Sunday’s Oscars ceremony takes place during one of the gloomiest times for the film industry in recent memory. The news Wednesday was that Brad Grey would step down as CEO of Paramount Pictures, which lost nearly $500 million in fiscal 2016. That follows the January shocker that Sony Corp. would take a write-down of nearly $1 billion on its film unit. When the Best Picture slate was announced, none of this year’s contenders had crossed the average break-even point of $100 million for a major motion picture. Worse, according to a Hollywood Reporter survey, 60% of Americans could not name a single Best Picture nominee.
The modern film studio is big and bloated. Movies frequently take years to produce after the initial pitch. In the age of instant information, this means story lines are often outdated before release. Yet the pressure to reach a wide audience is enormous. Exciting moviegoers enough to make them reach for their wallets and car keys isn’t as easy as it sounds.