The Business: “The Leftovers” and Damon Lindelof

Last week, The Business talked with Damon Lindelof of “Lost” fame, who recently finished his work on “The Leftovers”, after three seasons on HBO. The podcast mostly deals with the audience expectations, particularly in the case of adaptations and how networks, writers, and producers deal with the expectations. Most of the responses and expectations have to do with HBO and the recent “regime change” in terms of how shows stay on the air.

Lindelof: “We were actually I think shooting the first episode when Mike left and Casey came in…I think if we were not in our final year I would probably experience some anxiety about what the direction of the network moving forwards is but I think that the brand of HBO and the kind of television that they want to do transcends any individual…and that The Leftovers was executing what it needed to do to be on HBO’s air”

Part of the reason why HBO works the way it does has to do with the way that audiences react to material. An example that Lindelof brings up is Game of Thrones, which has been a huge success since the beginning in 2010; the show coming up on its final season after being “off book”. This kind of behavior is very similar to franchise fatigue only instead of suffering from it, the studios involved are using it as a gauge to determine program line-up. This is a valuable tool, but it does not always work as Lindelof notes that the situation is different for comedies such as Friends, in which the fatigue does not stem from the audience or critics but from the actors themselves. This kind of approach, of using franchise fatigue as a guage for content, allows us to think about programming, scheduling, and marketing, not just for television but for films. A film that has been in production for two years and is released tomorrow will be read completely differently than it would if it were released in a month. Using this kind of thinking will help filmmakers and television showrunners determine when to release content; and in an industry where timing is everything, such a skill as reading the audience response is a developmental priority.



Logan and the R-Rated Movie, What the Box Office Tells Us

The Hollywood Reporter issued the weekend box office report this morning with good news for Fox: Logan, the final installment of the “Wolverine” franchise and the last Hugh Jackman led X-Men film, grossing a grand total of $85.3 million at the weekend box office, with a global turnout of $237.8 million (an additional $152.5 million). Pamela McClintock notes:

“Overseas, Logan opened No. 1 in 80 markets and is the third-biggest debut for Fox International behind X-Men: Days of Future Past ($172 million) and Avatar ($164 million). After China, the next biggest market was the U.K. ($11.4 million), followed by South Korea ($8.2 million), Brazil ($8.17 million) and Russia ($7.1 million).”

Continuing what hopes to be a trend thanks to the success of last year’s Deadpool, Fox seems to be telling others that superhero movies do not have to restricted to the PG-13 demographic; that an R-rated film can be profitable if it is made under the right circumstances and has the right elements. The proof of this can be found by looking at the exact opposite spectrum in The Lego Batman Movie, which in its fourth week has a cumulative box office of $148.6 million, its weekend box office for the week giving it $11.7 million according to The Hollywood Reporter.

It should be noted that both Logan and The Lego Batman Movie are superhero films, which brings into question why they are so successful to begin with. Part of the answer, may lay in Deadline’s observation earlier this week:

“The studio {Fox} has truly changed the game on the gravitas of superhero movies by making the characters edgy and rooting them in reality. Some rival studios out there aren’t swallowing this well, because they can’t do this with their superhero properties; more precisely they can’t have their comic book feature adaptations rated R for the sake of their brand or the superheros themselves” (D’Alessandro, updated March 5th).

The superhero genre is a genre in which the fans have immense power and control through audience response; this is because the characters in the films are well-established and, especially in the case of the X-Men which focuses heavily on the outsider trope, easy to relate to. Because of this power that fans possess it makes sense to market to the strongest pool of fans, those who have grown up with the X-Men films (and in some cases comic books, and the 1980’s TV show, but more-so the early 2000 films) who predominately seem to watch R-rated movies if they watch movies at all.

In the coming months, we as an audience may see a shift in the R-rated movie, one that focuses less on gore, violence, and sex, and focuses on the character; or at the very least, presents a framework for the gore, violence and sex to exist instead of existing for the sake of a rating. When that day comes, it will be a day of change in Hollywood, one that may force studios to re-brand their concepts about what an R-rated actually is and if there is one thing to reflect that it is the box office numbers of Logan.

The Chinese Box Office: “The Great Wall”

In the wake of the Oscars, it can sometimes be incredibly easy to get swept up in the mayhem. So, to offer a small reprieve, let’s talk about China, specifically it’s box office and why it matters to film companies.

“After 10 days, Xandar Cage, has earned $134 million in China, more than triple its $44 million North American total”

Why is this the case?  ScreenRant’s Kayleigh Donaldson, while by no means possessing the answer to this question, which is both ideological and on some level layered in economics, makes the point that the Chinese like to see themselves in films. This might explain The Great Wall‘s success:

“Like any nation, Chinese audiences enjoy seeing themselves and their culture on screen”

Contrast The Great Wall to The Mermaid, the current highest grossing film in China, and a different perspective comes to the forefront- the domestic Chinese market. While Hollywood films recently have been doing well in China, in no small part due to Disney with the opening of its Shanghai resort, the international grosses do not come anywhere near China’s domestic films.

“…audiences flock to blockbusters by home-grown talents like Stephen Chow, whose film The Mermaid is the highest grossing film in China, and made half a billion dollars without even having to come to America”

This kind of response is telling, especially for Hollywood. If film producers and studio executives want a film to succeed beyond the US, make sure it is accessible to the Chinese market. Such tactics have saved films like Warcraft and Transformers: Age of Extinction from becoming complete box office bombs, ultimately allowing for the studios to reap some reward and mitigate some of their initial loss in revenue.