Hollywood Has Only Itself to Blame for Lousy Returns

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

It's the content, stupid.

With Hollywood reporting the worst October weekend in six years, some industry analysts are looking for something to blame -- something other than spectacularly bad movies such as "The Heartbreak Kid." The true culprit: "Halo 3."

And if you believe that, we've got this great screenplay we'd like to sell you. It's called "Delusion."

In Hollywood's defense, no one from a studio went on the record to blame video games. In fact, Mark Weinstock, the marketing chief at Screen Gems, which had nothing to do with "The Heartbreak Kid," said simply that "box office is driven by content."

But people like a nice and neat little theory -- even if it flies in the face of logic. "Halo 3" was released shortly before "The Heartbreak Kid," which performed miserably. Young men play video games. Young men were the target for "The Heartbreak Kid." Therefore, blame the game. Just forget the completely unfunny trailer and the horrible reviews.

Bad theories (and silly excuses) are more common than barn swallows. But what's most troubling about some of the Hollywood analysis is the seeming lack of basic knowledge about the media and gaming habits of the young men playing "Halo 3." Firstly, would anyone suggest for a second that if "Transformers" had been released that weekend, that "Halo 3" players wouldn't have taken two hours out of their day to go to the movies? Further, to point to the length of time it takes to complete "Halo 3" misses the point by a mile. The "campaign" mode -- one guy in a room playing against the computer -- isn't what excites gamers about "Halo 3." It's the multiplayer mode, in which a bunch of guys can sit in darkened rooms and interact in a social environment for hours and hours on end.

Hollywood, in a way, pioneered that concept. After all, in an age when people can get a better viewing experience at a cheaper price in their living rooms, lots of consumers still go to the multiplex for the chance to sit in the dark, munch on popcorn and share in a social environment. If the studios just remember to put something watchable on the screen -- may we suggest the Peter Jackson-helmed "Halo" movie? -- they won't lose sleep worrying about video games.
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