Flawed as it is, I absolutely love Man of Steel. It has leaped tall box-office records in single weekends, even though the roughly $250 million production was initially slow to profit. Now, everyone is aghast at the evident failure of Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski’s Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as famous sidekick Tonto. There is even talk of irreparable harm done to Disney… Disney, of all studios, and after a single failure! As time, inflation and the perpetual home video boom correlate with higher ticket prices and single releases in 3 or more exhibition formats (2d, 3D, IMAX), the definition of "success" becomes murky and the question is begged: Have America's movies become too big to fail?
In a piece on The Hollywood Reporter's site early last month, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas speculated on an industry "implosion" in the near future (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/steven-spielberg-predicts-implosion-film-567604).
Ironically, they seem to blame a quasi-monopoly held by the kind of modern, high-priced and often franchised blockbusters that they arguably helped invent. Spielberg bemoans his struggle just to get Lincoln a theatrical release last year because it wasn't a $200 million digital epic, but he refined the formula even as George Lucas and his companies helped create the technology that has contributed to movies becoming so obscenely expensive in the first place. Superman is accused of being naïve, old-fashioned and barely relevant in the 21st century, and perhaps it's that discipline and consistency that makes him so hard for audiences to identify with! We're often sickened by what Hollywood spends compared with, say, the amount of money that can be raised per year to feed the hungry or even for crucial medical research. Yet it's our willingness to pay ever-increasing ticket prices even in a global recession to support these and sometimes only these films that helps perpetuate all this.
Since Hollywood and its promoters seem able to will a film to opening weekend success via aggressive advertising, I suppose movies have become 'too big to fail' - at least by some standards. But given our questionable consumer habits, who are we to judge?
Where there are ridiculous amounts of money in any industry, there is probably at least some manipulation of consumers, but even the homeless can walk into a library and access a world of information via the Internet these days. If we're not savvy enough in the information age to spot and avoid some of that manipulation, then how bad do we really want to change it? Like Spielberg and Lucas, we’re complicit in a possible future implosion which could make Hollywood resemble Broadway, resulting in fewer movies per season and sometimes higher ticket prices based on what those movies are.