Monday, January 5, 2009

Box Office Success: nobody knows anything

The weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald article (via The Guardian) on gender domination at the box office highlighted just how up its own arse Hollywood can be.

It seems 2007 was the year of the big bloke blockbuster; a time when There will be Blood and No Country for Old Men sang the success of men, and films with female leads generally stank (apart from Juno). In retaliation, Jeff Robinov at Warner Bros announced a ban on leading ladies.

This makes me think of three things. No four.

First, Jeff is a bit of a dill and I’m not sure how he ended up with the big Warner Bros gig.

Second, it reminds me of the famous William Goldman quote about Hollywood: Nobody knows anything.

Malcolm Gladwell gives the comment a bit more context in his New Yorker piece 'The Formula' - which looks at whether or not technology can help predict box office success (a bit like stock market charting).

Said Goldman:

“Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess.” One of the highest-grossing movies in history, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was offered to every studio in Hollywood, Goldman writes, and every one of them turned it down except Paramount: “Why did Paramount say yes? Because nobody knows anything. And why did all the other studios say no? Because nobody knows anything. And why did Universal, the mightiest studio of all, pass on Star Wars? . . . Because nobody, nobody—not now, not ever—knows the least goddamn thing about what is or isn’t going to work at the box office.”


Third, I wonder why someone would completely jettison female leads based on a year of particularly bad films? Lucky good old Jeff isn’t running the local film industry as a lacklustre decade of Australian films would almost certainly mean us shutting up shop for good.

And fourth, this Nobody knows anything notion is what makes this business exciting. It’s the magic bit. Sure, you can interrogate, strategise, and research the bejeesus out of something, but sometimes an idea just works. Just because.

1 comment:

John Lacey said...

I cannot help but think this "nobody knows anything" notion applies to so much of life, but particularly as you observe to creative subjective endeavours.