[9 March 2009]
The Orange County Register (MCT)
Why does Hollywood make so many comic-book movies like “The Dark Knight” and “Watchmen?”
Why does Hollywood make so many silly comedies like “Madea Goes to Jail” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop?”
Why does Hollywood make so many stupid teen slasher movies like “Friday the 13th” and “My Bloody Valentine 3D?”
You can tear your hair out trying to answer these questions.
It’s my job to answer these questions, and I’m in a constant state of frustration. Trying to figure out Hollywood’s motives for making movies can drive one insane.
But Larry Gordon has saved me.
Because of him, I may sleep at night. I may break my Rolaids habit. I may actually grow hair.
I’m sure you’ve never heard of Larry Gordon. Perhaps you’d recognize the name Lawrence Gordon? That’s how his name appears on the credits of his movies, but you’re probably still settling in your seat when his name scrolls by.
Gordon is a respected movie producer who has been responsible for such classics as “Field of Dreams” and “Die Hard.” He’s also the producer of “Watchmen,” the highly anticipated comic-book movie that opened last weekend.
If anybody understands the complicated nature of Hollywood, it’s Larry. If anybody can answer all those complicated questions, it’s Larry.
Well, I sat in a room with Mr. Gordon last week, and it changed my life. He gave me some sage advice that will alter forever how I view Hollywood. I am no longer confused.
“Stop making Hollywood so complicated,” he said firmly. “It’s not that complicated. Hollywood makes certain movies because they make money; and these movies make money because people like them.”
It seems so obvious when he says it, doesn’t it?
Of course, that doesn’t explain a movie like “Slumdog Millionaire.”
I seriously doubt that movie executives sat around a conference table and decided to make a movie about the slums of India because they believed that it would make a lot of money because people like movies about the slums of India.
Yes, “Slumdog Millionaire” has made more than $200 million at the worldwide box office, not to mention the eight Oscars, but nobody can convince me that it was planned.
Sometimes, I suppose movies get made for other reasons, like art or tax write-offs.
But I think you’re going to see less and less of those reasons for making movies in the coming year, and more of what Gordon said.
It has become obvious to Hollywood power brokers what readers of this column have known for months. In time of economic need, people go to the movies.
The movie industry thrived during the Great Depression, and it is clear that movies are doing well in this faltering economy.
Believe me, people in Hollywood have taken notice that the aforementioned “Madea Goes to Jail” made an astounding $41 million its opening weekend. There is no good reason for that movie to make $41 million in a single weekend, except to prove that audiences are desperate for escapist entertainment.
“In really hard times,” explained Deborah Snyder, another “Watchmen” producer, “people still go to the movies because it is a relatively inexpensive escape from the harsh realities of real life.”
She’s right; movies are widely recognized as a relatively inexpensive art form, assuming you avoid the concession stand. And that is the buzz circulating in Hollywood.
Executives are searching desperately for projects that can be classified as “pure escapist entertainment,” which is funny because they should always be searching for projects that are pure escapist entertainment. They lose their way sometimes, and make movies like “Last Chance Harvey” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
It boils down to Larry Gordon’s mantra.
But why did it take an economic disaster of epic proportions to make these guys understand that?
I suppose it is human nature. It takes a serious medical scare to get us to eat the right foods and exercise regularly. It takes a natural disaster in our hometown for us to be kinder to our neighbors. It takes a few rounds of layoffs to feel grateful to have a job.
Apparently, it takes a deepening recession to wake Hollywood up to the fact that people want to be entertained at the movies.
But let’s not go overboard praising the brain trust of Hollywood because they have been awakened to the truth.
They will continue to make mistakes. They still suffer from a copycat mentality. I’m sure we’ll see “Madea Goes to a Halfway House,” “The Much Darker Knight” and “Paul Blart: Playground Monitor.”
Those titles are inevitable, but it is possible that a few entertaining movies will be made in the next couple of years. Entertaining movies make money, and we know what a motivating factor that is in Hollywood. But do we really need “Pink Panther 3?”