Week Three

Where Business Fits into Art

For last week’s blog post, I went a little bit broad. I started to discuss the movie industry as a whole, but I’ll shrink it down a bit this week and discuss it as a business. I think it’s important to remember that the movie industry is still a business. I know that I, personally, love to see the bright lights at the movie theater and think about all of the magic made behind the scenes and the worlds I might be taken to when watching the latest releases, but there’s some guy in a $6,000 suit somewhere with those thoughts incredibly far from his priority list.

First, I found this article from Deadline explaining how Oscar nominations impacted nominated films at the box office. Though there are definitely opinions inserted throughout the article, I absolutely believe that this is a news  story. It draws conclusions from the numbers it sees, but I truly believe that it makes completely logical conclusions in terms of causation because of correlation. For example, it explains that films nominated for Best Picture actually saw jumps in their domestic box office totals over the course of one weekend, which, in my experience, is mostly unheard of outside of awards season. It’s a great news story to show the relevance of the Oscars and how they impact the business of film. I also trust Deadline because they, along with places like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, have spent decades earning their credibility. These outlets can be seen by some as the New York Times of entertainment news, and they’ve established trust with their readers. They also use data to illustrate their points. The data derives from official box office totals, and it’s presented clearly without seeming to misrepresent what is actually happening.

Next is this article, again from Deadline, about this weekend’s box office projections. This one seems to be very straightforward in its intentions to inform. It is simply discussing box office totals, which show how successful a movie is each weekend. I also like that this article informs us of the budget of films, which is important to contextualize the box office return. It explains that The Rhythm Section, a new film starring Blake Lively, is projected to finish with a box office total of $3.1 million. It’s pretty easy to understand why that’s bad when the article also explains that the movie had a production budget of $50 million, which doesn’t even count marketing expenses. This article even explains the demographics of ticket buyers, complete with percentages, and it reports facts about what critics say. It never explicitly mentions opinions on the films, but it certainly leads us to conclusions about how to interpret the data, and the data suggests that The Rhythm Section is a big flop considering it will come in tied with Little Women for 8th place this weekend, a movie in its 6th week of release. Having read both news articles I’ve talked about I can conclude that Little Women might be able to keep up with The Rhythm Section’s opening weekend total because of Oscar nominations, so going deeper into news is obviously helpful. Again, Deadline is very reliable, but I also believe these totals because it is simple data collected by official box office counts. There’s not really a reason for me to be skeptical about this, and Deadline isn’t showing any bias by showing numbers and contextualizing those numbers.

In terms of opinions, I went back to 2009 for this review from Time’s Mary Pols on the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Obviously this is an opinion piece, as it’s a review, but any time the writer describes something as a “play date from hell,” I think it can be interpreted as subjective. I’ve seen the movie, and she’s exactly right, but it’s still an opinion. She even discusses her experience with the Transformers franchise anecdotally by placing herself inside the article and explaining that she missed the first film in the franchise, which she considers a blessing. I think any time the writer places themselves into a story or an article and expresses his or her viewpoint regarding the subject of that article, it’s an opinion. I love opinions, but they’re definitely meant to be taken in stride. Even critics I’ve connected with over the years oftentimes have different opinions regarding certain movies than I do, but I enter reviews and editorials knowing that. As far as the credibility of this article, I think Time is credible. The only thing I might be skeptical about is whether or not this critic actually saw the movie. Until I have proof, a la Entertainment Weekly’s review of Netflix’s The Witcher, that the critic did not watch something, I believe she watched it. Unfortunately, it would only take one slip to make me refuse to trust her in the future, but when I’m only counting on her to watch a movie, I’d consider myself to be in safe hands.

Finally, I thought I’d take a deeper look at the Transformers franchise with this article from Polygon titled, “How does a ‘terrible’ movie make $300 million in three days?” Right off the bat, I know that this is an opinion. It is from 2014 and comments on the success of Transformers: Age of Extinction, a movie that currently sits at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, yet somehow managed to make $300 million worldwide in its opening weekend. The article goes on to give the typical criticisms of a Michael Bay movie: no plot, dumb explosions, flat females and robots that embody racial stereotypes for some reason. These are all observations, but they are also, by definition, opinions. Even according to the Rotten Tomatoes scale that gives a black-and-white, yes-or-no response, 18% of critics liked the movie, so who’s right? We’ll never truly know, because these opinions can’t be proven. I had honestly never even heard of Polygon prior to this assignment, but it seems to be reputable for what it’s doing with this article. This is just an opinionated analysis of a business trend in movies. That said, I probably won’t be visiting Polygon again because my screen was riddled with ads the second I opened it, and I was attacked with the spinning wheel of death as my computer tried to load them all, but for a one time read, I’m willing to indulge the writer and listen to his opinion.

Photo Credit to Paramount Pictures for use of images