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August 1994


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"Chad Dominicis, ([log in to unmask])" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Aug 1994 19:14:24 EDT
text/plain (53 lines)
Recently, Allan Siegel wrote of the lack of "epic" movies versus big budget
"blow 'em up good" films being made. And Edward R. O'Neill wrote:
>"... following up on Allan Siegel's post of late which points out the
economic rationale behind large expenditures of cash on-screen (that is, in
highly visible ways of which the audience is made aware by the media as a
publicity machine.  While I agree that large expenditures are apparently
justified by larger profits, I also think there's more to it than this
economic rationality.  I think there must be some strange pleasure in seeing
on-screen spectacles of the sheer profligate waste of large amounts of
To this observation we can juxtapose a term that Krin Gabbard used in her
post, when referring to True Lies: "blockbuster," (not as in a video store,
but as in a megabuck effort.)
But, in my opinion, the equivalent of the new "epic" IS the "blockbuster
film." And Hollywood these days is less under the control of the producers
and directors than of the accountants who strive to generate "blockbusters"
not epics.
The money counters are educated in the ways of patterns, charts, projections,
and returns on investment. The money counters are dependent on studies and
analyses done for them by marketers, and psychologists. Every move that a
financial executive makes has to be justified by these studies and reports.
Seldom is the artistic value of a project given the same importance that is
given its economic feasability.
Epic mentality is a characteristic of the artiste. Blockbuster mentality is a
characteristic of the business department.
Not that there is anything wrong with making megabucks. But, the problem here
is the lack of support for "art for the sake of art," (as the lion once
When the analyzers say: "Audiences like big explosions," the money counters'
studios run to make big explosions.
These days the counters have noticed that most movies that receive big doses
of P.R. and two to four weeks of advance advertising get big opening week
numbers. Usually the weeks following a release show much weaker numbers for
these features. But that doesn't matter much, since by then most of the money
has already been recouped or soon will be via home video and cable. They've
also noticed that few are the films that take a few weeks to build steam on
word of mouth recommendations, anymore. So publicity wins over quality.
We know that film production techniques are more expensive everyday. Unions,
actors, agents, sets, and lunches are more expensive than ever before. But
the biggest increase in budgets comes from bigger promotion costs.
Yes, for the audience there is some value to the "blow 'em up good" type of
entertainment. But most of us feel that there aren't enough real epics being
Then again, the accountant/producers are only doing what they have been told
that we, the audience, like, (or as they say, what "works.")
So, I don't really think that the thrill of signing big vouchers motivates
the production of blockbusters. I think it's formula thinking combined with
"CYA" caution that has created this phenomenon.
Well, to close on a more positive note: I do believe that there are some
epics being produced. Do you? Off the top of your head(s) what are three
recent epics that you can remember?
Sincerely, Chad Dominicis, Miami, FL.