By Geoff Swenson
Last week, with a tremendous amount of fanfare, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace opened. The amount of hype surrounding the film was incredible. There were countless news stories, television reports and commercials. In addition, Pizza Hut, Pepsi and many other companies paid billions of dollars for the right to use Star Wars names and images. Not surprisingly, the new Star Wars film enjoyed the largest single day opening in history. Immediately everyone, from the industry to average fans was wondering whether it would have the largest opening weekend and/or is the highest grossing domestic film of all time.
While it is perfectly all right to speculate on the profit that a film will make, the new Star Wars film is only the latest trend. It seems that every big film that opens is being forced, by the studio and often the general public, to compare against the top grossing film of all-time. This is damaging to the overall quality of films for a variety of reasons. First, it takes emphasis away from the film itself. With such heavy emphasis being placed on the movie making tremendous amounts of money, the artistic qualities of a film are greatly diminished as the movie makers are pressured to make the movie as marketable as possible. Second, innovation is generally reduced, as studios are very reluctant to spend large amounts of money on a film concept that might not be accepted well by mass audience. Finally, the tremendous amount of hype that inevitably surrounds a big release can be very damaging because it raises the expectations of the film to such a high level that it is difficult and often impossible to live up to those expectations.
In conclusion, I dont have a problem with films making money (even making lots and lots of money). I just hope that the focus of films can shift back to the actual movie, instead of whether or not the new film will have a greater domestic gross than Titanic.