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.