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The Popcornification of Hollywood

If Barbie and Oppenheimer showed us one thing it's that we need to get more excited about movies. Both box office success stories, much of their overwhelming domination can be attributed to capturing the public's attention. News is often attached or tailored to what's trending and being talked about, so it follows that these movies would've attributed much more press coverage. Beyond the celluloid, the movies had lives in the media, sensational in the way they summoned up anticipation and mostly followed through on expectation.

Using their same-day release as a clever marketing gimmmick, what could have been fierce competition for viewers turned into a shared drive to see both films generate opening weekend hype and ultimately succeed. It's easy to see how the films didn't really pose much threat to each other with a marked difference in target audiences and the hope of piquing enough interest to warrant cross-pollination.

Popcornification of Hollywood

Coming from Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan, now both event film-makers, the double feature proved to be a smash hit... showing that there's an appetite for big concept art films outside of the cinema. Wearing pink and championing the Barbie movement made Barbie more than just a movie. Perforating the pop culture bubble, nostalgia played a big role in its revival with a long build-up in the wake of that Margot Robbie as Barbie first look. Having been in the pipeline for close on a decade, the suspense must have been killing just about everyone attached to it.

This is to say that cinema needs more of these kinds of event movies in order to reclaim the ground lost over the pandemic years. Big ideas, spectacle and enough excitement to loosen tongues and inspire audiences is what's required to reinvigorate movie-watching. While the Marvel universe, Fast and Furious and Top Gun sequel have played their part in keeping cinemas alive, it's not enough. Superhero fatigue, overlong franchises, one hit wonders and the popcornification of properties are not enough to sustain the industry. As much as we repackage, reboot, spin-off, remake or hear upper echelon auteurs complain... the spark of inspiration seems to be missing, making us realise just how much we miss it when something truly captivating sweeps us up.

It's easy to understand how the movie business has become more about the bottom line and more averse to gut feels and uncalculated risk. Perhaps our reporting systems have just become too refined, not fudging the facts enough for one or two studio execs to roll the dice on threat of their heads on dark horse or knife's edge movie ideas. Latching onto pre-existing fandoms, activating dormant products and remarketing has become so much easier than "reinventing the wheel". Maybe... just maybe it's time for more tax-incentivised productions to emerge with nobler intentions. How do we get the money to the film-makers who have the passion and integrity to deliver? Why isn't there a film body whose intermediary role is to connect people with money to those wanting to make great films?

The French take a percentage of each ticket sold and reinvest it into their film industry, which is a great way to ensure that the art of film has more chance of survival. Unfortunately, reversing the process and giving the people exactly what they want may actually be bad for the industry and eventually mind-numbing for the audience. On the back of soulless cookie-cutter Netflix movies like Red Notice and burgeoning superhero franchises, the arena is becoming overstuffed with films that exist to simply satisfy instead of challenge. Style is getting precedence over substance and this popcornification is not leaving much breathing room for art, up-and-coming film-makers, independent gems and next generation stars.

Beyond buying a movie ticket for films that matter, it's incumbent upon us to convert our excitement into word-of-mouth campaigns. To paraphrase a quote from Cloud Atlas, an enterprising film going in the right direction, you may be a drop in the ocean... but isn't the ocean a multitude of droplets? Champion the entities that don't have the marketing budget to speak to the world in order to get more of the movies you like.

Much like the idea of clean energy, the more you support it and vote with your butt, the more commercially viable and accessible it becomes to all. As insulated as we've become in our social media silos, the movie experience and film industry needs you to get excited about the stuff you like. The blockbuster franchises have enough momentum, so now's the time to get behind local productions and fire up independent releases. You may only think you're a Tom Thumb firecracker... but it's time to make some noise.