Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trolling For Dollars

Big Hollywood has been in business for a week now and, from what I can tell, 95% of their traffic is me. Well, when I mean "me" I mean it in the Royal sense, a statement I admit makes little sense unless you are devastatingly intelligent. Hey, smart people, let's all make fun of the people who say they don't get it. Anyway, whenever web sites like Sadly No, Pandagon, Alicublog, and You Are Dumb, among others (including this one), are stuck for a topic, they simply log on to Big Hollywood and read whatever the hell is currently on their front page. With that done, they open Microsoft Word, click on the Big Hollywood Template they've created and just insert relevant names and information. The template looks something like this:
Can you believe that douchebag (insert Big Hollywood author here) over at Big Hollywood wrote that (insert something incredibly stupid here)? That might happen if (insert evidence you got from a 30 second Google search that proves whatever the hell Big Hollywood said is a crock of shit here) wasn't true.
Let's try that. I'll log on to Big Hollwyood, see what's currently on their front page and voila:
Can you believe that douchebag Gary Graham over at Big Hollywood wrote that he has "self immolated his career by coming out Conservative"? That might happen if the fact that, according to his IMDB page, he currently has two movies in development wasn't true.
See how easy that was? Left wing web sites have had the easiest week of their lives thanks to Big Hollywood. Unfortunately, I must stray from the template to cover a somewhat broader topic. There are a couple of recurring themes over at Big Hollywood. You have topics like, "Hollywood wants to surrender to violent Islamists," "Liberals in show business want to do away with traditional values and force everyone to have to divorce his or her spouse and gay marry a Mexican," and, "Conservatives can't find work in Hollywood due to the fact that liberals have them all on a blacklist that every single one of them keeps on their Blackberries." An example of that last one is the Gary Graham article mentioned above. The theme I'm going to cover today is Big Hollywood's love of Concern Trolling.

If you're not up on Concern Trolling, it goes like this. You hold a certain position like, let's say, being against the creation of giant mutant bugs that will destroy the planet. You then use whatever venue available to you, be it your position as a cable news pundit, your nationally syndicated column or just visiting the comments section of a pro-giant bugs website and say something like, "Really, the only choice that the giant bug creators have is to give up their bug creation efforts for now, abandon their laboratories and then come back to it in a few years when, hopefully, the public will be more open to the idea of being devoured alive by giant bugs."

Big Hollywood's attempts at Concern Trolling have been going something like this: "Due to the fact that all the profitable movies are conservative while all the anti-war and liberal message movies are financial losers, don't you think movie studios would make a lot more money if they'd abandon movies like that for more profitable fare?" Since the movie business actually saw its total box office take rise by 2% in 2008 giving them an all-time record year, I'm sure many studio executives are appreciating this advice from their mortal enemies about what they're doing wrong.

I've already written about a couple examples of this, specifically the time when Orson Bean wrote that Hollywood doesn't make movies like Slumdog Millionaire, apparently not realizing that he was talking about an actual movie that was in the theaters at the time he wrote that, and Endre Balogh's plea not to make any more movies like In the Valley of Elah since that movie "lost a fortune" when, in fact, it made a profit. Since I wrote that last piece, there have been a couple more examples of this.

One of the best so far is S.T. Karnick helpfully advising Hollywood to stop making big budget entertainment aimed at a large, general audience and focus on low budget Christian films.
Yes, The Dark Knight made more money in U.S. theaters than any film in history except Titanic (in nominal dollars, unadjusted for inflation), but in terms of sheer return on the investment dollar, you’d have been better off putting your cash into the teen vampire movie Twilight, the teen musical High School Musical 3: Senior Year, or Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert.

And you’d have been much, much smarter to invest in Kirk Cameron’s small, independent, Christian film Fireproof: it cost a half-million dollars to make and brought in $33.1 million, a return of more than sixty times its budget.
Here's a little clue: dozens of cheaply made Christian films are made every year, most of them straight-to-DVD stinkers. Maybe one a year gets lucky and manages to break out and become a legitimate hit. In 2007 it was Bella and in 2008 it was Fireproof. This is similar to when independent features like Little Miss Sunshine or Slumdog Millionaire manage to become hits. Most movies like that are seen by a very limited arthouse audience and make a small profit at best. Karnick then gives the film industry a handy tip sheet it can consult the next time it's wondering which films to greenlight. As a favor to Karnick, I will helpfully respond to each point:
* Big stars in recognizable, popular genres will get a big opening weekend. But if the movie isn’t good, it will tank quickly thereafter. (Bad movies make money all the time -- MC)
* Teenage girls are a steady source of income for the film industry. (Duh -- MC)
* PG and G films make money. (So do PG-13 and R movies, what's your point? -- MC)
* Big stars and snazzy graphics guarantee high costs but not necessarily high returns—cf. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Australia, and Speed Racer. (No shit -- MC)
* Political implications are fine, but to update the great Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn, if you want to send a message, send a text. The antiwar agenda deservedly brought financial losses to the arrogant leftists who tried to inflict it on innocent audiences. (Notice he doesn't name any of these alleged money losers. -- MC)
* And most important of all: people want a good time at the movies. They are willing to be challenged (as The Dark Knight and Iron Man, for example, did very well), but they don’t want to be insulted or have their basic values denigrated. (No fucking shit -- MC)
Wow, thanks a lot, S.T. Karnick. I can't wait to see his tips for good health that include sage advice like, "Don't drink poison." His comment about G and PG movies got me thinking, though. I looked up the cost/profit ratio of Saw V, the ultra-violent R-rated horror film. It's production budget was 10.8 million dollars. It's worldwide box office take was 105 million dollars. Had I invested in Fireproof, I would have made a 30 million dollar profit whereas if I had invested in Saw V, I would have made a 95 million dollar profit. Using Karnick's reasoning, this means we should stop making low budget Christian films and that every movie should be an ultra-violent torture-porn flick like Saw V. Feel free to take my advice, Mr. Karnick, and invest any money you might have in movies like that. No need to thank me, I'm just trying to help.

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