Possibly: Why 7 in 10 Movies Lo$e Money.
In Entertainment Industry Economics, Vogel states:
‘…of any ten major theatrical films produced, on the average, six or seven may be broadly characterized as unprofitable and one might break even.’
So: Why do 7 in 10 movies (on average) lose money?
The only real reason that a movie is `good’ or `bad’ is: The Story.
At the risk of being obvious – the reason people go to see a movie is that: it is a good story.
So – Why are 7 in 10 movies bad?
I would like to propose a serious answer to this problem. In doing so, I will draw on three main sources:
a) Ian W. Macdonald’s 2004 PhD thesis, ‘The Presentation of the Screen Idea in Narrative Film-making’, Macdonald, I W, Leeds Metropolitan University. (Macdonald 2004)
b) DK Simonton’s Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics, Oxford University Press, New York; Oxford. (Simonton 2011)
c) Creative Practice Theory Narratology – my own synthesis of practice theory (Bourdieu 1993) the systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988), memes (Dawkins 1976), holons (Koestler 1964, 1967, 1978) and narratology (selected narratology methods since Plato).
POSSIBLY – WHY 7 IN 10 MOVIES LOSE MONEY:
My own formulation of “the problem” – and its solution – runs like so:
1) There currently exists a “screenwriting convention”. This is `the dominant discourse’ around what makes a good (even “great”) film story; “the knowledge” contained in screenwriting manuals, and screenwriting seminars. This convention is taught in high schools, universities, colleges, and film schools.
2) This “screenwriting convention” is dominated by a discourse that contains `film story dramatic principles’ proposed by various script `gurus’ (and, it appears that the 10 best-selling and most frequently academically-cited of these are: McKee, Field, Seger, Truby, Hauge, Vogler, Snyder, Stefanik, Trottier, Walter, Egri, etc).
3) The current “screenwriting convention” is primarily based on quasi-Aristotelian ideas of drama.
4) Many – in fact, arguably most – movie stories (screenplays) are therefore developed (conceived, written, and rewritten) in relation to this dominant screenwriting discourse / the “screenwriting convention”.
5) It is possible that the current `screenwriting convention’ is incorrect. Potentially, the most likely reason for this is that it does not employ a consilient (empirical nor a scientific) method in arriving at the `dramatic principles’ that characterize a great (film) story. Examples given by various authors of the approximately 2500 screenwriting manuals in existence (e.g. McKee, Field, Hauge, etc) are – in general – selective and illustrative; they are not the result of (derived from) comprehensive consilient (scientific and empirical) studies of empirically-successful film stories. (Such as, say: a list of, the Top 20 RoI films)
6) Aristotle’s notions of what makes good drama possibly applies to ancient Greek plays, but it too (Aristotle’s Poetics) is neither empirical – nor scientific in its methodology. It appears that Aristotle apparently selected various plays as examples of good drama, based on his own opinion.
7) If the existing `screenwriting convention’ itself is neither empirical nor scientific in its methodology, then it is possibly not surprising that 7 in 10 movies lose money.
9) This domain problem in Film, namely that 7 in 10 films lose money can potentially be corrected – or at the least improved – by an empirical and scientific approach to studying film story.
10) A comparative empirical and scientific study of the top 20 and bottom 20 RoI feature films may address the above problems, and specifically the core domain problem that: 7 in 10 films lose money.
This logical argument is the core premise of my doctoral research thesis, which is titled:
“Understanding and Exploring the Relationship between: Creativity; Theories of Narratology; Screenwriting; and Narrative Fiction Feature Film-making Practices.”
…Thoughts? Comments? Feedback?
High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher
The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky
JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/
Kuhn, TS & Hacking, I (2012), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 4th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago; London.
Macdonald, Ian W. (2004), ‘The Presentation of the Screen Idea in Narrative Film-making’, (Leeds Metropolitan University).
Simonton, Dean Keith (2011), Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Vogel, Harold L. (2011), Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide For Financial Analysis (8th edn.; New York: Cambridge University Press) xxii, 655 p.