Tomorrowland is officially a flop. Box Office Mojo
reports that in it’s second week, the film’s take has dropped by more than
half, and the international results aren’t that great either, despite almost
all markets being available. Yet the
cries have gone out; audiences complain about not being given original
films, and then don’t support one when it comes along. That’s precisely the
problem however, because original films are required to pull double duty: they
have to be original, but also very, very good.
Although not an animated film, Tomorrowland is nonetheless
indicative of the problems that original films face in today’s market. People
may bemoan DreamWorks’ reliance on sequels, but when you’re plopping down $130
million+ on a bet, you want to hedge it as much as possible so that you don’t
end up with a flop on your hands.
Sequels may not have great storytelling, but they are good
for business. Unfortunately as much as some of us within the industry like to
delude ourselves, animation is a business and must be conducted as one. Films
have to make money, and sequels are overwhelmingly more likely to make money.
Audiences face a choice too. Sequels are a known quantity,
and if a consumer liked the first film, they are sure to like the sequel.
Original films must prove themselves. It’s the classic indie film problem: how
to convince a consumer to commit to an hour and a half of their time in
exchange for some completely untried piece of entertainment. If you’re in any
way familiar with independent filmmaking, you’ll know that’s an impossible sell
to the average cinema goer. At least a distributor like GKIDS exists that has a
proven track record of getting independent animated films in front of the right
audiences throughout the country.
How good does an original film need to be? Disney and Pixar
still set that standard with their output and while both studios do throw a lot
of money at the screen, they also have extremely polished stories compared to
other films on the market. That can make a real difference in the mind of the
consumer, and the numbers back that up.
It isn’t enough to say that audiences should support every
original film, because they simply aren’t all worthy of being supported. For
every Song of the Sea, there is a Delgo.
Studios make duds, and actively supporting a poor film just because it’s
original sends the wrong message. Animated films have managed to avoid such
stinging events for the most part thanks to their novelty and target audience,
but that isn’t to say that they will not occur with greater frequency in the
Increasing production of films bear this out, and once
consumers are faced with a greater choice, the wheat will be separated from the
chaff, and films that aren’t up to scratch will be left behind. Ultimately,
this will be good for consumers, who will [hopefully] see a rise in quality,
but the pressure will be on producers. If you thought studios had a hard time
reaching the bar set by Pixar, you haven’t seen anything yet.