October 21, 2016
        Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race                "The Jungle Book," "Zootopia" and Craft Artists to be Honored at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards        

Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter influence a decade of blockbusters

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: This is the final entry in a handful of essays that will be dealing with the various trends that were kicked off during the 2001 calendar year, and how they still resonate today.

Yesterday (the 19th) marked the tenth anniversary of the US theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. It was just over a month after the US theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which had debuted with a record-breaking $92 million opening weekend. Debuting with a December-record $72 million five-day haul, The Fellowship of the Ring parlayed superb reviews and splendid word of mouth to break a number of Christmas and New Year’s season records and show off some of the best legs this side of Titanic and The Sixth Sense. These two films, which closed out the year, would directly or indirectly pave the way for the next full decade of would-be blockbuster filmmaking. At last, we had reached a point where basically anything was possibly onscreen if you had enough money and (ideally) enough talent. The culmination of every trend discussed in the prior essays (the gutting of the R-rating, the explosion in opening weekend box office potential, the emergence of overseas box office dominance, the mainstreaming of ‘family entertainment’ etc) was personified in the massive success of these two big-budget fantasy pictures. Whether based on a novel, a comic book, or a theme park ride, big-budget fantasy spectaculars were about to become the dominant tentpole of choice.

I’m not going to spend paragraph after paragraph discussing why Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter resonated with audiences (IE – why they were both so damn good), both because I’ve done so on several occasions and because if you don’t believe it now, this essay isn’t going to change your mind. But the two noted blockbuster films and their respective massive successes had a number of effects, for better or worse. They normalized the $300 million domestic-earner, they basically sent every studio scrambling to find their next fantasy franchise, and they led to what I like to call ‘the trilogy trend’. Obviously this applies to the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than the eight-part Harry Potter series, but what followed in ‘blockbuster-land’ was an incessant need to turn every big-scale picture not just into a series of continuing sequels, but an interlocked trilogy. These days, it is almost a surprise when a big-budget fantasy picture (such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) actually ends with a definitive finale that doesn’t leave a major loose end dangling.

Ironically, despite arguably kicking off what could have been a trend in fantasy-lit adaptations, hardly a single would-be copycat flourished in the ten years since. With the exception of Twilight (which is less a pure fantasy and more of a gothic romantic drama) and the already established The Chronicles of Narnia, pretty much every would-be fantasy franchise died on the vine. In such a fashion, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter were similar to Tim Burton’s Batman, which kicked off ten years of one financially-disappointing would-be comic book franchise after another (Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, The Phantom, Spawn, etc). What the two films did spawn was more important than copycats. They spawn an idea, that a massively successful franchise could reap not just hundreds-of-millions of dollars at the global box office, but billions.

And, and this is equally important, they helped normalize the idea (along with Shrek, which also came out in 2001) that mainstream fantasy pictures were now the ‘family film’ of choice. No longer were kids going to specific ‘kids flicks’, but rather they were tagging along with their parents or older siblings to PG-rated cartoons like Shrek and PG-13-rated (and often uber-violent) fantasies like The Two Towers, Transformers, or Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The four-quadrant blockbuster, the ‘one film to serve them all!’ was normalized. There was no need to make films for young kids, older kids, and adults. You could simply make one film that would appeal to all ages, be they appropriate for the youngest, and they would all flock to them in increasingly record numbers. The end result was sadly that studios abandoned not just films specifically for the youngest kids but films specifically for adults as well. Through no real fault of their own, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Fellowship of the Ring were in just the position to capitalize on a year’s worth of major developments and their respective sheer quality put them in the position to rack up massive profits and show the studios the path to financial success for the next ten years.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo

Visit our YouTube page to see videos of this year’s HOLLYWOOD AWARDS GALA winners!

Follow Hollywood News on Twitter for up-to-date news information.

Hollywood News, Hollywood Awards, Awards, Movies, News, Award News, Breaking News, Entertainment News, Movie News, Music News

About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

Follow us

Breaking Hollywood News   


Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.