Hollywood used to be in a trendsetting position. Quotes, merchandise, and even entire lifestyles used to be determined by what was popping in the theater, but the world has caught up with – and effectively lapped – the American studio system. Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, art has gone back to imitating life instead of the other way around, as Hollywood is attempting to play catch-up in its quest to come out ahead of on-demand streaming and keep asses firmly seated in the theater.
The once rigid movie seasons (summer for big-budget action, fall for Oscar bait and more thoughtful fare) are even getting a shake-up. Last year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a big-budget Marvel Studios tentpole, was released in April to record box office numbers at the time, confirming that some blockbusters could do “summer” numbers in the spring time if the name is big enough and it’s marketed well. The consumer and their almighty dollar are constantly teaching Hollywood lessons, and here are a handful of lessons that Hollywood has learned over the course of the last 6+ months.
All action franchises are not created equal
The action movie is Hollywood’s bread and butter when it comes to general spectacle, and now there are more established franchises than it’s possible to keep track of. 2015 has seen some incredibly successful franchises blossom (Kingsman: The Secret Service) and some with renewed or continued success (Fast & Furious, Jurassic World, Mad Max, the Marvel Cinematic Universe), while others are knee-capped as soon as they’re released wide. Disney took a huge chance on Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland from May, only for it to come in severely unprofitable, and the once-mighty Taken and Terminator franchises both saw diminishing returns when they premiered back in January and last week (July 1) respectively, and while that usually means that people aren’t interested and sequels won’t be made, Paramount’s already shown interest in using Terminator: Genisys as the platform for another trilogy. Blind faith is a hell of a drug.
Racial/gender diversity is a good thing
Another thing Hollywood learns more and more every year, but especially this year, is that the world is made up of more than 18-49 year old white dudes, a sentiment the cinematic landscape displayed in a big way this year. Hell, Furious 7, one of the highest grossing films of the year so far, features only one generic grizzled white dude in its racially diverse and gender inclusive cast, and films like Dope, Spy, Cinderella, and the upcoming Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck being critical and (mostly) commercial successes shows that Hollywood’s paying attention and just how far we’ve come (yet how far we still have to go). If safe treacle like Black or White can slip through the cracks, then we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Will Smith may finally be past his prime
We all know that there was a period of time when Will Smith was the biggest star on the planet, but time has brought his wattage down a bit. The middling performance of (and response to) 2013’s After Earth was an indicator that Smith might be out of it, and this year’s Focus, a movie that boldly flaunted its vintage late 90s/early 2000s appeal, didn’t do much to convince us that things were getting better. He’s the big star of Warner Bros. upcoming Suicide Squad movie, so we’ll see whether or not this is the fatal third punch that will knock Smith out of the game for good. That MC Ride haircut is *definitely* not helping, though.
America doesn’t (fully) dictate global cinematic tastes anymore
As more and more American-made movies are starting to depend on global box office appeal to make up for dwindling sales stateside, it’s apparent now more than ever that tastes in popular movies aren’t solely defined by American palettes anymore. Movies like 2013’s Pacific Rim and last year’s Transformers: Age of Extinction were globalist takes on well-worn stories, and movies continue to cull casts from places other than America to reflect the global market that we all exist in. Furious 7 sent its superhuman gang of car thieves to Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi for long stretches, while Jurassic World‘s cast is a virtual cornucopia of character actors from around the world like Omar Sy and Irrfan Khan, not to mention the fact that Bollywood film has been taking America by storm since 2013’s Dhoom 3 became the highest grossing movie of its kind in American history.