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The Death Of The Tentpole Film

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Manka Bros. Studios, The World's Largest Media Company, Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Jackie Battley, Marianne Ginther, Jeff Weiner, Ben Silverman, Rob Johnson, Sonny Perdue, Rick Tyler, Hermain Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Joseph Smith, Thomas S. Monson, Elder Cook, Elder Nelson, Elder Holland, Elder Perry, Elder Bednar, George Romney, Ann Romney, Brigham Young, Sean Hannity, Bob Dole, Ann Coulter, James Grisham, Eric Stanger, Allen & Company retreat, Anne Mulcahy, Ari Emanuel, Barry Diller, Ben Silverman, Bob Iger, Bobby Kotick, Carol Bartz, Charlie Rose, Cory Booker, DumbDumb, Electus, Eric Schmidt, Erin Burnett, Gina Bianchini, Harvey Weinstein, Herb Allen, Herb Allen Sun Valley Conference, Herbert Allen, Jean-Bernard Levy, Jeff Bewkes, Jeff Weiner, Jeff Zucker, Jeffrey Immelt, Jerry Yang, John Donahue, Ken Auletta, Khan Manka, Lachlan Murdoch, Lady Gaga, Leslie Moonves, Lionel Barber, Lloyd Grohl, Manka Bros., Marc Andreessen, Marissa Mayer, Mark Pincus, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Sorrell, Mathias Dopfner, Mike Bloomberg, Niall FitzGerald, Peter Chernin, Phillippe Dauman, Reid Hoffman, Richard Parsons, Ricky Van Veen, Rob Wiesenthal, Robert L. Johnson, Ron Meyer, Rupert Murdoch, Sergey Brin, Sheryl Sandberg, Steve Jobs, Sun Valley Retreat, Sun Valley Retreat 2010, Terry Semel, Tom Freston, Tom Friedman, Ursula Burns, Vivi Nevo, Warren Buffett, World's Largest Media Company, Rupert Murdoch, Jose Maria Aznar, natalie Bancroft, Peter Barnes, Chase Carey, Kenneth Cowley, David DeVoe, Viet Dinh, Rod Eddington, Joel Klein, Andrew S.B. Knight, James Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Thomas Perkins, Arthur Siskind, John Thornton, Stanley Shuman, Rebekah Brooks, Les Hinton, Teri Everett, jack Horner, Julie Henderson, Reed Nolte, Roger Ailes, Janet Nova, John Nallen, Beryl Cook, Michael Regan, Genie Gavenchak, Brian Lewis, Irena Briganti, Dan Berger, Rosabel Tao, Steven Rubenstein, Suzanne Halpin, Elisabeth Murdoch Hollywood doesn’t need to panic yet – but the powers that be should seriously start thinking about changing film slate strategies.

This is great news for filmmakers, terrible news for Hollywood’s bottom line.

Tentpole movies, when they work, print money for years and years and years – through sequels and licensing, etc. etc.

But, like what happens with obesity, if you give someone a double-quarter pounder meal with super-sized fries every once in a while – it probably won’t make you fat.

If you give someone that meal every freakin’ day for the rest of their lives – they’ll be fat and die much sooner than is necessary.

Hollywood studios have booked a tentpole movie practically every weekend for the next five years.

This is unsustainable and only a matter time before audiences yell bullshit, back away from the Big Mac and change their diet.

This is not to say that these movies are going away completely. There is always an appetite for a great event film spectacle. When they hit, it’s the greatest experience. And I hope that never goes away.

But everything can’t be a tentpole.

Yesterday, I saw the Deadline.com story on Disney’s announced animation slate (see picture).

disney_animation_slatePersonally, I CANNOT WAIT for “Untitled Disney Animation Movie 2017!” And I really can’t wait for the Untitled Toy that my daughter will want.

Studios, especially on the live-action side, have no idea which movies are going to rise up from the pile to get a greenlight five years in advance.

They just know that they have to make 5-6 tentpole movies a year to hit their revenue and profit targets. You can’t make a decent budget projection if you have slated “Silver Linings Playbook 2″ or the next film from Alexander Payne.

Tentpoles are necessary for financial planning. But it’s become so much of a science and so NOT much of a creative endeavor that I fear they are suffocating the goose that’s been laying the golden eggs for the past 10 years.

And, seriously, audiences just can’t take it anymore.

They aren’t crying for “Marvel Character #1,000″ to finally have his or her own movie!

“Remember that character that cleaned the floors in ‘The Amazing Spider-man Comics #43′? He totally needs his own movie!”

