"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” - 1997 Apple Ad
Can Hollywood think differently? Or will remakes, reboots, sequels, and series still top the box office in 2030? How long will Sci-Fi and Superhero franchises dominate the industry? Call me "a crazy one," but I believe movie theaters can attract more than the current 12 percent who are considered frequent moviegoers by creating original movies that change the world.
Hollywood is currently going through a massive content delivery revolution with major companies scrambling for a lead role in streaming. But there’s no revolution in content. If anything, there’s stagnation.
Completely original content used to make up the majority of each year’s top ten movies. Now such movies make rare appearances. There are many reasons for this, including the need to appeal to international audiences, the marketing advantages of a series, and the merchandising possibilities for franchises. Still, it's sad.
Here’s the good news: There is a market beyond Comic Con. But it needs to be awakened.
The fastest growing demographic in the world are grandparents. They control over half the wealth in the United States and love to do things with their grandchildren. They buy tickets to movies like Dumbo and Aladdin.
The crazy question is:
What would turn them into frequent moviegoers? What would get them really excited about inviting their grandchildren to a movie?
The crazy answer is:
There’s one thing they long for more than any other. They want to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren. They want their grandchildren living in good neighborhoods, going to good schools, and enjoying good entertainment.
What is “Good?”
Consider that in relation to where you’d like to live.
Good is no violence, no crime, no vulgarity, no illicit drugs, and lots of kindness.
There are lots of movies now with children and heroes and some admirable values, but rare are the exciting adventures with an heroic grandparent interacting with his children and grandchildren. Rare is the lesson that grandparents have experience and wisdom that can be of value future generations. More common are movies like Bad Grandpa and Nasty Grandpa where grandparents are portrayed as the total opposite of role models.
Imagine a fun movie where the grandparents model love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – the fruits of heaven. Do you think grandparents might enjoy such a movie? Do you think they’d be highly motivated to see that their grandchildren get to see it?
All the top superhero movies promote values. They promote courage, integrity and self sacrifice. They don’t preach. They model. You don’t have to preach about heaven to model it — and you don’t have to drag audiences through hell to get to heaven.
One of the mistakes made in many Christian movies is that they’re far from family friendly. There’s often some horrible situation that gets resolved in the end with a salvation or an awakening. Some movies get made because filmmakers feel the need to let the world know about something horrible. I go to some of these movies and they’re very well made, but I’m often in a nearly empty theater. People go to doctors for medicine, the don’t go to movies for it.
The great challenge will be to awaken a sleeping giant. Grandparents are not expecting movies made for them any more than my wife was expecting to one day love iPads. She expected to live out her life computer-free, but Steve Jobs thought different. He created a different kind of computer she absolutely loves.
What’s needed is a movie that accomplishes for grandparents what Star Wars did for so m any, including myself. In 1977 I saw a sneak preview of Star Wars with a theater full of sci-fi crazies. I dragged friends to the theater. It really did revolutionize the industry and we’re still feeling the impact.
The same kind of excitement can be created for a new kind of movie. Here’s the formula I propose:
(1) Great adventure
(2) Heroic Grandparents
(3) Fun Children
(4) Action, but Little to no Violence
(5) Good Values Modeled
(6) Inspirational Conclusion
Using this formula, a spectacular family event could to be created. It needs to be something where members of the family can say for years to come, “I saw that for the first time with (name the person).” It needs to become a classic like It’s a Wonderful Life or The Sound of Music.
Such a breakthrough would open the door for more movies aimed at the same target. I’m working on such a project, but the reason for this blog post is to encourage others to see the see this market and consider serving it. I want to see a better world and I delight in others pursuing the same goal. You may choose a completely different path and I hope you make a movie I can enjoy.
When I was younger I worked as an artist for W.E.D Show Productions at Disney World. I greatly admired Walt Disney because he loved innovation. We were called Imagineers. I wound up working at EPCOT Center, but was very disappointed Walt didn’t live to create his real Experimental Prototype, Community of Tomorrow. I wonder what movies he’d be creating today? I bet some of them would be VERY original.
Bob Iger has been brilliant in assembling a very successful compilation of franchises, but he’s different than Walt Disney. The same will likely be said for Tim Cook at Apple. Only the Apple Watch is more than an upgrade of existing products since Steve’s death. Bob Iger and Tim Cook would not be atop two of America’s great corporations if they weren’t amazing, but what the world admires more are the bold innovators.
Who, that’s living today, would you put in a “think different” commercial?
Would you include any of today’s Hollywood executives? Are there any filmmakers?
I’m crazy enough to think movies can change the world, but they can do it in any direction. Hitler’s movies stirred racism and hatred. My hunger is to make movies that leave the world more like heaven and less like hell. I believe there’s a HUGE audience for such movies because I believe people want a better world.
David Outten: I worked 30 years with the Christian Film and Television Commission creating reports on what movies do well and why. I sold a script made into a movie and am now working on profoundly family films aimed at huge international audiences. The project I most wish to see made is a Sound of Music style musical called The Sound of Heaven.
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