Millennials Murdered Hollywood

Selfie, Los Angeles - 2007
  1. We decided we didn’t need to pay for music. It’s okay, they’ll make money via concert right? Right, they did: Concert tickets have quintupled over the past 3 decades. So now only rich people can afford to go see their favorite bands live. Hurray democratization! The music industry seem to have successfully left darker times behind. Although some artists might disagree. In any case, music was never going to be as hurt as the film industry: the economics of both industries are entirely different only because recording an album is drastically cheaper than producing a movie…
  2. Yes, we also decided we didn’t need to pay for movies. Oh it’s fine, one person isn’t going to hurt the box office and movie tickets are getting expensive (hey, ever wondered why?!) Also, they’re already making so much money, they can just cut their salaries. When people use they in their argument it’s always such a pleasure. The idea that they will cut their salaries was always the last straw for me, the proof that my argumentative opponents just didn’t realize yet how the world worked (nah, of course they did, but anything will do when you’re just looking for an excuse.) Of course, they will never cut their salaries — the financiers, shareholders and studio moguls.They will cut somewhere else. If trickle down economics don’t or barely work, the opposite works like a charm: if we stop paying for things, be sure that those on top will find ways to produce things more cheaply and give you something less valuable in return. And here. we. are.

Numbers don’t lie…about numbers.

Now here’s where my side of the argument gets pretty murky, but let’s go there. The domestic US box office has, at least up to 2020, almost consistently increased year over year, from $7.3B in 1999 to 11.4B in 2019. And the amount of movies released also went up, from 448 in 1999 to 910 in 2018. So what am I talking about?! The film industry is doing great!

Movies used to change lives

I don’t know about you, but when I saw Baz Luhrman’s Romeo+Juliet at 13-years-old, it changed my life (I was probably the only one in the theater who didn’t how it was going to end — imagine the trauma!) So let me ask you this: the ’90s and early ’00s generated cultural masterpieces like Hook, Edwards Scissorhands, Pretty Woman, The Matrix, Titanic, Moulin Rouge, Jurassic Park, Casino, Forrest Gump, The Lion King, Speed, Pulp Fiction, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, Ocean’s Eleven, American Beauty, The Big Lebowski, Toy Story, King Kong, Lost In Translation, Memento… movies pretty much every single Millennial has seen, that have shaped who we are and that we still constantly refer to. Where are the equivalents today for Gen Z? Where are they going to be for our kids? You’re only allowed two Disney movies on your list. It’s hard, isn’t it?

We are what we watch

Hollywood gave up, much faster than I thought it would. Because the redistribution of wealth within the film industry is not even anymore, so no studio is taking an ounce of risk. And the producers who still try are not getting rewarded. Execs don’t give their shots to unknown people with ambitious ideas the way they used to. And the truth is filmmaking is really hard — almost no one hits a home run with their first film. They need another one. That can’t happen anymore, if the vaults are empty (or at least, what they consider empty.)

“We are what we eat!” shouted the Millennials. It’s high time we realize we are also what we watch.

Another economic truth about the subscription model: they need to be able to put new things on the menu all the time. So they must cook quickly and as cheaply as possible because they need quantity above all else. And the best way to do that is to reproduce the same recipe over and over again, just with a different glaze.

Go viral and come back

Some might say I’m just bitter or I’m over-exaggerating the situation: great movies and great TV shows are still being made. And it is true that the film industry, just like the rest of the world, has gone through too many changes and reckoning these past 20 years to fairly recap them in one — albeit long — Medium post. But one thing I can assure you, having lived it firsthand, is that anyone working toward a film career in front or behind the camera in the past 15 years has heard the same three things over and over: make something amazing for cheap that goes viral; build your own social following; or write the book and get it published (a new one has apparently started to emerge that I’ve personally heard a few times: try to find the money abroad. No comment.)

Cinema, just like Theater, is resilient and will never disappear. Talented people will still gather to tell amazing stories, and some people with money will still have the courage to finance them. But on what scale? That’s up to us now.

As Millennials become parents, as the last of us wrap up our twenties, and we all start to wonder why we love nostalgia so much, my hope is that we realize that we actually miss Cinema. We need to change our habits and find ways to give producers in Hollywood the money to take chances on films we may not yet know we need to see. My hope is that Millennials, who now have positions of power in the industry, are starting to think about their legacy, and what, outside of numbers and PR, they want this world that they absolutely revered growing up, to look like today. And millennial filmmakers, we’re going to need to get our shit together, get creative and be stubborn AF. Yes, we’re exhausted, discouraged and all we’ve heard for the past 20 years is why nothing can get made. We need to ignore the noise of the so-called Creator Economy, the pressure of social media, and whatever industry insiders are telling us we really should be doing instead of dreaming of big stories. Even if it means all the doors get slammed in our faces again and again if we ever find them.

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