In a Netflix world, movie studios are making more movies than ever. Is this a good thing?

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Hollywood is producing more films than ever. But how many of them are good?

The streaming revolution has not only rewritten the rules of film production and distribution, it has also revolutionized the way movies are judged, as major studios and tech giants in Hollywood accelerate a surge. the number of new films entering the market.

Netflix is ​​Hollywood’s clear leader in new film production, producing more films in 2020 than weeks in the year. And Amazon is increasingly producing original films for Prime Video. But it’s not just the streamers that are cranking up the volume. Old studios like Walt Disney Co.

and Paramount Pictures are also increasing their production of live streaming films on their own platforms in an effort to remain competitive and retain their subscribers. Paramount recently announced plans to release a new movie on its Paramount + service every week by 2022.

Cue the existential crisis: what does it mean for cinema?

“It’s a different way of thinking about movies,” says producer Randy Greenberg, former head of marketing and distribution at Universal Pictures, which is currently developing film projects for streaming services.

Traditionally, the movie industry has been a successful business where the goal of producers and studios has been to create films that can draw audiences to theaters and sell tons of tickets. “You have to give a reason for people to leave their homes,” says Greenberg.

Streamers, on the other hand, aspire to attract subscribers with a constant stream of movies and series to keep them satisfied enough to keep paying their subscription fees – which cost about the same as a ticket. cinema – month after month. The importance of the quality of each individual film, from both a business and a consumer perspective, is reduced. Many Hollywood insiders are worried about the pressure studios are putting on themselves to maintain quality amid the huge production leap.

According to Ampere Analysis data calculated for the Wall Street Journal, Netflix produced 133 films between 2016 and early 2020, more than three times that of Disney, Hollywood’s dominant studio, which also produced the fewest films. Sony Pictures Entertainment is the second most prolific studio on the list with 111.

Although Hollywood produces more films, very few titles score well with audiences and critics. Ampere measured popularity with two different measures: a crit score, which provides a weighted average of the critical scores of Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic; and an audience rating based on aggregate online public ratings.

On average, audiences gave the original Netflix films, which include some Oscar nominees, a score of 59.1 out of 100, while the critics’ score gave the company an average score of 54.4, according to Ampere. . The research firm also found that consumers lost interest in Netflix movies faster than those made by the big studios.

By comparison, Disney had the highest average among audiences and critics, according to Ampere. The average Disney movie, which includes big franchise movies like Marvel, had an audience rating of 70.3 and a review rating of 66. Disney also had the most movies that achieved sustained popularity.

Quantity over quality

Netflix has released the most movies of any studio in recent years, but also has the lowest ratings among its competitors.

Audience and critic rating by distributor

Film releases by distributor *

Audience and critic rating by distributor

Film releases by distributor *

Audience and critic rating by distributor

Film releases by distributor *

Film releases by distributor *

Audience and critic rating by distributor

This increase in volume and distribution has sparked debate among people in the industry. On the one hand, there are more opportunities than ever for new filmmakers and ambitious projects who may never have had their chance in the old Hollywood system. On the other hand, some industry professionals and moviegoers are worried. Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese recently wrote in Harpers that he worries that cinema as art will be devalued as films are bundled with TV series and unscripted shows and offered as “content” on platforms. streaming.

It is also more difficult to determine what is really a hit. While for decades box office revenues have offered the clearest indication of popularity, the ability of ticket sales to separate winners from losers faces a diminished role as films are more and more popular. in addition broadcast on streaming platforms. And although the box office is showing signs of life after the lockdown, Hollywood is unlikely to slow down Hollywood’s decision to release more films exclusively online or in conjunction with a limited theatrical release, according to several veterans. Of the industry. Streamers are mostly reluctant to share data on the popularity of certain titles, and what they report themselves lacks context, such as how many people have finished a movie versus just a few minutes. Some companies like Nielsen are trying to find a way to track online audience, and therefore popularity.

The cast changes are also rewriting the issues for filmmakers. In the past, filmmakers often took less money on passionate projects, instead of partnering with studios so that if the film hit theaters, they would receive a percentage of the box office as a bonus. Both filmmakers and studios took risks in the hope of a big payday.

A streaming version changes this calculation. For a film that debuts online, the filmmakers are usually paid generously up front with no chance of financial benefit if their film is a big hit.

Many powerful Hollywood players are wondering how this model of hire work can influence quality. Without a chance to share the box office revenue, filmmakers are no longer associated with distributors and therefore are less likely to determine the commercial success of their film.

“The attitude of what is a hit and what is a flop changes completely,” says Peter Guber, a film producer with four decades of experience who has also completed a successful stint at the helm of Sony in the years. 1990. During his Hollywood career, Mr. Guber helped produce iconic films like “Rain Man”, “The Color Purple” and “Batman”.

Whether the stakes are higher or lower for filmmakers and executives, figuring out how to create films that are successful with audiences and critics has never been easy.

“If you look at the heyday of Hollywood… they didn’t believe in sequels and franchises. Every movie was just a hunch, ”says Stephen Galloway, a journalist who covered the entertainment industry for about 40 years before becoming the dean of Chapman University’s film school. “Quality you can never really guarantee. “

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