The Other Hollywood Formula


This recent review at Bleeding Fool of 2012’s buried gem of a movie Dredd gave me occasion to meditate on Hollywood’s continuing implosion. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dredd, which sadly is most of you, here’s a quick primer.

The second film iteration of a cult British comic book lawman–the first being the eminently forgettable 1995 Stallone vehicle–Dredd had all the ingredients of a niche middle market success. It was a true indie picture shot on a shoestring budget that, by necessity, eschewed the franchise bloat of every other comic book film and delivered a refreshingly taut, breakneck-paced action flick. Unfortunately, since the all-consuming quest for blockbusters has killed the middle market, Dredd flat-out bombed.

Read the Bleeding Fool article, and you get the accurate impression that Dredd was the anti-cape movie we desperately needed but didn’t deserve. The reviewer rightly points out the total absence of self-indulgent infodumps and the laser focus on perfectly paced and choreographed action. I’ll go BF one better and assert that Dredd’s action works because it is action, not the kind of empty violence that too many action movies get lost in. The startlingly well-realized characters of Judges Dredd and Anderson set against the tragic yet vicious Ma-Ma elevates the proceedings from mindless blood ‘n’ guts to genuine conflict.

If you haven’t seen Dredd, give yourself a little present today and check it out. For a thematically resonant double feature, follow up with 2011’s The Raid: Redemption, an Indonesian film so similar in plot and conflict that many suspect it served as Dredd’s template.

Fans of the Judge Dredd comic and action movies in general started clamoring for a Dredd sequel before the movie ended its short theatrical run. Because we can’t have nice things in Clown World, that’s not going to happen. Here, Dredd producer Adi Shankar lays out the other Hollywood Formula to mathematically explain why a second Dredd film is not forthcoming.

For the video-impaired, the reasons why Dredd is dead are quite simple. For a movie to get made, it must satisfy the following equation:

Cost < D + I + S

Where D is the fim’s projected domestic value, I is the international value, and S = government subsidies/rebates.

These days, if a movie’s cost exceeds D + I + S, it doesn’t get made.

Pay special attention to the I in that equation. Hollywood has become more and more reliant on foreign box office revenues as their visceral hatred for the domestic audience grows. As Shankar points out, I used to account for roghly 10 percent of a movie’s value in the 90s, but it had skyrocketed to upwards of 60 percent by 2015. Shankar had already observed that the Chinese bubble had burst, as Mouse Wars’ dismal underperformance in the Middle Kingdom shows.

Hollywood’s long-term prospects aren’t looking any better. They’ve shunned their original audience, shut out mid-market films people actually enjoy, and bet all their chips on a conjectural third world revenue stream that’s failed to materialize.

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