GEORGE MF WASHINGTON: The Era of the Joyless Blockbuster.

The root problem with the current era of blockbusters is that the movie studios, which were long ago subsumed by multi-national corporations which live and die by their stock prices, are focused on something other than great storytelling.

It’s a bit of a simplification, though not a big one, to say that if you wanted to make a movie in the 70’s, you only had to convince one man… Frank Yablans at Paramount, for instance, or Thom Mount at Universal. But here in the Era of the Joyless Blockbuster, before you can actually physically make a movie, you must convince what is called a studio “greenlight committee” to “greenlight” your movie.

The modern greenlight committee is composed of not just creative executives, but also executives from a bunch of other departments as well, including marketing, physical production, legal, consumer products and, of late, the local Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer. These “non-creative” folk will care whether or not the movie is “good” only up to a point… what they’ll care about most is that the movie is something they can easily sell to audiences, that it pushes the proper “messaging”, that it’s something they can make on a sensible budget, or that it can generate multiple streams of ancillary income… preferably all four.

Over time, creative executives trying to get big summer blockbusters made have learned to lean into what the greenlight committee wants… which is to say maximum profitability, maximum “representation” and the need to deliver a “four quadrant product.”

To a large extent, storytelling has become a secondary consideration.

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