Blockbuster tentpoles are changing cinema

Marcus Campbell
Mesa Legend

In an interview with the Radio Times veteran actress, Jodie Foster made some shocking critique of the modern film industry.  She took shots at superhero and tentpole filmmaking saying that, “It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world.” She went on to belittle superhero films by comparing them to fracking.  Foster said, “Studios making bad content to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking — you get the best return right now, but you wreck the earth.” The cinema has certainly changed within the last decade. The return of big-budget franchises like “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars” have elevated box office returns.

Marvel, at Disney, and DC Comics, at Warner Bros., has also shifted the genre toward superhero tentpole films with both studios releasing multiple films every year.  In 2017 the highest grossing film domestically was “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” which made over $600 million domestically and over $1.2 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo. The top 5 films domestically included several superhero films. “Wonder Woman” made over $412 domestically, “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” made over $389 million and “Spider-man: Homecoming” made over $334 million.

Not all the top grossing movies support Foster’s theory; “Beauty and The Beast” made over $1.2 billion worldwide and over $500 million domestically without any superpowers. “It”, “Dunkirk”, and “Get Out” also made the top 20 domestic box office without any superheroes or superpowers and with much smaller budgets.  In addition, Foster went on to discuss her personal preferences toward filmmaking, “I feel like I make movies because there are things I have to say in order to figure out who I am or my place in the world, or for me to evolve as a person.”
Foster’s films have grossed big bucks in the past but her big-budget endeavors have been less than successful.

Fosters appearance in 2013’s Elysium is widely regarded as a flop and her highest grossing film is still “The Silence of the Lambs.” Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have both expressed their feelings towards the changing landscape of the cinema. Lucas feels as if the shifting landscape of film might cause cinema to adopt the revenue model of Broadway plays.  In this model film patrons would pay more money to see a blockbuster motion picture and a fraction less to view independent films and art-house cinema. Spielberg predicted an “implosion” of the film industry should blockbuster films ever collapse.

The enormous amount of money studios spend on big budget films would cause an enormous loss if they were to ever see a reduction in revenue.Viewing habits may have changed but that has not stopped studios from producing low budget prestige films and circulating them for awards consideration. In the Oscars nominations announced on January 23 not a single tentpole film or blockbuster received a nomination for Best Picture or Best Director.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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