B-List Boom: Smaller Movies Are Making Their Mark at the Box Office
As big-name dramas continue to try and bring large audiences back to the theaters, many kitschier “B-list” films are showing surprising resolve. Big-budget spectacles will always win over some portion of an audience—take for example Marvel feature or something like Top Gun: Maverick. The first movie deemed a “hit” in the pandemic era was Godzilla vs. Kong (a B-movie with a budget). B-movies, which typically have lower budgets and are less serious in nature, have been turning a large profit in the past few years. Last year closed with Violent Night, an action flick about a crime-fighting Santa Claus, earning a surprising $75 million. 2023 kicked off with M3gan, a movie about a killer doll, earning $172 million globally. Horror film Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey was made on a micro-budget, earning a killing during its small release. Currently in theaters, the outlandish comedy Cocaine Bear has already earned $50 million in just two weeks. Sci-fi thriller 65 hopes to make a similar splash with audiences in the coming weeks. As always, horror is a constant at the box office, as audiences habitually enjoy the genre, which tends to be cheaper to make. But the thing that really ties these movies together is their shared freak show quality. “Got to see it to believe it!” They also feature significant word-of-mouth and social campaigns. B-movies can successfully get people talking and draw in crowds in a way that can’t really be replicated on the small screen.
Gender Diversity: Switching Sides of the Camera
The annual study titled “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World,” led by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of the Center of the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, was released ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8. In examining top-grossing films from 2022, the study found that there was a 2% jump in movies with female protagonists compared to 2021. But 80% of all feature films still portray more male characters in comparison. One key factor in having more females on screen was simultaneously featuring them behind the camera as well. 56% of films with female writers or directors featured a female protagonist, compared to only 23% of female protagonists in movies by male creators. Overall, the percentage of women in speaking roles increased slightly—34% of these parts in 2021 to 37% in 2022. Another intricacy of representation discussed in this study is the type of women being featured. Most female characters were under the age of 40, making them staggeringly younger than their male counterparts. Regarding racial representation, there was also a slight drop compared to the diversity of previous years. In 2022, 64.2% of all female characters in speaking roles were white, 18% were Black, 6.9% were Latina, 8.1% were Asian, and 0 were Native American. As a genre, horror films were most likely to have female protagonists—a high of 43%. From the most to least likely, females starred in drama, action, animated, and comedies. This study began in 2002 and is the longest-running and most comprehensive analysis of female representation in film currently available.
Introspective Film and TV: Denmark Is Examining Structural Inequality
Denmark is known internationally for being the home of provocative film from a herd of new wave directors, but female-led advocacy group A Bigger Picture has the country looking inward to examine its industry’s lack of diversity. In their most prolific campaign, A Bigger Picture highlighted how three of the highest-profile Danish productions have all-white casts. To illustrate the point, the organization recreated project posters with actors from diverse backgrounds. With support from dozens of filmmakers and producers, the organization was able to meet with the Danish Film Institute, the main financer for local movies. While the creators of the campaign thought their work would upset those in the industry, Sandra Yi Sencindiver, one of the people spearheading the group, was surprised to find that “producers were interested and curious to hear what we had to say, and opened their doors to hear our perspective on what the barriers and problems are in the industry.” The group also discovered that industry leaders were not aware of the current level of discrimination. The group also points to Nordic countries like Sweden as being more successful in telling diverse stories. In many cases, it appears to be a top-down issue. Lene Børglum, a producer in Denmark, says that because “projects are evaluated on the cast,” it is difficult to obtain financing for diverse projects. Børglum currently has development support for a project with an African cast in Copenhagen, and this is being crafted on a very small budget. Very few diverse directors have created work out of the Danish film school; the most notable being Patricia Bbale Bandak, who went on to create Denmark’s first TV series with a Black cast. The group has yet to create any concrete initiatives, A Bigger Picture is currently gathering information form the Danish Film Board to push for future policy.
Investors Eye AI: How Media Companies Are Using Tech To Impress
Publicly traded media companies are trying to win over investors and raise stock prices using the inclusion of innovative artificial intelligence. Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel opened his February 28 earnings call with a generative artificial intelligence speech from Speechify. Doing business with the AI company, Emanuel said he included the tech because “with all the conversation around AI … we thought it was a proper time to kind of put this into our quarter, and for you guys to hear what it’s like.” Additionally, Buzzfeed and Microsoft spoke about AI news regarding their company and share prices rose. YouTube, Snapchat, and Spotify are also planning to invest in AI to better their services. Most recently, Morgan Stanely called AI’s potential for transforming business a $6 trillion opportunity. But Goldman Sachs analysts Eric Sheridan and Kash Rangan both recognize the cycles of hype created by these technology investments, calling out numerous talks about the metaverse just last year. Even so, Wall Street believes that the arrival of AI is a defining moment that will continue to make a significant impact. In entertainment, there is even more potential, but figuring out business models for these opportunities may take some time. AI is currently being used by top streaming services to power recommendation algorithms, so it isn’t too far off that the next AI will generate that very content.
Writers’ Rights: Late Night TV Writers in the World of Streaming
The future of late-night television is once again being pondered. Programs on streaming continue to be a much talked about affair. Shows like Chelsea, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, The Problem with John Stewart, and The Amber Ruffin Show are all streaming originals that have brought this specific style of television to the on-demand world, opening the door for more shows like them. Back in 2020, the WGA lobbied for its minimums to apply to scribes to help those working on these specific comedy / variety streaming shows. The WGA negotiating committee called this format the oldest television genre, and it has gained significant popularity on the subscriber streaming model. This attempt was unsuccessful, but the recently revealed Pattern of Demands once again wants MBA minimums on late-night programs made for new media, getting rid of entirely negotiable rates. For linear late-night TV, writers have a set minimum (currently at $4,785 per week), but this does not exist in streaming. This WGA is arguing for parity, no matter where a writer works in the future. And as more original content moves to streaming, this will provide some stability. Many WGA members agree that these minimums need to be established as the world of television continues to change. They would also apply to sketch shows, but fewer sketch programs currently exist on streaming.
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