Walt Disney Animation Studios chief technical officer Andy Hendrickson, in a talk at the Siggraph conference Sunday, laid out the thinking behind the studio's feature strategy. The bottom line: The average number of viewers per release is falling, and studios need to fight that trend with tentpoles.Part of the problem with the number of viewers decreasing is the fact that ticket prices are rising. If the prices were not increasing by 20% a year, maybe viewers wouldn't wait until they are out on DVD before watching. It's true for me. There's some movies that I would have seen on the big screen had the reviews been slightly better but when all is said and done, I'm out $10-11 bucks when you see the big picture. If I wait until it's out on DVD, I average around $1 to $1.50 depending on the month it is.
The number of tickets sold domestically, Hendrickson said, is roughly flat since 2005. But with the exception of a drop after the 2008 financial crisis, the number of titles released has grown considerably. Even that dropoff only took the number of 2010 tiles back to 2006 levels. Therefore the average number of viewers per release is falling.
"Profit equals the ability to capture more than the average share of viewers," Hendrickson told attendees at the confab in Vancouver.
Here's the quote that kills me inside:
"A tentpole film is one where you can seed the desire to see the film to everyone in every distribution channel. It's the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing," he said.One, Johnny Depp has a fan base alone. Two, Alice in Wonderland alone has a fan base. Three, the reason why it brought in so much money was that it was released in 3D. Take away the INCREASED TICKET PRICES from 3D alone and you're looking at losing a few million. You have to take that into account when looking at the big picture.
Hendrickson's talk was mainly focused on solving problems in digital production on tentpoles, but he began with an "Econ 101" presentation on the movie business.
"People say 'It's all about the story,'" Hendrickson said. "When you're making tentpole films, bullshit." Hendrickson showed a chart of the top 12 all-time domestic grossers, and noted every one is a spectacle film. Of his own studio's "Alice in Wonderland," which is on the list, he said: "The story isn't very good, but visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn't hurt."
The article said that The Lion King was in theaters a year. There's a reason for that. Studios weren't releasing three to five movies a weekend! Plus, it had a story and catchy songs to boot. You can't ignore these things. People will see it again and again. I won't lie that I pre-ordered the bluray. It's a great movie and one that came out during the Disney Renaissance period.
While I did enjoy the live action adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic, I'm not about to buy it on BluRay or DVD.