Why Hollywood is Destroying Itself With Reboots & What Can Be Done About It
A lot of us have seen this clip where Matt Damon explains why we’re seeing all these reboots, sequels, and spinoffs. It was an interesting take, but I’m not sure he’s giving us the full picture, and this seems to lead to a false conclusion that video-on-demand streaming was somehow responsible for killing Hollywood.
It is true that DVD sales were a huge source of revenue that disappeared when streaming came into the fold. But the start of this trend in reboots and sequels actually began around 2000, seven years prior to the transition into streaming. So Netflix or Hulu couldn’t have been the catalyst for this trend when it was already happening well before they came into the fold. And if that’s the case, then, what was the actual catalyst?
The Rise of International Markets
Markets from developing and developed nations had been growing since the end of World War II. But by the early 2000s, their growth was skyrocketing, which gave Hollywood a big opportunity to tap into these areas.
And they realized the best way to do it was through reboots, spin-offs, and sequels from long-existing and familiar franchises. After all, everyone knows Spiderman and Batman. But how many people around the world know Nicholas Van Orton from The Game or Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Redemption? I mean, how many reading this even know who they are?
Statistically, this can make a huge difference because people everywhere are much more willing to see movies they’re familiar with. And when you talk about how much it costs to produce and market a Hollywood film, then it becomes a no-brainer to invest most of your money into these franchises that can profit off of billions of people, internationally, rather than millions, domestically.
Your average one-off feature with limited special effects can easily cost anywhere from 10 to 100 million but with big tentpole movies, it could cost close to a billion. That’s okay. It’s a really great movie and with a talented cast and crew, you’ll definitely make a return on your massive investment, right? Well...Not quite. The average return on a film is around 3-5% and only 50% of Hollywood films actually turn a profit. So it’s tough to make hand-over-fist in this industry.
Unless of course, you altered your strategy from the traditional method of shotgun blasting out a bunch of unique stories to funneling most of your money into franchises with proven track records that can penetrate huge international markets. Doing this can give you a much better chance of getting a 150% return on your investment simply because there are more eyeballs to enjoy that content.
So the primary catalyst for all of these reboots and sequels wasn’t video-on-demand streaming since, again, streaming hadn’t even begun to scale when Hollywood started making these movies. Rather, it was precision profit-making from expanding international markets.
Sure, Hollywood initially pushed back against streaming, but it wasn’t long before they started fully embracing video-on-demand as a viable revenue source. Combined with international markets and continued box office sales, the industry, today, is actually doing much better financially than it ever had before.
Streaming and other technology changed the business landscape, for sure, and there was some disruption like the death of the DVD, but it didn’t kill Hollywood stories. Hollywood killed them because they cared more about gaining profits from these emerging markets.
They’ve always cared about profits, of course, but it seems that before the 2000s there was at least a better balance between great stories and making money. I don’t exactly know what happened there, but you can guess that it probably had something to do with corporate acquisitions of studios that had concentrated decisions and priorities into the hands of a few shareholders.
That’s…Pretty depressing when you hear that. I mean, are we just forever doomed to watch shitty tentpole movies and reboots with occasional indie pieces that are too great to ignore? Or can something actually be done about this?
The New Film Industry
Perhaps we’ll have to endure this for a while, but it's possible that not too long from now advances in AI, 5G, and blockchain will significantly reduce the cost of production and marketing down to near-zero. But how will that solve the problem of too many reboots and cheesy Hollywood movies? Won’t that simply put more money in their pockets? Well…Yes, but it will also do something else that I’m not sure we understand is coming, let alone are prepared for what the profound implications will be.
If creating, marketing, and making money off of Hollywood-quality movies becomes much easier and cheaper to do then more people will do it by forming their own independent studios. Right now we’re in an industry landscape characterized by a few major studio powerhouses churning out most of our content with a few smaller production companies in the mix. But if the means of producing and marketing become as easy as building a personal website, then inevitably we’ll transition to an industry with millions of personal studios existing all over the World.
That means filmmaking will likely go the way of photography, which means that we will no longer have to rely on Hollywood or their cheesy blockbuster movies that cater to the global average. Now we’ll have millions of individuals networking and collaborating together from all over the World to make, market, and distribute digital films entirely online, faster and for a fraction of the cost, anytime, anywhere. And with that much content being made at near-zero cost, the industry and independent filmmakers alike will be able to once again make the movies for “Me” instead of the movies for “We”.
The foundational technology to make this happen is already with us, but it needs time to develop. Furthermore, the politics surrounding this is heavy when you consider that such innovation will undoubtedly undercut many other institutions associated with Hollywood. Many people will have to reinvent how they do their jobs, and unfortunately, some will just be out of the game, entirely. But out of this, a new renaissance in entertainment will emerge, and value in the industry will be more distributed and less concentrated.
So while Matt Damon is right that DVD sales plummeted with the rise of streaming, that wasn’t the reason why Hollywood changed. Hollywood made that change for itself by re-prioritizing its focus from nuanced content to content for the average viewer since it was the easiest way to grow from these exploding international markets. And because film is still prohibitively expensive, the global indie world has little to no say in the direction of popular content. All of us are at the mercy of Hollywood and their decisions, consumers and creators alike.
So that’s why we have all these cheesy reboots and tentpole movies. It’s not the lack of DVD sales and the rise of streaming platforms. It’s the lack of innovation from Hollywood to adopt a better model for our time, today.
And the industry will likely persist in this manner until we can figure out how to reduce the cost of production and marketing down to near-zero. The moment this is achieved…Well, that’s the moment when everything changes; when we’ll finally be able to seize our movies back and re-establish that long-held connection to the content we used to take for granted. But until then, it’s gonna be an unhealthy diet of repetitive plastic.
Story Prism, LLC
Thanks for reading Story Prism! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.