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Why family films are better than the adult movies at the moment

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: Here’s a novel idea: “Toy Story 3” is making bank because it’s the best big-studio movie of the year and audiences have already noticed. Steven Zeitchik of the “LA Times” is wrong. Audiences are not flocking to family films because of some rebellion against adult pictures. Audiences are flocking to family pictures because the kids-flicks are better than the adult movies at the moment. Audiences want good films, period. Sure, critics and audiences may disagree on what is ‘good’, and lousy all-ages pictures like “Alice in Wonderland” or teen-centric movies like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” may be massive hits despite their lack of quality. But at the end of the day, if studios make a good movie and can open the picture through marketing, audiences will usually respond. “The Hangover” didn’t gross six times its opening weekend because it tapped into some kind of zeitgeist. It grossed $277 million off a $44 million opening weekend because it was good. “How to Train Your Dragon” didn’t slowly pull in $215 million from a $43 million opening weekend because audiences suddenly remembered that they had kids. It stuck around because it was a terrific movie, and those that initially saw it fought like hell to make sure their friends and family saw it too.

“The Karate Kid” was unique amongst the summer fare in that it was arguably the lone big summer movies that based its marketing campaign on the idea that it was a good movie. The marketing did not base its campaign on the fact that is a sequel to a movie you liked two years ago (“Iron Man 2”), or a film you had an obligation to see if you were a female (“Sex and the City 2”), or a desperate knock-off of a movie you loved ten years ago (“Robin Hood”), or a dumbed-down version of a 25-year old TV show that was pretty dumb to begin with (“The A-Team”), or something that vaguely resembled action/fantasy franchises that you really liked over the last decade (“Prince of Persia”). Sony sold the character work of Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan and the inherent drama in the story that was being told and got audiences, young and old, into the theater based on the promise of quality. Of all the big summer movies thus far, Sony’s “The Karate Kid” campaign was the only one that had faith in the quality of the film they were selling. And since “The Karate Kid” was actually an emotionally compelling and engaging movie, audiences are responding accordingly (“Toy Story 3” came with the Pixar badge of quality, so they didn’t have to push too hard).

And, for the record, the article in question discusses the relative failures of “The Bounty Hunter” and “Kick-Ass.” Well, let’s compare it to the break-out family film that opened on the same weekend as “The Bounty Hunter.” Yes, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” cost $15 million while the Aniston/Butler caper cost $40 million, but “The Bounty Hunter” actually made $3 million more in domestic grosses and $71 million more worldwide. And “Kick-Ass” did not disappoint anyone who had any real knowledge of the industry. The film was made for a cult audience, and it is that cult audience that showed up. In the end, the Lionsgate picture made $95 million worldwide on a $50 million acquisition and marketing budget. When you factor in the countless nerds who will buy the DVD or Blu Ray, Carl Icahn won’t have too much to complain about (“Killers” is a problem, but only because the glorified B-movie cost an absurd $70 million).

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To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos.

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One Comment

  • Jane
    July 5, 2010 | Permalink |

    At last a critic who deals with facts and not wishful thinking. Great article and realistically perceptive (how’s that for a compliment?). Look forward to reading more of your analysis of films and the film business. Thanks!

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