It's a discussion topic that comes back every so often, but I guess we still don't know if big-name actors and actresses drive us to the cinema anymore. The question of whether or not the movie star is dead at this point needs to die as well. It's sort of a moot point, because on-screen talent hasn't been a guaranteed draw for decades, yet they do certainly help market a movie through talk show appearances and other means. It's just that marketing doesn't always work for a movie that simply doesn't look or sound appealing.
But there is nevertheless something to talk about as far as what does drive us to the cinema for a particular film, or even at least drive us to add something to our rental queue. The other day, Deadline reported on the unsurprising findings of economic and academic studies on what elements of a movie truly generates profits, and of course it's just short "high concept" pitches. It's also "stories and directors," but the professors behind the studies clearly mean that these "high concept" pictures need to actually be well-written and well-directed -- that's comprehensively, not necessarily intelligently. Apparently saying the words "Battleship the board game with aliens" isn't enough.
Just look at this year's fifth biggest movie (the biggest in the U.K., of all time in fact), Skyfall. It's not making money because of star Daniel Craig. It's not even making money because of the James Bond character, given that after 24 films, we've seen the franchise have its better and worse days. And other than the pitch of "another 007 film," its actual plot isn't quite summed down in a few words. Skyfall is making money because of the combination of familiarity (character, action-genre expectations) and sufficiently competent execution of the story by final screenwriter John Logan and director Sam Mendes. Same goes for The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises for the most part. It's not even the salability of superheroes. It's superheroes done with craft and care.
Sure, there are plenty of moneymakers that are less than quality works, and there are even more very well-written and executed films that don't make much at all. Audiences can at any time be dumb, lazy, fickle, ignorant, forgiving, dismissive and other things that can cause much of the movie business to be unpredictable. But I definitely agree, and the numbers prove it, so that more than anything easily digestible plots with very good ("great" may be pushing it) storytelling and direction will always drive people to the movies.
What drives you to the movies?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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