June 22, 2015

EP. 77 — Secret Rules that Determine if a Movie is Successful

Last year, of the ten highest grossing films at the American box office, nine were adaptations of one of the following: a Marvel property, a Disney property, a line of toys or a fantasy novel. You could easily guess what movies these were – your X-Men, your Hobbits, your Legos and Transformers – but what was that one outlier, that one movie that didn’t fit the mold of mass-produced comic book movies or animated films? That movie was in fact the highest grossing film  of last year, and it was an adaptation itself, ‘American Sniper.’

As you would assume, ‘American Sniper’ wasn’t the runaway hit overseas as it was in the States, but neither were the rest of the films from the American top 10. Every major foreign market only featured a small handful of American blockbusters in their top 10. The rest of the spots in each country went to smaller adult comedies and dramas, the types of movies we almost never see atop our box office. Why is that, and where are those movies in America? It feels like we’re told in the US that the reason we only have blockbuster movies here is because the rest of the world craves big, American spectacle. Then why does it feel like our main exports are comic book movies that half of the world doesn’t even really want to see?

This week on the podcast, Jack O’Brien is joined by Cracked editors David Bell and Josh Sargent to discuss the seeming disparity between the size and the quality of modern-day blockbusters, their effectiveness internationally, and how the process of developing movies has changed over the last hundred years.

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