Jeff Goldblum Needs To Teach Hollywood Honchos About Chaos

from the better-betting dept

As the movie studios continue to struggle, there’s been a lot of discussion about what they can do to assert their relevance in the digital age. However, before they can chart their path, it’s important to appreciate the challenges they face. As we’ve expressed before, a key component of studio economics is randomness. A few down years aren’t enough to mark a trend; in fact this year the studios are doing better than they were last year. Overall ticket sales aren’t up by a whole lot, but there’s been a noticeable absence of major bombs so far. Now, more people are discussing the role of luck and randomness in the film industry and how the studios’ failure to understand this has harmed them strategically. For example, executives with a hot hand are promoted, while those whose films have performed badly are shown the door. This may seem logical in the short run, but if you view them as roulette players on hot or cold streaks, it doesn’t make sense to assume that one is necessarily better than the other.

But just because there’s a large element of chance, it doesn’t follow that the studios can’t do anything to improve their performance. For example, instead of looking for studio heads who put out hot pictures, they should look for executives who — like executives in any other business — push cost cutting. Remember, films don’t need to cost $200 million to produce anymore. New technology allows for films to be produced with a much smaller initial buy-in. Much of the costs are, of course, for actor pay, but randomness applies to them too. You can’t buy a hit just be hiring a hot actor, so the studios should press against their high prices. Importantly, appreciating the consequences of chaos should also help them deal with the changing media landscape. The current system of theatrical releases lends itself to winner-take-all releases. When a film like the Da Vinci Code comes out it dominates the available screens, leaving the other works unlucky enough to be released the same week to fight for the scraps. By embracing the multi-channel approach, something the studios are currently in fear of, they can avoid the consequences of a bad release window. Investing money into a new project will never be a sure thing, but it’s clear that Hollywood can improve its fortunes by pushing back against some of the ways it’s always been done.

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Comments on “Jeff Goldblum Needs To Teach Hollywood Honchos About Chaos”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wrong!

umm…..RIAA anyone? MPAA? They need to embrace technology and new distribution channels, and people will prefer to pay for something legal. Piracy comes mostly from poor countries; most people in the 3rd world can’t afford to go to the movies a lot, but they can afford a dollar for a pirated movie or cd. Supply and demand. Piracy vs. greed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think they should consider coming up with some ORIGINAL IDEAS. Seriously, how many movies these days are sequals and remakes? There seems to be a huge lack of imagination these days. Not just movies. The entire human race is caught in a rut. Movies are just one example of it.

Joe Kranly says:

Tell me who is the bigger pirate – the person downloading a movie, which isn’t theft in the first place (merely the redistribution of media, which would be copyright infrigement, not theft). So the media calls them pirates, which brings to mind the pillaging and plundering of eighteen wheelers filled with movies. Is this the case? No. It is just some guy (or gal) trying to see a movie without having to pay twenty dollars for a ten cent plastic case, fifteen cent insert, fifty cent DVD disc, and two cent label. So who is the thief here? If the industry actually charged what the film was worth, with only a small dividend for the filmmakers themselves, this wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it is today.

jailthespammers says:

Piracy my left ball!

It’s nothing to do with piracy! It’s about outputting the same old tired crap year after year, while production costs increase. Perhaps the studios should also stop hiring those tired old actors who demand such high pay-checks, and focus on making movies that do more than rely on a big-name actor – let’s see them make real movies!

Rikko says:

What? Some recognition of fiscal responsibility in Hollywood? Nonsense!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I see fewer movies. I’m not pirating more movies, I’m just not watching them. I would quite honestly derive more pleasure and a bigger wallet by sitting in a wooden chair listening to news radio for 2 hours than do the “theater experience” and watch a lousy movie.

trilianleo says:

I Agree

I Have Turned Off tv.. Have not been to a movie in two years. and buy a few Old (good) movies on dvd for 5 bucks. Why are the good movies five dolars now when the new crap is 20+…Like King Kong for 20 on DVD… And on the subject of theaters. Why would I pay to sit with someones screaming kids and watch a movie on a puny screen. I can duplicate the screen at home with a cheap DLP projector.

The indistry has lost touch with that people want. Get rid of the multiplex. Go to the big single cimascope screens. And give me something worth watching on it. 40 screens of crap is just crap.

Mark Love (profile) says:

I reckon a few of the execs in charge of distribution should check out the webscription option at

Baen books is distributing books in multiple formats, with no DRM, and doing very nicely out of it, thank you very much. And the authors get better royalties from digital sales to reflect the lack of printing costs.

I see no reason this couldn’t be moved into the TV/Movie industry.

Sohrab says:

I think saying actors are the main cost of high production is a myth. Working in the industry, I can tell you the two things that take the most money.

A. Insurance, the cost is higher then every for everything and everybody has to be insured or the film is a no go.

B. CGI. Think of it as you want but alot of the studios are in tough negotions with CGI unions because the costs have gone up in HUGE folds.

I will have to disagree that it is now cheaper to make them. Is it cheaper to make small budget stuff? Yes because you can buy a few PMG5 Macs and get some HD camera’s and go about it but if you mean true theatrical release, then no.

Thegreatcerebral (user link) says:


The Jeff Goldblum comment was because in Jurassic Park he did something with Chaos Theory and he was explaining it in the movie. I assume that is what the headline is referring to.

Other than that I agree that Hollywood needs to actually make some movies that are good. More original ideas. For instance I’m sorry if nobody else agrees but Napoleon Dynamite was one of the best movies ever and there was only 1 actor that I’ve ever heard of in it (Rex-Quan-Do guy… can’t remember the name). Also there is no way that NapDyn took 200 Mil. to make.

The video game industry is heading this way very soon. Games are now taking too much time and money to produce so companies are sticking to “safe” money makers and not going out on a limb the way designers would like to.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Much of the costs are, of course, for actor pay, but randomness applies to them too”

For starters, they could stop paying $20 million a movie. If Tom Cruise won’t do any more movies, that is fine with me. I am sure there are plenty of talented lesser known actors/actresses who would do a movie for $1 million or less.

Tekmage says:

There are only so many original ideas available.

As such, the movie industry has to rely on popular fiction/non-fiction books and adapt them for the screen. Then a movie budget has to be made. Production costs include: props, studio rental, staff hiring, casting of actors and extras, special effects, sound effects, etc…

There used to be a time where more funds went into special effects than hiring the actors. They don’t make movies like they did in the good old days, mainly because there aren’t any good ideas anymore and special effects have lost their wow factor.

So, let’s revisit the good old themes of old crazed super-geniuses attempting to enslave all of humanity while combating anti-heroes with huge mega-robots. Theres alot of japanese manga with good ideas waiting to be exploited. That’s why everyone’s turning to japanese anime for their kicks nowadays.

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