Why Do They Make the Movies They Do?

by Dick Rolfe, CEO – The Dove Foundation

The entertainment industry is in a state of flux. Attendance is declining steadily while ticket prices have maxed out. This means year-to-year revenues are starting to shrink. 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 consumer behaviors and preferences. These are called psychographic profiles; unlike demographic profiles which 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 at least one recent film that would appeal to people in each group.

Pre-school children who love fantasies: Youngsters looking for role models: First-person shooter gamers (adolescents and teens): Sports enthusiasts: High adventure lovers: Love-sick teens: Romantics (a euphemism for love-sick adults): Woman-hating men: Man-hating women: Animal/earth lovers: Animal/earth haters: Students of history: Historical revisionists: Political liberals: Political conservatives: Pro-evolutionists: Pro-creationists: Atheists: People of faith…

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.”

A few diehard filmmakers insist on making movies without regard for the audience-at-large. They are often more concerned about impressing their peers by “breaking new ground” than satisfying investors who are principally concerned with the bottom line.

We are beginning to see a change in direction. More filmmakers are realizing that there is an untapped audience that has both the desire to be entertained and the money to go to the movies. This also happens to be the largest psychographic group of consumers in America – mainstream families with traditional values.

The “Faith and Family” audience is moving the needle toward more “mild-mannered” film types, which are in fact, the most profitable.  To illustrate that point, Dove published the 2012 FILM PROFITABILITY STUDY which identifies R-rated movies as the least profitable category (average $12.7 million net profit per film).  This compares to the average G-rated movie which reaped $108.5 million and PG at $65.5 million in profits. It’s also important to note that the number of R-rated movies produced each year has fallen by 38% from 1991 to 2010.

At the 2012 Oscars, none of the Best Picture Nominees were R-rated. Four of the eight nominees were awarded the Dove Family Approved Seal – The Artist, Hugo, War Horse and Tree of Life.  This is good news for traditional families that love to be entertained by a variety of movie types – comedies, dramas, adventures, mysteries, etc. but within a specific range of values and tastes. These are the same characteristics required for a Dove Seal.

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?”