Mark Harris:

The good news is that the four-quadrant theory of marketing may now be eroding. The bad news is that it’s giving way to something worse—a new classification that encompasses all ages and both genders: the “I won’t grow up” demographic. As recently as 1993, three kid-oriented genres—animated movies, movies based on comic books, and movies based on children’s books—represented a relatively small percentage of the overall film marketplace; that year they grossed about $400 million combined (thanks mostly to Mrs. Doubtfire) and owned just a single spot in the year’s top ten. In 2010, those same three genres took in more than $3 billion and by December represented eight of the year’s top nine grossers.

Let me posit something: That’s bad. We can all acknowledge that the world of American movies is an infinitely richer place because of Pixar and that the very best comic-book movies, from Iron Man to The Dark Knight, are pretty terrific, but the degree to which children’s genres have colonized the entire movie industry goes beyond overkill. More often than not, these collectively infantilizing movies are breeding an audience—not to mention a generation of future filmmakers and studio executives—who will grow up believing that movies aimed at adults should be considered a peculiar and antique art. Like books. Or plays.

This coming after last week’s interesting infographic demonstrating the increasing polarization of America’s movies.

While there have been a number of very serious films in recent years that have done reasonably well financially, Harris’s argument that they are outliers is persuasive, and his analysis as to why Hollywood is no longer set up to produce such work regularly is dispiriting.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. This is a good read, Matt. Well posted. For anyone missing it, the GQ link lies in the “Mark Harris” bit at the top… but maybe all your readers are already well familiar with that way of couching a link…

    Do read. It’s worth the time.

    || DT ||


  2. Matt,

    Maybe what Harris misses, like those who think fairy tales “are for kids”, is that the best movies are for humans regardless of the age.

    Grimm Fairy tales humanize the listener. Children need to be humanized, sure, but so do grown ups — sometimes more so.

    If we are humanizing young humans with an ethos or logos different from our own, we are Lewis’ Conditioners rather than real educators — old birds teaching young birds to fly.

    Movies that succeed in humanizing us will inevitably be popular among children, who are not yet corrupted by the cares of the world, and grown ups, who are, but regret it.


  3. This gives me some things to think about. Good information Matt. A lot of younger genre’s are taking over. True art and quality is lacking in some productions. Moms for Mars did not do as well in the box office for example. Something for Hollywood to think about.


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