2011 Performances and Hollywood’s Crash Landing

January 5, 2012

Each branch of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences selects the Oscar nominees in that branch; that is, cinematographers nominate cinematographers, editors nominate editors, etc. Every Academy member also gets to nominate for Best Picture. The one exception is the Producing Branch (of which I have been a member since 1984) which nominates in only one category by joining the other six thousand members of the Academy in selecting up to five films for the Best Picture Oscar.

When the nominations are announced, all members get to vote in each category for the Oscar, with the exception of foreign films, shorts, and documentaries which you need to see in actual screenings at the Academy.

Here are my own favorite leading performances of 2011:

Actor: Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Paul Giamatti (Win Win), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), and Will Ferrell (Everything Must Go). I think the first four actors on the list are pretty good bets to actually receive a nomination (although Mr. Pitt’s votes may be split with Moneyball). Mr. Ferrell, unfortunately, has very little chance.

Actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Octavia Spencer and Olivia Davis (The Help), Charlize Theron (Young Adult), and Berenice Bejo (The Artist).

On another subject, 2011 was simply a dreadful year for Hollywood at the box office.

Total admissions, which are a much more reliable indicator than box office grosses, fell to their lowest level since 1995, a full sixteen years ago. As I noted in this space on September 5, 2011:

“2011 continued the steep, downward trajectory of summer movie ticket sales. This summer, 543 million tickets were sold–down again for the ninth straight year and down over 100 million from the 650 million tickets that were sold in 2002.  At the same time that ticket sales have plunged, the DVD business has also crashed through the floorboards, and production costs have skyrocketed. Sales down, costs up. That’s a deadly mix so don’t be deceived when you hear about box office grosses.

Bottom line for the studios: the summer of 2011 was a big disappointment. And I’ll make a prediction right now: summer 2012 ticket sales will be worse. Much worse. Summer 2011 included four blockbuster sequels: Harry Potter, Transformers, Pirates of The Caribbean, and Hangover. Taken together, those four films grossed about $1.2 billion (about 150 million tickets at an average of $8 per ticket), accounting for almost 30% of all ticket sales in summer 2011. There is absolutely nothing on the horizon for summer 2012 to even come close to matching those results. The tag line on the Harry Potter poster may turn out to be very prophetic indeed.”


In addition, Hollywood so over-saturated the marketplace with 3D films this year that audiences rebelled and shunned many of them. As recently as 2007, there were no 3D film releases. In 201o, there were 7. In 2011, there were 39! Did we really need Mars Needs Moms in 3-D?

Year end newspaper and internet articles and columns have been fairly unanimous: The New Hollywood needs to wake up and get back to making many more original story-based films and far fewer sequels, remakes, and knock-offs that are focused on technological gimmicks and effects.

Did The New Hollywood get the message?

Stay tuned.

(Stephen Simon wrote Bringing Back The Old Hollywood, produced films such as Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come, produced and directed Indigo and Conversations with God, and co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle.)


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