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Box Office Lessons the Deciders Should Learn
by Christopher Stone

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The Ones That They Want!

The Ones That They Want!
For better or for worse, but most probably worse, Hollywood and the box office are not known for self-analysis and introspection. Nor are they especially famous for learning from their mistakes or even from their triumphs. Similar to the current White House administration, Hollywood suffers from selective amnesia, remembering failures only on those rare occasions when memory will advance a point it is trying to make.

If this were not so, the Box Office Deciders would have to face the insane mistakes they make repeatedly. George Bush isn't about to do that, nor are those who "Greenlight" what we see at our multiplex.

That's precisely why I'm pointing out a few lessons that Hollywood and the box office would be wise to remember. If they choose to do so, then they, as well as Match Flickers, will reap rewards in the forms of bigger profits, better product, and a more satisfying "escape to the movies" experience. If they reject these lessons, they, and we, will continue to pay the price.

1. Teenagers and Musicals are a Match Flick made in Box Office Heaven.

Whether it was ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK in the 1950s, GREASE in the 1970s, or FAME in the 1980s, the combination of teenagers and musicals are sheer movie magic.

That magic was abundantly clear this summer in HAIRSPRAY, the motion picture musical about Baltimore teens, and their stuck in the 50s parents, in the 1960s. As of
Match Flickers say,

Match Flickers say,
this writing, HAIRSPRAY has grossed almost $120 million domestically. Sales are expected to soar when the DVD is released next month.

Apparently, the magical amalgam of teens and musicals extends to the Boob Tube as well as to the box office. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and its sequel, both Disney Channel originals, are two of the top-rated cable network ratings successes of all time.

The Hollywood Deciders need to have several teen musicals in pre production and production at any given time. Teen musicals: "They're the ones that we want Ooh, ooh, ooh, baby! The ones that we want!"

2. Comedies should be relatively low budget movies.

With a budget of just under $200 million, EVAN ALMIGHTY was dead in the box office water by the time some Hollywood "genius" green-lighted this too-costly laugh fest. Laughers should be the 99 Cents Only Stores of the box office, not the Nordstrom. Hollywood: When "greenlighting" a comedy, think in terms of a budget similar to THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN ($26 million), or SUPER BAD ($20 million). Keep a comedy's bottom line below the $50 million mark, make it without A-list stars and with R-rated situations, and you may even have another WEDDING CRASHERS-size hit on your hands. That movie cost $40 million and grossed $210 million domestically.

3. Flavor of the Month Features Tend to Fail.

Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan may be, or may have been,
Hollywood took a chance on A BEAUTIFUL MIND and won bigtime

Hollywood took a chance on A BEAUTIFUL MIND and won bigtime
the darlings of the pop music and/or tabloid worlds, but, more often than not, when Hollywood "greenlights" a flick starring a "flavor of the month" star, the feature fails. Even when a "Flavor of the Month" evolves into a full-fledged star, s/he often can't coax Match Flickers into the multiplex. Jennifer Lopez, even partnered with Ben Affleck, comes to mind.

4. Taking Some Risk Is Better Than Always Playing It Safe.

We're more than three-quarters of the way through yet one more year when sequels and three-repeats have dominated the box office. I'm not denying that sequels and their subsequent spawn have a place at the box office table, but Hollywood shouldn't always sacrifice what can be an art form on the altar of its insatiable greed and affinity for familiarity. It definitely breeds ennui, if not contempt.

Along with the tried and true ( tried and true describes almost every major movie released this year), give us a handful or two of original motion pictures that entertain and enlighten us flicks that actually elevate motion pictures to an art form. In 2001, Universal put its neck on the chopping block with A BEAUTIFUL MIND, winning big time at the box office and collecting Hollywood's most prestigious awards.

Playing it safe is great for the bottom line. Taking some risks can uplift humanity, elevate entertainment to art, and still make a buck for the bottom line boys.

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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