How The Avengers Changed Cinema For Better And For Worse
It should be noted that this change in the economics of Hollywood cinema began before Marvel or The Avengers. Director Steven Soderbergh retired (temporarily) from filmmaking in 2013 due to larger economic interests and the corporatization of studios leading, even then, to the decline of mid-budget films. Although his retirement was brief, his motivations were not, and fellow Gen X filmmaker Spike Lee got an interesting insight into the evolution of what audiences and studios seemed want in the early 2010s.
“I am not Steven Soderbergh, I will not ban myself,” Lee said in flavor thread in 2014. “I adapt! [I’m not] saying, ‘Fuck Hollywood, I never want to do another studio movie again.’ Not at all, but there are some movies the studio doesn’t want to make lately. Lee went on to note that his breakthrough films in the American pop culture mainstream were studio efforts.
“Malcolm X was a studio movie,” Lee said. “do the right thing was a studio movie. In effect, do the right thing increased its $6.5 million budget for Universal Pictures more than fivefold when it grossed $37.3 million domestically in 1989; Malcolm X made $48 million on a $33 million budget in 1992. The first of these was healthier than the second, but what feels like a novelty today is that a studio would spend at north of $30 million for a Malcolm X biopic – and that was 1992! With inflation, that budget is closer to $67 million in 2022. As the variety of voices making movies has expanded, the amount of money spent on them in the non-superhero realm or blockbusters has obviously diminished. Consider the moving historical fiction of Regina King, One night in Miami, which also features Malcolm X as the main character, cost just $16 million…. and created on Amazon.
The economic reasons for this are more important than any franchise or genre, even though superhero movies have become the mainstays that audiences go to see in theaters. In truth, it started with the implosion of the home media market in the late 2000s due to the advent of streaming services like Amazon Prime or Netflix. Moreover, as more and more studios were subsumed by bigger and bigger corporate conglomerates, the fiscal bottom line became the overriding determination of what got lit…and what didn’t. summer. Making a $300 million profit on a $200 million superhero movie with a built-in audience is much more appealing to AT&T than making, say, $40 million on four $50 million movies. If they all hit.
The reality is that more films are being made now than before, with a greater diversity of storytelling talent in front of and behind the camera, but more and the vast majority of them are being produced as independents without major audiences or for a streaming service that powers transform into niche algorithms. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios are increasingly cutting back production as they invest greater amounts in tentpoles that are either Marvel movies or continue the Marvel movie formula.
In 2002, 10 years after Paramount Pictures distributed the Disney-produced film The Avengers, Paramount has released 20 films; in 2012, the same year Paramount signed its deal with Marvel, the studio released 15 films; in 2022, long after the conclusion of its financial stake in the lucrative superhero genre, Paramount is releasing 11 films to theaters (it was supposed to be 13 until two projects were sold to separate streamers).