What the Hell Happened to Good Movies?
Yesterday, Jeff the Wild Man posted a thoughtful article asking the timely question “Why Must Blockbusters Be Dumb?” Jeff made several good points about the ways in which the summer blockbuster has come to dominate Hollywood’s release schedule year-round. I actually have quite a bit to say on the subject, so I decided to post an article as my response rather than limit my thoughts to the comments section.
Conventional wisdom has it that Jaws and Star Wars are to blame for our current state of affairs. While these movies are great, they do shoulder their share of the blame. To fully understand why, you need to go back and look at the cinematic landscape PJ (pre-Jaws). Prior to 1975, the summer movie season as we know it did not exist. It was a dumping ground for B-movies. The studios released movies that were made for this kids on the cheap.
Today, Jaws as seen as a masterpiece. But before it was released, it was viewed as just another monster movie. Spielberg was just a kid who hadn’t had a hit movie yet. His movie was over-budget and he was worried he would never work again. It was not an unfounded concern. The Hollywood press was filled with stories about the shark not working and how the young director was in over his head. Before the movie was released, Richard Dreyfus gave interviews distancing himself from the movie and blaming the studio for its failure.
Against all odds, Spielberg made a tight entertainment machine. The crowd-pleasing shark movie exceeded any reasonable expectations. It was the first movie ever to gross over $100 million dollars. Hollywood took notice. The message was this: There is big money to be made in the summer. The summer blockbuster was born.
Next: Star Wars