Globalisation continues to open up new markets. Back in 1991, Michael Eisner described Hollywood’s future goal as 'planetised entertainment.' We have now reached that point. This is your guide to the global super-movie, and where it might have left to go.
Data usage tells the story of just how central special effects have become: In 1989, The Abyss used 45GB of storage for sequences that lasted 73 seconds; The Perfect Storm, in 1999, about 500GB; The Avengers, which barely had a shot without a digital trace, 200 terabytes (20,000GB).
With films such as Tintin, the third Ice Age movie and the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean pulling in close to 80% of revenue outside the US, blockbusters increasingly hedge their bets in terms of their settings, so they can appeal across as many markets as possible.
The Avatar effect
The plot of James Cameron’s record-breaker was a metaphor for the super-movie experience. The average movie protagonist these days can’t be burdened with too many psychological traits in order to facilitate this videogame-like proxy experience. Perhaps part of this, like avoiding too-specific locales, is having points of human identification that are universally familiar.
What matters now is concept. If you ask your mates how many of them are going to see The Dark Knight Rises, it’ll be all of them. Then ask, ‘It’s because you love that Christian Bale guy, right?’ And half of them will go: ‘I forgot he was in it’.” The franchise makes the star these days, not the other way around.
Franchises are especially important overseas, where the familiarity factor helps ensure success. Sequels tend to do better abroad than in the US; in fact, there are numerous instances of America being less keen on franchises (late 90s Bond, Hannibal, Ocean’s 12 & 13) than international audiences. And now, with The Avengers, comes the dawn of the meta-franchise, combining four existing properties.
More deeply focused attempts to court Chinese and Indian audiences have already begun, such as Stan Lee’s The Annihilator, the first Chinese superhero movie and portrayal of India and Indian actors in Hollywood. Foreign companies too that are increasingly bankrolling Hollywood, such as India’s Reliance, will begin to demand more creative input.