The _Hollywood Reporter_ wrote this week about Dr. Ted Baehr’s Movieguide Awards, handed out to the most family friendly films of the year. According to the Reporter, “The report praises such 2011 releases as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Battle: Los Angeles, Moneyball, We Bought a Zoo and Hugo while heaping scorn on the likes of Super 8, Red State, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Bad Teacher and Happy Feet Two.”
Just as importantly, the report demonstrated that such family friendly films are significantly more lucrative than non-family friendly films: “Movieguide identified 91 movies in 2011 that scored high in ‘conservative/moral categories’; these earned an average of $59 million apiece. On the other hand, it identified 105 movies that scored high in ‘liberal/leftist categories’; each of those titles earned an average of just $11 million. The average movie scoring four stars from Movieguide earned $53.5 million while the ones that scored just one star earned $10.6 million.”
“Most moviegoers want good to conquer evil, truth to triumph over falsehood, justice to prevail over injustice and true beauty to overcome ugliness,” said Baehr.
Baehr’s exactly right. But there’s another element that’s just as important as morality in determining whether a movie makes money or not: who goes to see it. And family friendly films are just that: family friendly. You can bring your kids to them, your wife to them. While I may love Team America: World Police, it’s not exactly the sort of thing I’m going to take my wife to see (in fact, I told my mom that it was too old for her). On the other hand, there’s nothing in Moneyball that anyone from age 13 can’t see. Family films, in other words, have an automatic demographic advantage over non-family friendly films – take a movie ticket and multiply it by three to start.
So why is Hollywood so addicted to making drivel like A Dangerous Method? It really comes down to the Cocktail Party Mentality. In Hollywood, all business is social. That means you get jobs based on which parties you attend, which bigwigs you hobnob with, and which rears you kiss. There are no families at these parties – no kids allowed. You’re more likely to see a child being molested at a Hollywood party a la Roman Polanski than to see a child being shuttled around by her doting parents.
These are adult parties. They feature “sophisticated” conversation, which focuses mainly on politics and culture, always from a leftist view. Profound art is praised; what Hollywood considers pandering hogwash is denounced. At these parties, everyone is wealthy, so net worth isn’t as important as supposed intellectual worth. If you want the hot supermodel to go home with you, it’s better to be the director of A Dangerous Method ($4.6 million in domestic gross) than We Bought a Zoo (domestic gross: $72.8 million). It isn’t chic to be so popular among the kiddies.
Tte Oscar nominees this year have earned virtually no money, aside from The Help – they averaged $57.6 million in box office earnings, just over half of the usual ten-movie best picture nominees’ total gross. Movies like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, a pseudo-intellectual agglomeration of beautiful imagery and sheer nonsense, were nominated for Best Picture, when the real question should be how they’re getting made at all. Hollywood is a bubble, and it’s floating away from the American people.
So how do we get through to Hollywood if sheer bucks don’t matter anymore? We remove their revenue floats. The fact is that the Terrence Malicks of the world are the 1%, living off the back of the family friendly 99%. Studios can afford big-budget disasters like The Tree of Life because they make films like We Bought a Zoo. But what happens when family friendly films get made outside Hollywood? What happens when conservatives start to make a profit off the movies they like to see? If Sherwood Baptist Church can produce enormous hits like Fireproof and Courageous on little to no budget, anybody can. And if anybody can, then studios no longer have the monopoly they require in order to fund art projects nobody wants to see.
There is one obstacle yet remaining: the distribution mechanism. Liberals still control distribution at theaters for major films, so even if you make a family friendly movie, there’s no guarantee it will ever see the light of day. But with the internet, all that is changing. Box office ticket sales are dropping because people have so many ways of watching films now. As Netflix and Amazon come to dominate the movie market, Hollywood may be forced to cater to what the people want, rather than what their friends at the cocktail parties want.
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