The Answer To The $200 Million Movie Question

from the there-is-no-$200-million-movie dept

Last month, at the CATO Institute conference on copyrights, someone from NBC Universal asked both Professor David Levine and me how NBC could keep making $200 million movies like King Kong without super strong copyright regulations. We each gave our answers that didn't satisfy some. However, as I noted in the recap to the event, the guy from NBC Universal was asking the wrong question. It's like going back to the early days of the PC and asking how IBM would keep making mainframes. The point is that $200 million movies may mostly be a thing of the past. The near immediate response from NBC Universal and other stronger copyright supporters is that this is a "loss" to society -- since we want these movies. However, that shows a misunderstanding of the answer. No one is saying to make worse movies -- but to recognize that it should no longer cost so much to make a movie. The same economics professor, David Levine, who was asked the question is now highlighting exactly this point on his blog. Last week there was a lot of publicity around a group of Finns who created a Star Trek spoof and are trying to help others make and promote inexpensive, high quality movies as well. Levine notes that the quality of the spoof movie is astounding -- not all that far off from what you'd expect from a huge blockbuster sci-fi picture, but was done with almost no budget at all. Given the advances in technology, the quality is only going to improve. So, again, it would appear that a big part of the answer to the $200 million movie question is simply that anyone spending $200 million on a movie these days is doing an awful job containing costs.

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    chris (profile), 15 May 2006 @ 6:53am

    half the cost of a film is promoting it

    i have seen the mi3 and the davinci code trailers not less than a million times in the last two weeks. it doesn't matter what network (history/discovery ran them both, as did comedy central and MTV).

    all this hype has to cost a lot of money. from all the promotion of "over the hedge" at restaurants, stores, and on television networks, to the "placement" of davinci code programming on tv channels that are supposed to be for "intelligent" consumers, to "talk shows" which are really just platforms for hollywood to hawk it's stupid movies from, all of this hype has to have a significant dollar value. if you ask me, quit hyping movies to death so that they can't possibly live up to their promotion value and you could save quite a bit.

    also, the film industry is full of corruption. you have agents and managers taking 10-40% off the top of everyone's earnings, mafia run unions that do all the work on sets, and the actors/directors themselves who need multiple millions (10% of which goes to an agent) to work on a film. if you ask me, all the money could be better spent on something else... like decent writing.

    it's a vicious circle: films cost so much to make that you have to solicit big ticket talent and a formulaic story so you can get the funding you need to make the movie, then you have to promote the hell out of it so the market is saturated with the message that "film X is the greatest film ever made in history of human civilization" and thanks to the formulaic story and over the top acting of the "big ticket talent" you get a lousy movie that couldn't possibly live up to it's hype. so it doesn't break even until after 2 years of DVD sales. whihc means that you need to be even more formulaic to get funding for your next picture.

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