Hollywood royalty, Martin Scorsese recently spoke at the New York Film Festival and said that the industry’s obsession with box office numbers is both “repulsive” and “really insulting.”
“Since the ’80s, there’s been a focus on numbers. It’s kind of repulsive, the cost of a movie is one thing. Understand that a film costs a certain amount, they expect to at least get the amount back.
The emphasis is now on numbers, cost, the opening weekend, how much it made in the U.S.A., how much it made in England, how much it made in Asia, how much it made in the entire world, how many viewers it got. As a filmmaker, and as a person who can’t imagine life without cinema, I always find it really insulting.”
I’ve regularly argued that big box office numbers aren’t a testament to the quality of a film. All it proves is the marketing department did its job.
It’s Not Just Marty
Edgar Wright shared similar thoughts earlier this month during his BBC Maestro course. Wright recalled how his cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World bombed over its opening weekend, and yet it’s hardly considered a disappointment all these years later.
“I’ve said this to other filmmakers since who’ve maybe had a similar initial reaction to a film like ‘Scott Pilgrim’ did, is that the three-day weekend is not the end of the story for any movie. People shouldn’t buy into that idea.”
“Rating films by their box office is like the football fan equivalent to films. Most of my favorite films that are considered classics today were not considered hits in their time.
You can point to hundreds of classic movies, whether it’s Citizen Kane or Blade Runner or The Big Lebowski. So how a film does in its first three days is never the end of the story, and the further we get away from that discourse about box office numbers being the totality of a movie, the better.”
The Marvel Debate
Scorsese has been vocal about Marvel films in the past and has not hidden his disdain for them, but they are a perfect example of how people prioritize box office grosses over quality.
I’ll get shit for this but 50% of Marvel movies are mediocre at best. The fanboys will immediately tell you how much money the movies made rather than discuss the actual content of the films. And there lies the problem.
Let’s take two of Marvel’s most recent outings – Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness and Thor Love And Thunder for example. Strange grossed over $930 million and Thor $760 million worldwide. Both movies are absolute trash.
And just to show I’m not being biased by using Marvel’s appalling Phase four as a meter for quality, let’s look at Marvel in its prime. Black Panther grossed over £1.3 Billion. And yet just 4 years later, it has not aged well.
Now, look at Scorses’s back catalog. He’s credited with 30 films and counting and is responsible for Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The King Of Comedy, Goodfellas, The Departed, The Color Of Money, Wolf Of Wall Street etc. etc. etc.
These are some of cinema’s greatest-ever films and yet amazingly, Scorseses’s total box office earnings over a nearly 60-year career have grossed just over $2 Billion. That’s a little more than the two most recent Marvel movies!
By today’s standards (or lack of) someone like Martin Scorsese would be resigned to the scrap heap because his movies are not considered big enough box office! I can’t even begin to imagine the world of cinema without someone like Scorsese. Let’s be honest, he’s probably one of the reasons why we are all here at Last Movie Outpost.
Audiences and studios need to stop this fixation with big numbers and start delivering quality content again. This is one of the reasons that cinemas are dying a slow death. There is hardly anything of any substance worth taking the effort to go and see anymore.
Ask yourselves, what recent movies have you heard about or seen a trailer for and thought you would gladly part with your hard-earned cash to watch? Top Gun Maverick is probably the only answer.
Drunken Yoda, Shawn, Boba Phil, and I recently did a Livestream about our Top 25 movies of all time (which Yoda has broken down into manageable bitesize videos for you) and only four films on our combined list were anything made past 2010.
The 1980s dominated our list with 17 entries, followed by the 90s with 13 movies. The 70s and 00s both had 11 movies. The rest of the list was made up of films dating all the way back to the 1930s. Unsurprisingly, only three films from 2010 were there, and since 2020 – only 1 film – and that was RRR, which isn’t even a Hollywood product.
Yes, I’ll admit that some of our choices are due to our generation and the fact you could say we are now cranky old men, but let’s be honest here, modern movies are now made for the TikTok generation.
A generation of people who are unaware that life existed before the internet, let alone life without smartphones and social media. These people have a concentration span of little more than 10 minutes at best.
Modern Movie Formula
Modern movies are a collection of 10-minute segments spread over 90 minutes. Over-the-top CGI nonsense for audiences to “whoo” and “ahhh” at. This is then followed by some meaningless, snappy, and poorly written dialogue. Then we are quickly heading back to another segment of CGI action. Rinse and repeat. It’s nothing more than eye candy that is forgotten within minutes of watching it.
And studios know this because as soon as it’s over, they are pushing the next installment of the franchise at you. Here’s an end-credit scene that will get you excited for next week’s movie. Oh, and you need to watch the TV show between now and then otherwise you might miss out on something. Quantity over quality my friends.
I’ll end on this. For all the commendable good Marvel (Disney) has done over the last decade, the legacy they are in danger of being remembered for with their now constant drive for audiences to CONSUME is leaving the movie industry in a worse place than they found it.