#2. Gaming the Ratings System
"Screw Black Swan -- have you seen Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream? Of course you haven't, it got buried by the MPAA, which slapped it with an NC-17 rating. That's despite the fact that I've seen way worse in bigger movies than a little double-ended dildo action."
And one rotted heroin-arm
Quick, when's the last time you saw a trailer for a movie rated NC-17 on TV? Have you ever seen one showing at the multiplex? We'll save you the trouble of trying to remember beyond last week and tell you that you probably haven't. Television networks refuse to promote NC-17 films, and most large theater chains won't show them. You also can't find them in most rental stores.
To be fair, you can barely even find rental stores anymore.
NC-17 is the bogeyman of Hollywood, long considered commercial death because, to date, none of the NC-17 films released has made more than $20 million at the box office. Ever. Take Showgirls off the top of the list, and you won't find one that made more than $12 million. For reference, Battlefield Earth made $30 million.
Double-ended dildos aren't looking so bad now, are they?
So you've got a guaranteed box office assassination card. What do you do with it? Apparently, the answer is to slap it on your competitors, the independent film industry. You see, the MPAA (the film studio lobbyist group) controls the ratings board and also pays their salaries. So when a film comes along with some edgy content, a big studio can shove it through while an independent film gets hosed.
For Example ...
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone got to see both sides of the process when their independently made film Orgazmo was given an NC-17 for lewd jokes and brief nudity in the form of breasts and asses (which doomed it to obscurity until Parker and Stone became household names), while South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut received an R for some pretty explicit cartoon sex and violence. The film even included a real picture of an erect penis disguised as a sex toy.
Not to mention gratuitous usage of Brian Boitano.
When asked why they thought they got a more lenient rating for South Park, Parker said, "The reason we got the NC-17 on Orgazmo was that it was released by October Films, which had no clout, and we didn't have the money to re-edit the film and continue to resubmit it. [On South Park] we got an R because Paramount was behind it, but the independent filmmaker gets screwed."
#1. Merchandising Supremacy
"Wait, Pixar is making freaking Cars 2? Of all the original films they could be working on or, hell, of all the sequels they could be making, they're making a goddamned Cars 2? Why?"
Five billion dollars. That's how much money Disney has made off of Cars merchandise (and that article is two years old -- hell, it could be 7 billion by now).
The inevitable conclusion here is a movie about the secret lives of Happy Meal toys.
That's why Up, despite being wildly critically acclaimed from the get-go, actually caused Pixar's stock to go down before its release; investors thought the lack of merchandise would make it bomb and wondered what the point of the movie was without the toys.
You can't overstate how huge merchandising looms in the process of getting a blockbuster made. Film merchandising is a $132 billion industry worldwide, and it's also a pretty sweet deal for filmmakers -- they don't have to actually manufacture or sell anything; they just charge a licensing fee and use that money to help fund their movie. So if the toys don't sell, the merchandiser has to take the loss, not the studio. Awesome, right?
Well, no. The more expensive films get (and they're getting pretty expensive), the more the industry becomes dependent on merchandising. So parents concerned about Hollywood's influence on their children will be happy to know that today it's nigh impossible to get a kids movie greenlit if your characters don't look like something you can put inside a Happy Meal.
For Example ...
Take a look at what will probably be next year's biggest blockbuster:
Seriously. Someone is making a $200 million movie based on some pieces of plastic and a bunch of holes, some of which will be played by Liam Neeson and Rihanna. There's also a remake of Clue and a movie adaptation of motherfucking Monopoly directed by Ridley Scott.
And don't get us started on the product placement. Today, branding experts read drafts, meet with the writers and even write new dialogue. That's why you have scenes in which John Connor drives a 2003 Chrysler in the post-apocalyptic future of Terminator Salvation, even though there are about 67 solid reasons why that doesn't make any sense. You can look forward to seeing a hell of a lot more of that in the future.
"You made a time machine ... out of a box of Kellogg's Rice Krispies?"
The secrets don't stop here, learn more in the brand new Cracked.com book! And once you get that book, make sure you take a picture of yourself with it, then upload it to our Facebook fan page for a chance to win $250!
See how else Hollywood dogs us in 5 Things Hollywood Reuses More Than Plots and 5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same.
And stop by Linkstorm to see what Roosevelt would've been looking at on the Internet.
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