Summer Films Reveal Larger Hollywood Trends
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 20:09
The summer film lineup had several reoccurring trends this season—primarily the abundance of cape-clad men and explosions, as well as a few low-budget Indie surprises like “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
These trends can be attributed to changes in audience, budget trends in the business and the absence of a single big summer blockbuster.
Of the top 20 grossing movies, the No. 1 film, Marvel’s “The Avengers,” took home over $600 million and “The Dark Knight Rises” came in second with $400 million.
Junior Taylor Jayne, member of Reel Productions Film Society, says the surge of super hero films is not surprising in the summer season.
“There’s definitely a trend in genre release, most likely as a result of audience interest,” Jayne says. “In the summer, your audience tends to be younger since kids are off of school, so you want to reel them in with action and thrillers.”
English professor Thomas Leitch, director of the film studies program, says the appeal of action-packed flicks is universal.
“Action movies are much more likely to have global appeal than other movies,” Leitch says. “What happens in them doesn’t get lost in translation.”
The top 20 grossing movies were still able to maintain a semblance of variety, particularly with lower budget films like “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” keeping a fast hold on their rank. Each film had modest profits of roughly $40 million during their opening weekends, according to the website Box Office Mojo.
Though there were noticeable trends, Jayne says the summer could not be summed up with one iconic film.
“Looking back, people might remember [this] as the summer of superheroes, between ‘The Avengers,’ ‘Batman’ and ‘Spiderman,’” Jayne says. “But really, the focus was on the addition to pre-existing movie franchises.”
However, Leitch says the lack of originality in recent filmmaking could be attributed to finances rather than directors. He says Hollywood is primarily controlled by the driver of almost every industry—cash flow.
“I don’t think the directors are the people who get to decide which movies get the green light,” Leitch says. “I think it’s the money men who have run Hollywood for years…who would rather make movies where [success is] guaranteed than finance uncertain projects.”
While the low-budget Indie films broke free from the action movie tend, Leitch says even Indie films fill a Hollywood formula to guarantee certain targeted viewers. According to Jayne, some of the less mainstream films have still found room to flourish in their own right.
“Indie movies have grown in popularity,” she says. “While they might not be taking seats from the bigger box office hits, they certainly have their own following.”
Dhall says this increase in interest can be attributed to several things, including the rise in surprise smash hits like “Slumdog Millionaire.”
“In the last decade, small movies have been winning Oscars and as a result get a big boost in box office sales,” he says. “Many producers and distributors have realized it’s cheaper to make a small Indie film and spend most of the money on the promotion.”
For Leitch, “Moonrise Kingdom,” was one of the few top-rated films he saw this summer.
“’Moonrise Kingdom’ was my favorite film I think,” he says. “It was offbeat. It was simultaneously weird and it was the kind of story that I was very familiar with.”
The conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was a favorite among students. Former social chair of Reel Productions, alum Sanat Dhall says he found Batman was easily his summer favorite.
“There was a lot of hype behind it, and it lived up to it,” he says. “The acting, direction, story, action…The movie was excellent.”
Dhall says popular actors’ tendency to gravitate towards off-beat films has also resulted in greater audience interest.
“Several big stars—Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and recently Shia LaBeouf—are expanding their acting resume with these likely award winners,” he says. “And the stars attract an even wider audience.”
Dhall says although he sees a slow shift, most of the smaller movies will continue to be overlooked.
“A majority of Indie films still go unnoticed today, it’s just that the ones that do get noticed are opening the path for other Indies by expanding the viewership to a larger audience,” he says. “At the end of the day, money still has a strong effect on films.”
While diversity was not a strong suit in theatres this summer, niche films appeared to pull in a wider audience this season and, as Dhall says, the hyped-up films were no let down.
“Summer 2012 wasn’t a disappointment,” he says. “The highly anticipated films were absolutely worth the money and the wait.”