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Manka Bros. Studios, The World's Largest Media Company, Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Jackie Battley, Marianne Ginther, Jeff Weiner, Ben Silverman, Rob Johnson, Sonny Perdue, Rick Tyler, Hermain Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Joseph Smith, Thomas S. Monson, Elder Cook, Elder Nelson, Elder Holland, Elder Perry, Elder Bednar, George Romney, Ann Romney, Brigham Young, Sean Hannity, Bob Dole, Ann Coulter, James Grisham, Eric Stanger, Allen & Company retreat, Anne Mulcahy, Ari Emanuel, Barry Diller, Ben Silverman, Bob Iger, Bobby Kotick, Carol Bartz, Charlie Rose, Cory Booker, DumbDumb, Electus, Eric Schmidt, Erin Burnett, Gina Bianchini, Harvey Weinstein, Herb Allen, Herb Allen Sun Valley Conference, Herbert Allen, Jean-Bernard Levy, Jeff Bewkes, Jeff Weiner, Jeff Zucker, Jeffrey Immelt, Jerry Yang, John Donahue, Ken Auletta, Khan Manka, Lachlan Murdoch, Lady Gaga, Leslie Moonves, Lionel Barber, Lloyd Grohl, Manka Bros., Marc Andreessen, Marissa Mayer, Mark Pincus, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Sorrell, Mathias Dopfner, Mike Bloomberg, Niall FitzGerald, Peter Chernin, Phillippe Dauman, Reid Hoffman, Richard Parsons, Ricky Van Veen, Rob Wiesenthal, Robert L. Johnson, Ron Meyer, Rupert Murdoch, Sergey Brin, Sheryl Sandberg, Steve Jobs, Sun Valley Retreat, Sun Valley Retreat 2010, Terry Semel, Tom Freston, Tom Friedman, Ursula Burns, Vivi Nevo, Warren Buffett, World's Largest Media Company, Rupert Murdoch, Jose Maria Aznar, natalie Bancroft, Peter Barnes, Chase Carey, Kenneth Cowley, David DeVoe, Viet Dinh, Rod Eddington, Joel Klein, Andrew S.B. Knight, James Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Thomas Perkins, Arthur Siskind, John Thornton, Stanley Shuman, Rebekah Brooks, Les Hinton, Teri Everett, jack Horner, Julie Henderson, Reed Nolte, Roger Ailes, Janet Nova, John Nallen, Beryl Cook, Michael Regan, Genie Gavenchak, Brian Lewis, Irena Briganti, Dan Berger, Rosabel Tao, Steven Rubenstein, Suzanne Halpin, Elisabeth Murdoch But Hollywood thinks it can do it and that audiences will keep lapping it up.

And this summer, they will –  “Man Of Steel” and “Pacific Rim” both look fantastic and I’ll be seeing them both on opening weekends with millions of others.

Again, Hollywood doesn’t need to panic yet.

I wrote a couple of years ago that audiences will never tire of super heroes – that the characters who are shoved quickly into movies should not be blamed for the failures of mortal film executives and writers to tell their stories well.

But there is only so much heavy lifting these characters can do – they’re superheroes, they’re not God.

It’s time for Hollywood to take more risks, be more experimental, have more fun. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Film production IS McDonalds these days. The food looks and tastes exactly the same every time (and, sure, there is some comfort in that). But when was the last time you heard an employee at McDonalds say their job was fun and totally creative?

jill_kennedy_85Jill Kennedy – OnMedea

Permanent link to this article: http://mankabros.com/blogs/onmedea/2013/05/30/the-death-of-the-tentpole-film/

15 comments

2 pings

  1. Hollywood Joe says:

    I completely agree, Jill. The formula has been stale for a couple of years now and audiences are beginning to catch on.

  2. Calix Lewis Reneau says:

    I had the opportunity to talk with a theatrical marketing exec at one of the studios last year.

    A friend had finally realized the power in tentpoles, and suggested that just making one was the road to success.

    To which I replied “Yeah, but if you’re making tentpoles, you have to be positioned to have 9 out of 10 of them fail. With a conservative estimate of $250M out-the-door for each one, you’re looking at needing to be able to put $2.5B on the table to take the risk. The upside is that $5B franchise… but it takes money to make money.”

    This was off-the-cuff on my part; when I mentioned my theory to this marketing exec, he told me I was correct except for one minor point: yeah the studio would lose 9 times out of 10 at the $250M ante, but had made his studio north of $20B with no sign of slowing down.

