Is there room for movies for adults within theatrical distribution?
Fresh off the news that the brilliant Ridley Scott film, The Last Duel, only made $4.8 million over the pandemic weekend, Hollywood is back to asking the biggest question over the last decade: "What are we going to do with movies for adults?"
This R-rated historical epic was the latest title to suffer lower pandemic numbers than expected.
I can't fault it for struggling while we're still figuring out the coronavirus and its effects. But the scary numbers are these statistics from The Hollywood Reporter: "Only 2 percent of moviegoers turning up to see Ridley Scott’s A-list The Last Duel on opening weekend were 17 or younger, while just 17 percent were between the ages 18 and 24. Conversely, more than 80 percent of ticket buyers were 25 years old and up."
Hollywood is at an impasse. Theatrical distribution is important for studios to make money. They're public companies that want to keep shareholders happy, which means they need to prioritize movies that make the most money.
Right now, that's just tentpole ideas and four-quadrant ideas. Those movies are usually very expensive, so other genres and titles are being left by the wayside. For every superhero movie and large intellectual property, we're seeing adult titles slip away.
"They're going to TV" is the popular refrain here. But when does it end? Will we ever just not have these adult dramas on the big screen? I'm not just talking about historical epics, but the regular dramas about everyday life that used to be so popular.
Even movies based on popular books like Little Children and Wild seem like they would be a rarity in today's theatrical landscape.
Things are changing rapidly because of the pandemic. As Hollywood attempts to make a comeback, it feels like every movie released is forced into becoming a monolith, representative of its genre and viability. While that's not totally fair, it's how things are being seen. The truth is, Hollywood doesn't care that this is unfair. It cares about money.
That's the climate, so where do we go from here?
Well, for things to change, we need a hit. A massive adult drama that gets people out to the theaters and upends the climate.
Okay, so what if that never happens? We need a studio that prioritizes taking shots at movies that cost $20-40 million and makes five of them a year, instead of places that make one superhero movie and hope for the best.
Making that many for that little amount of money could help bring people back to the theaters and roll the dice on any of them being a hit.
The only time we really see studios rallying around these titles is when they come from an auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson or Steven Spielberg, but even then, those directors have found a hard time getting the budgets they need to secure their vision.
If theatrical studios aren't going to do it, then we need to see if digital companies are willing to take a shot at making these dramas. But if they do and have success, it might be hard to ever get them back on the big screen again. This is a hard situation to be in. Especially when many of us love grown-up movies and dramatic titles, yet understand that studios favor genres and find it easier to market to a wider moviegoing audience.
Do you have a solution for this besides people just making more movies? Let us know in the comments.