is not necessarily a negative; movie-making is a business and all movies, all of them, are not made with the aim of losing money. But the skewed view which has been fostered in Hollywood is that bigger is better or, more expensive is better. Blockbusters like Transformers 2 and Avatar, and before them the superhero and comic book adaptations, have become the central currency of Hollywood.
Audiences have been conditioned not to see films because of the talent behind them, but because of what the film is about. This has driven the growth of the wide universe of films based on existing properties (superhit children’s books, superhero comics) and has caused nothing but problems for the auteur-based projects out there. Even when you see an anomalous hit (Inglourious Basterds and District 9), this seems to have almost no influence on what kind of movies are coming out of Hollywood. They continue to operate on the assumption that the more money you spend, on production and marketing, the more money you will make at the box-office.
It’s hard to argue that this isn’t normally the case, though the reason that these films do so well is never down to the quality of the product. The behemoth summer releases are scattered across the season in a bid to make sure that, essentially, there is no other choice for the passive movie-goer. When they turn up at the cinema looking to see a film, there is a good chance that Transformers will be on in five of the twenty screens at their local multiplex and probably starting every half-hour or so. What we snobby critics and cinephiles would describe at the ‘worthy’ releases get relegated to sparse showings at inhospitable times of the day, or are just ejected from multiplexes altogether, meaning that casual watchers, those who really drive up box-office, don’t see them through a combination of inconvenience and ignorance.
Should this Cantor plan come into play – and any improvement in the economic environment and return of confidence to investment markets would make this almost inevitable, if only in germ form at first – it would surely only encourage studios to focus on huge movies, placing all their available energy into the tentpole releases so as to make them as profitable as possible. There is a chance that this could well mean that studios take more notice of aspects like script, character and direction if they do this, therefore maximising the change of turning a profit. But the incredible success of Avatar, for all its qualities, would, I venture, communicate to studios that big and simple is the best way to go. Unfortunately, the component they would fail to note would be James Cameron (or, The Talent) which is what actually turned the film into something special and successful. Chuck a journeyman behind the camera and Avatar would have fallen into the annals of flop history.
In addition, making a spread-betting market for movies would instantly shift the business aspects further to the centre of investor thought, meaning that any concerns over the quality of movies would become further sidelined (check out this Raw Story article on the news). Through neat trickery, brokers would be able to shift enough money around that even bad or unsuccessful movies become profitable, something which would remove that consideration in the minds of executives to make films, you know, ‘good’.
This is all conjecture at this point. It could well be that studios will become more cautious with budgets and spread marketing spend across their properties to achieve profit from all releases. The drop in production budgets could well have the influence that so many wanted District 9 to have this past year in making directors have to improvise and get creative due to constraints in what they can do. Plus, spreading around marketing budgets would give many independent films a significant boost in the amount of money they have to promote themselves. It’s possible that this could be a hugely positive move for the quality of output in Hollywood.
Of course, the actual problems with this lie in the risk profile of such investments, so whether the quality of films coming out of Hollywood will rise or fall will be of little concern to financial regulatory authorities. Still, worth a thought as to whether a shift in the financial model of Hollywood could prove good or bad for the industry, because heaven knows the current model is resolutely failing to promote everything equally and has skewed the focus from art to business.
It’s only fair to talk about another awards ceremony at this time of year, one which has managed to maintain its staunch anti-commercial stance and has never sacrificed its history to allow higher-grossing films into its top categories. This is partly because the films which tend to get given Razzies are often seen by millions of foolish people, a pattern which dictates future movie release schedules and therefore repeats the feat, making more bad movies which more people see and therefore perpetuating the need for the Razzies.
This year’s bunch, in full here, are particularly righteous, with Land of the Lost and Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen leading the ignominious. So, a few bulleted thoughts on the nominations:
- Sandra Bullock ‘does and Eddie Murphy’ and gets nods for Best Actress at both The Oscars and The Razzies. She gets it here for All About Steve, a film which I have not seen but is purportedly so awful as to have made some member of the MOD’s extended family spew expletives beyond the recognition of well-bred English-speaking people. Whether this nod will hurt her chances for winning for The Blind Side, as I would suggest Norbit did for Murphy when he got his Dreamgirls nod, remains to be seen.
- Nice barbed stab at The Jonas Brothers as Worst Actors. A band which appears to be attempting to disseminate abstinence-only teachings to your children, a tactic which will only end in massive number of underage pregnancies amongst fans of the stupifyingly pointless band, deserve to be kicked, beaten and knocked down at every possible point.
- Shia LeBoeuf and Megan Fox for Worst Couple is perfect. The entire pair of those films looks as though he is frightened to touch her for fear of having his hands smeared in sweat-ravaged fake tan or the germs of other men. Her nod for worst actress though perhaps should be paired with her comically inept performance in Jennifer’s Body, in which she mistakes ‘sexy’ for ‘late-80s New York hooker’.
- Also, praise to the board for the dumps taken on Hugh Hefner, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus and Steve Martin, on of whom can do better and the rest of which should be consigned to a dumpster to live in shame.
As it’s the end of the decade, they’ve also released their nominations for Film, Actor and Actress of the Decade, worst that is. My predictions and views are below.
- Picture: I think Battlefield Earth may have to take it on this one, though the competition is tough. I Know Who Killed Me probably didn’t offend enough people to take the prize, but Gigli is a worthy challenger. Freddy Got Fingered probably has too many dumb revisionist cult movie fans to win this one.
- Actor: Travolta and Murphy will battle it out for Worst Actor. The nod for Myers is absolutely right, especially after he attempted to shit on Inglourious Basterds this year, as if he had yet to destroy enough over the past ten years. Affleck been okay in some stuff so doesn’t really deserve it and Rob Schneider, everyone just wants to forget about Rob Schneider.
- Actress: For Worst Actress, Madonna has always been terrible but she may not have done enough to earn the title. Lohan has Mean Girls to prevent her dropping in to the race. Gigli places Lopez in a strong position to win while Carey has had Precious to redeem her a little. So it has to be Hilton, an STD which has blighted cinema for ten years now and should be deservedly eviscerated.
Being in the UK, deciding what actually constitutes summer in our increasingly muddled weather environment is pretty darn difficult. Should we start with May? Well, if summer is the period of the year in which things were sunny and bright and lovely, then May, June and July are all out for us UK folks. Our summer never really arrived, overshadowed as it was by the constant humidity and rain. Instead of going with weather calculations, our summer will start in May, or the end of April to be precise, when the blockbuster season kicked-off in multiplexes, and plexes, across the land. Begin post-jump… Continue reading →
Check out these high-quality images from the new Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen. I wouldn’t say we hold a great degree of excitement for the new film but, if you enjoyed the first, you are essentially getting that except bigger, louder and more visually confusing. You can see a whole host more photos here.