    I had a meeting today with the head of acquisitions for another company, and she said the movie biz is looking much healthier now than two years ago; I replied that it seemed that way in some regards, but the landscape was still unsettled.

    F&F6 set a record for Memorial Day weekend, for instance, while small indie films can’t get arrested by audiences when they make it to the screen. So the event movie – the tentpole – is reliably healthy (in that 9-out-of-10-failure model I just mentioned) but the audiences are staying away from non-tentpole theatricals in more like a 99-out-of-100 model.

    Just as MLB and the NFL and the NBA still have a viable business model based on event marketing, so too will the tentpole film – people like that ride. Sure, it might thin out, but the relative stability of theatrical even during the current Second Depression surprised even me.

    The place for us little folk – as always – is in the ever-widening gaps that open between tentpoles. It’s actually not a terrible place to be. When a tentpole fails (9 out of 10 times, remember) people looking for a story will turn to other outlets, and the savvy indie filmmaker will be there to cater to them – making tens of thousands while the studios chase billions, perhaps, but the opportunity is greater than ever. Gotta play to scale.

    Just don’t formulate it as an “either/or” – it’s more of a “both/and,” and a great opportunity for indie producers so long as we don’t get historic tunnel-vision thinking the space to play is by trying to compete theatrically against tentpoles. That’s a losing proposition…

    …IMPHO!

    (In My Probably Heretical Opinion.)

  3. Jon Stevens says:

    As an indie award winning filmmaker who has had to struggle for years, I’m thrilled with all the emergence of great online creative & VOD distribution media platform opportunities which one day will make all the arrogant agents, managers, creative executives, readers, sales reps, and all the other gatekeepers obsolete as the control is definitely shifting to the artists and social media savvy marketers. My focus is both creating content & monetizing and as I getting a handle on both, I praise the Lord as I will never, ever have to beg & be lied to & abused by the Hollywood system. I’m not vindictive, but overjoyed and thankful.

    Please watch BUICKS DON’T BUY (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EHfrSB-2Ao) 26 minute documentary re my 30,000 door to door crusade to get a “fair to the filmmaker” distribution deal for my award winning, critically acclaimed feature film IRISH WHISKEY that debuted this week on the http://www.pivotshare.com VOD channel:
    https://stevensentertainmentchannel.pivotshare.com/#dmlldz1NdWx0aW1lZGlhO21lZGlhSUQ9MTgxOA==

    Best wishes.

    Jon Stevens
    Filmmaker
    CEO
    The Stevens Organization
    The Stevens Organization Entertainment Channel

  4. Jonathan Shestack says:

    None of this great news for filmmakers.Tentpoles will survive because they alone
    have the potential to relize a return on a 50 million++ advertising spend. Which is
    what is essential today in such a crowed environment. Out tech brothers and sisters
    have managed to make production inexpensive, but there is no hack I know of for marketing costs.

    There is also no hack that defends agaisnt vertical integration of media companies–which has hurt the midrange movie–probably beyond ressucitation.
    js

  5. Jerry Crow says:

    Do you mean to say piracy ISN’T destroying Hollywood?

  6. Michael Savage Aka Sirtony says:

    Yes…Jill…all so true…and the studios know that the EFFECTS FILMS and the ROLLER COASTER EXPERIENCE of the VISUALS is apart of their ADDICTION…the LARGE SCREEN and the SOUND and the ROOM SHAKING and the Seat Vibrating with all the EXPLOSIONS and VISUAL INSANITY CAN NOT BE DONE AT HOME….yes the secret why great films about life and Actors telling stories is now RARE…the STUDIO Films of the PAST were about the story…Sure there were films with ACTION and Guns and Killing …but always a fair share of stories and the focus on the ACTORS….MMMMMmmmm…well I have focused on creating my Film Company on the REALITY …that the ‘ACTORS ARE THE SPECIAL EFFECTS’…. and I am finishing a Film called ‘TALKING TO STRANGERS’ that is a Multi Cast GENRE…something I started a while back and developed…and will be releasing some time soon…to yes ESTABLISH a new Genre of films… here is the link to view the Trailer…if you are interested in a Interview …it would be wonderful…so look forward to making history…and blessings from my family to yours… http://www.sirtony.info/feature-films-in-post.php

  7. Joseph Chastain says:

    Tentpole films are going nowhere. Nothing in the industry is changing when it comes to blockbusters anytime soon. After last years HUGE B.O. takes, it’s goign to be a long time, if ever, that event films decline.

  8. Thomas Mathai says:

    The studios can’t bet on just a handful of movies a year and always expect success.

