Hollywood Uplink – March 2005: Why Do They Make the Movies They Do?

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March 2005

        Issue: 14:3

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 Why Do They Make the Movies They Do?
By Dick Rolfe

The entertainment industry is presently in a state of flux. Filmmakers are searching for the “magic bullet” to target the largest possible audience for their movies. Question is; which audience segment will generate the most revenue?

Hollywood separates moviegoers into groups based upon what they think about certain topics. These are called psychographic profiles; unlike demographic profiles that group people by age, income and social status. Psychographic groups can be easily connected to specific kinds of films.

To illustrate, I’ve developed a list of psychographic categories below. If you want to participate in an unscientific survey, write each of these categories on a sheet of paper. Next, write the name of a recent film or films that would appeal to people in each group.

Preschool children: Preadolescent girls: Prepubescent boys: Love-sick adolescent girls (boys, too): Thrill-seeking teenagers: Love-sick teenagers: “Gangstas”: Romantics (a euphemism for love-sick adults): Women-hating men: Men-hating women: Homosexuals: Murderers and rapists looking for inspiration: Youngsters looking for role models: Animal/earth lovers: Animal/earth haters: Students of history: Historical revisionists: Political liberals: Political conservatives: Evolutionists: Creationists: Atheists: Muslims: Catholics: Protestants: Jews.

There, that pretty well covers it — something for everyone. The point of this exercise is to increase our awareness of the mental gymnastics movie producers go through before green-lighting a picture. They not only have to identify the potential audience for their project, they must also be convinced there are enough people in that category to make money – hopefully, BIG money. One producer admitted that he focuses on making movies that appeal to “sub-literate, urban males, between ages 12 – 20.” He referred to them as “horny boys.”

Things are changing. More filmmakers are beginning to realize that there is a formerly untapped audience that has both the desire to be entertained and the money to go to the movies. The largest consumer segment in America is mainstream families with traditional values.

There are still a few diehard filmmakers who insist on making movies to impress their peers, without regard for the audience-at-large. The recent Academy Awards ceremony demonstrates that fact. Most of the winners achieved relatively poor box office performance. These award-winning producers didn’t impress their investors who are principally concerned with the bottom line.

The movie, Million Dollar Baby, winner of 4 top-end Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor) has only grossed $64.8 million at the box office. And yet, three blockbuster hits, Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2, and The Passion of the Christ, which were not nominated for those cherished categories, are ranked among the top ten highest grossing moves in the US – not just in 2004, but for all time!

Before choosing your next movie experience, ask yourself a couple of questions. “Which psychographic group was the movie made for?” And . . . “Do I want to be counted as a member of that group?”


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