James Gray is the director of movies like The Lost City of Z, Ad Astra, and the upcoming Armageddon Time. He's found a way to make movies he deeply cares about in Hollywood. But in a recent interview with Deadline, he pointed out that it seems like studios have stopped caring about smaller movies and taking chances. They're forgetting that there are audiences for other titles outside of tentpoles.
Gray wants studios to take chances on smaller films
Gray is directly protective of the theatrical experience, and as you can see in the above video, he only wants studios to take more chances, not alter the way business is done. He said, “I think the theatrical is essential. If you look at the streaming movies that do the best they are the movies that come out in theaters first. That should tell you something.”
We're in a weird time where huge corporations are taking over parent companies that control studios, and those places are not buying into the art part of the "art and commerce" handshake that is filmmaking.
Gray expanded on Hollywood's current situation, saying, “I think the movie business made a critical mistake, and really it wasn’t a recent mistake, but a big mistake. To think of it as, ‘This film did not make a ton of money, thus we don’t make that film. This film will make a ton of money, thus we make that one.’ A very strict balance sheet equation. Why is that a mistake? That’s a no-brainer. Any first-level MBA guy or woman should know that.”
So how did we get here?
Gray says, “Here’s what happened—when you make movies that only make a ton of money and only one kind of movie, you begin to get a large segment of the population out of the habit of going to the movies. And then you begin to eliminate the importance of movies culturally. When you are so quarterly earnings bottom-line minded, you lose the big-brain vision.”
“So, we’ve got to force it back. The studios should be willing to lose money for a couple of years on art film divisions, and in the end, they will be happier.”
There is no game plan on how to force it back, but I have to think the first studio that sees the writing on the wall and then starts to make these movies and see a profit will cause a changing of the tide. But let's hope that happens sooner than later. The climate now is causing the sidelining of many films. And it's stopping many studios from greenlighting projects that used to cost less and contain a few breakout hits. Now the bets are big and so are the losses. That kind of business model is not sustainable, and it's taking away the careers of many capable voices.
Let us know what you think in the comments.