  9. Russell Buchanan says:

    Indie films are not always great but they are catching up, that’s my current passion and I’m in development. Finding the investment however is another story.

  10. Paul Stiles says:

    Remember the summer the first Hangover film was released. It was surrounded by “tent poles” – all of them tanked and Hangover, made for $30 million made $675 million. A great script and film that is truly funny do create an audience.

    1. John Aguirre says:

      Paul, I think you should check your stats on the 2009 B.O. when Hangover was released. It was in fact, a bonus year, the year of the ultimate tentpole Avatar and quite a few others. I don’t know where Jill is getting her ideas to fuel her articles from.
      1 Avatar Fox $749,766,139 3,461 $77,025,481 3,452 12/18 8/12
      2 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen P/DW $402,111,870 4,293 $108,966,307 4,234 6/24 10/15
      3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB $301,959,197 4,455 $77,835,727 4,325 7/15 12/17
      4 The Twilight Saga: New Moon Sum. $296,623,634 4,124 $142,839,137 4,024 11/20 4/1
      5 Up BV $293,004,164 3,886 $68,108,790 3,766 5/29 11/5
      6 The Hangover WB $277,322,503 3,545 $44,979,319 3,269 6/5 12/17
      7 Star Trek Par. $257,730,019 4,053 $75,204,289 3,849 5/8 10/1
      8 The Blind Side WB $255,959,475 3,407 $34,119,372 3,110 11/20 6/3
      9 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox $219,614,612 3,747 $48,875,415 3,700 12/23 5/20
      10 Sherlock Holmes WB $209,028,679 3,626 $62,304,277 3,626 12/25 4/29
      11 Monsters Vs. Aliens P/DW $198,351,526 4,136 $59,321,095 4,104 3/27 8/27
      12 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox $196,573,705 4,102 $41,690,382 4,099 7/1 11/22
      13 X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox $179,883,157 4,102 $85,058,003 4,099 5/1 10/1
      14 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Fox $177,243,721 4,101 $54,173,286 4,096 5/22 11/1
      15 2012 Sony $166,112,167 3,444 $65,237,614 3,404 11/13 2/25
      16 The Proposal BV $163,958,031 3,158 $33,627,598 3,056 6/19 11/5
      17 Fast and Furious Uni. $155,064,265 3,674 $70,950,500 3,461 4/3 7/2

      1. Paul Stiles says:

        Sure lots of franchise projects work. Look at this weekend – a durivative “White House Down” tanks with a $150 million budget, with “The Heat” with a $50 million budget is outpacing it. I was talking specifically about projects designed by the marketing department not people who love film. This summer already 2 films with the White House in perril. What do you think will be the outcome of the plots?

  11. a says:

    These movies are garbage. The endless flogging of these pre-pubescent superhero fantasies says absolutely horrible things about us as a people.

    But perhaps an even more discouraging sign: go to any blockbuster movie this summer and pay attention to the previews. Count up how many of them are either about the end of the world, or take a post-apocalyptic state of affairs for granted. It will be ~half.

    Whose psychology does this reflect? Does it symbolize the end of Hollywood? The end of the American age? Or the literal end of humanity itself? Maybe all of the above. Regardless, though most of those movies also look like garbage, they reflect an anxiety that is real and widespread. Something is in the air and it is not good.

  12. DoyleHolmesFan says:

    I disagree, in fact, I think Disney will have a monopoly on the tentpole film for the next 8-10 years. They own Marvel, meaning they have Thor, Captain America, Ant Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers coming out between now and 2015. They own Pixar, which can be considered the tentpole movie studio for kids movies (plus, lets be honest, a lot of people who are 21+ will be going to Monsters University and Finding Nemo 2). They also own the Pirates of the Carribean series which will have a new film out in 2015…and we haven’t even mentioned the reboot of Star Wars starting in 2015 and going into at least 2019. And don’t forget, Disney now owns Indiana Jones! Which has the distinct possibility of being another tentpole reboot for them.

  13. Bertram Potts says:

    This is ridiculous, but after reading that terrific, intelligent article…I just could not believe how pretty you are! Its totally unfair that you get to be both!

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    [...] her article “Death of the Tentpole Film,” Jill Kennedy of OnMedia says that, “It’s time for Hollywood to take more risks, be more [...]

  2. I’m Back » OnMedea says:

    […] Movie studios are imploding and on their current tract will produce fewer and fewer quality films while continuing to bore audiences around the world with sequel after sequel after sequel. Don’t the studio bosses know that the Tentpole Is Dead?! […]

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