Columns & Commentary

The End of Creativity?


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Dr. Dom Caristi, telecommunications professor

With the average cost to produce and market a motion picture exceeding $100 million in 2007 (the last year the Motion Picture Association of America provided such statistics), it’s easy to see why the major studios want some assurances of the revenue their films will generate. The Hollywood community talks about “bankables,” which are those things that they know will bring in revenue. For example, the-numbers.com estimates that having Brad Pitt in a movie will bring in $10 million. That will happen no matter the subject — he generates that level of interest. An executive producer like Steven Spielberg guarantees just about as much.

Franchises and sequels are so valuable because they have bankability that comes from fandom. Someone who is a fan of a movie is more likely to see the sequel than a new story. There are more examples than space allows, but take Captain America, for example. The original made $65 million on its opening weekend. The sequel earned $92 million in the same amount of time.

The coming Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron, is estimated by IMDb to cost $250 million. Bankability can be attributed to the actors (Robert Downey’s alone is over $7 million), to writer-creator Stan Lee (over $7 million), and writer-director Joss Whedon. Another guaranteed source of revenue is the fact that The Avengers franchise has already built a following. There would be fans paying to see it regardless of who directs it or stars in it.

Promotion for a sequel or franchise is so much easier too. Before the release of The Amazing Spider-man 2, no one needed to be introduced to the characters or the plot. Audiences pretty much knew what to expect in advance. What’s more, the original movie can be licensed to television and streaming services, serving as promotion for the sequel. The studio gets paid for the license and they promote the upcoming film. Spider-man 2 grossed over $90 million in opening weekend ticket sales.

While some may consider sequels “less creative” because they use existing characters, themes, worlds, etc., I believe sequels are not inherently more or less creative than any “original” film. Movies can be based on books, plays, fables, news or historical events, etc., none of which affects whether they are creative. Furthermore, movie audiences aren’t necessarily in search of creativity. A good story, well told, is what draws an audience.

 

Expert blog written by Dr. Dom Caristi

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