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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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2006 @ 7:39am

    "'s the actors that drive up the cost of movies."

    The problem is, most people won't go to entertainment with totally unknown factors. This is why there's such a prevalence of remakes; the audience knows the story, and those who like like it will likely buy tickets, so your marketing can be less because a certain audience is built in. But unless you want to be condemned to a world of endless remakes, actors are the other vector to build in an audience. Even with an unknown story, the actor in effect, vouches for the movie. Therefore as long as the movie business is based on blockbusters, it may well make perfect sense to pay an actor $20 mil, if their on screen presence is going to generate $20 mil + $1 in revenue.

    And never mind that the one constant of indy and art house films is uniformly bad acting. God bless the erstwhile waitresses and car parkers that over emote and have their naughty bits immortalized in all the black and white, story critical glory they can muster, but the vast majority of them suck as actors. While there are a lot of hacks that make a fabulous living in the movies, there are also some really good actors, which is a rarer talent than most people credit.

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