Quentin Tarantino can sometimes come across as a bit surly.
He and a group of well-known directors – mostly old and mostly male – are pretty annoyed at the state of film culture in 2022. What really annoys them is the dominance of Marvel, and Disney comics films are synonymous with any intellectual. Blockbuster franchise based on property.
Think DC, Star Wars, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and more.
People like Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott and Francis Ford Coppola believe that the existence of franchises affects what gets and doesn’t get greenlit in Hollywood.
And they’re not wrong – although some of their more caustic conclusions that superhero movies aren’t real storytelling are a bit superficial.
Intellectual property (IP) has taken over movie releases, and this has happened with the rise of streaming, which has made it much easier for viewers to stay at home and play the press instead of spending at least $50 for two more tickets. if you want snacks and drinks and had to pay for parking or Uber.
Many moviegoers will only do their best for a “tent” or “event” movie like the Avengers movie or maybe the next installment of Indiana Jones. Or a children’s film like the hundredth Despicable Me.
Undoubtedly, these brands are bigger than any of their protagonists. That’s what Tarantino’s latest message is about.
He said 2 bears, 1 cave podcast: “Part of the marvelization of Hollywood is that you have all these actors who have become famous playing these characters. But they are not movie stars. Right?
Captain America is a star. Or Thor is a star. I mean, I’m not the first to say that. I think it’s been said a million times, but, you know, it’s these franchise characters who become stars.”
Tarantino is right. Evans could be a big star. Chris Hemsworth could be a big star. But they are not movie stars in the sense that the term has been understood for almost a century.
They are not movie stars like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett. are movie stars.
Audiences don’t go to the next Thor movie because it’s a Hemsworth movie, they go because it’s a Thor movie. The same with Evans. God of Thunder and People’s S*xiest Man doesn’t sell movie tickets, they sell streaming subscriptions. For better or worse, this is a measure of success in 2022.
Marvel is a brand, it’s a business card. Evans and Hemsworth are not. Even when Jolie, Blanchett, Michael Douglas and Christian Bale are in a Marvel movie, they are nothing more than the MCU. The audience didn’t go. Ant-Man because of Douglas. They didn’t go to Thor: Love and Thunder because of Bale.
But viewers will definitely watch Hemsworth’s film if it’s streaming at home. This is why Netflix is so closely tied to Hemsworth’s business, and why the actor is being paid $20 million to Extract 2. That’s why gray man worked all those hours.
Actors like Hemsworth, Evans, Chris Pratt, Tom Holland and Millie Bobby Brown who have been catapulted to stardom by big franchises are catnip for streaming viewers. At home streaming, it’s not as important what the movie is as it is the fact that they’re in it.
The entry threshold is much lower. You’re either already paying for a subscription, or you want to sign up for a free trial (or a cheap membership) to watch the new Adam Sandler movie you’ve heard about.
It takes about two minutes and you don’t even have to get up from the couch.
Compare this to ticket to heaven, a mediocre rom-com with a predictable, prosaic plot. What it didn’t matter was the combined star power of Clooney and Roberts in a genre that doesn’t challenge. ticket to heaven amounted to 158 million US dollars.
This is not a snub to those three of the four Hollywood Chrises, or Brown, or Holland. If it had been 20 years earlier, they would have been real movie stars, but the machine doesn’t churn them out anymore.
And the likes of Hemsworth have an astute understanding that when it comes to their personal brand, viewership and big royalties are on stream. You wouldn’t regret their choice.
Even the latest wave of new movie stars — people who make you pay for a movie ticket regardless of the movie, like Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling and Charlize Theron — had their statuses minted nearly two decades ago.
Tectonic shifts in the industry and audience behavior put an end to the old order.
But Tarantino is wrong to attribute the end of the movie star to the influence of Marvel. This is equally due to the rise of streaming, which has pushed studios to make choices about what they fund and don’t fund, and what they do and don’t have in the market.
The explosion in home entertainment choices – and at reasonable prices – has changed what viewers will and won’t leave their home for. Cinema has become a near-premium experience, with the average Australian moviegoer seeing fewer than five films a year.
The economic imperative for studios is to invest in franchises with built-in audiences whose brands are larger than any individual.
Fans don’t go to The Fast and the Furious because they want to see Vin Diesel exclaim about family, they go because they want ever more outlandish car chases and spectacles. And they know that this is exactly what they will get, it is a given. So they know what they are paying for. And he will easily survive the d*ath of a leader, just like Paul Walker.
The convergence of franchise and streaming dominance also leads to chicken and egg.
Have audiences stopped watching mid-budget comedies in theaters in the first place, and so now they’re on streaming? Or did audiences know there were great comedies streaming, so they didn’t see the point in paying for them in theaters?
You’re much more likely to find people like Sandler, Will Ferrell, Jennifer Aniston, Amy Poehler and Reese Witherspoon on a streaming service than on a movie.
Does this mean we don’t have movie stars anymore? It’s not so black and white. The likes of Pitt and Keanu Reeves are still around.
And there’s a front of young talent, including Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet, who are selling tickets regardless of the project, but their ability to put slackers in their seats has not yet extended for generations. They turn to their devoted peers, but not yet to grandparents.
There are also some names that are not so easy to put anywhere. Someone like Margot Robbie, who is undeniably a star and still works exclusively on the big screen. Or Emma Stone, Anya Taylor-Joy and Saoirse Ronan.
But their names alone are not enough. It must be a combination of name and project. David O. Russell AmsterdamThe all-star comedy, starring Robbie, Bale, Robert De Niro and a dozen other names, was one of the year’s biggest box office flops. He could lose up to US$100 million.
Robbie and her countrymen are not in the same position as her peers were 30 years ago. Just like IP does now.
It doesn’t even matter what’s new Lord of the Rings There were no “stars” in the show because Middle-earth matters.
This shift has its upsides, it gives studios the cover to cast lower profile actors from more diverse backgrounds because there’s enough brand strength. People like Simu Liu, Chadwick Boseman, Ismael Cruz Cordoba and Sonequa Martin-Green.
The culture has changed and you can rarely change things back. Marvel may not have killed off the movie star, but she’s definitely a movie star now. Tarantino is at least half right.
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