This will probably be the most immediate influence, as movies already in production can be converted to 3D. There have already been rumours of Robin Hood, Clash of the Titans and the Robocop reboot possibly going 3D, and with demand now being expected from the public for more, we can expect many such announcements. Previously much maligned, 3D is now being seen as the way forward, and that is thanks to the great work Cameron and his team have done with the technology.
Poor Robert Zemeckis. He’s been trying to convince us that motion capture animation is the way forward for several years, but despite his best efforts we weren’t buying it. There was much criticism over ‘dead eyes’ in the characters, and the overall effect of the movies were uninspiring. Now in one fell swoop Avatar has made motion capture viable. The alien characters were truly stunning, full of life and completely believable. The locations in some cases were photorealistic, and the overall effect was breathtaking. Thanks to Cameron’s success with the Nav’vi, we can expect many more motion capture projects to be announced.
Despite the current economic climate making studios reluctant to greenlight risky big budget productions, the success of Avatar and others like Transformers 2 last year has lent credence to the notion that you have to spend money to make money. Audiences have flocked to movies that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars recently, which may well convince studios to loosen the purse strings. Smaller, lower budget movies have not made much money at the box office over the last year, bigger profits are coming from bigger investments.
Sequels, adaptations, remakes and reboots have been the big hitters in recent times, but Avatar may change that. It had previously been thought that completely new properties were incapable of drawing big box office, but Cameron has proved that wrong, along with other original movies last year like District 9, Inglourious Basterds and even 2012. If studios pick up the ball on this and develop more original projects, we will all benefit. Franchises will most likely still rule for the foreseeable future however. All the other movies that drew big last year were sequels and adaptations, and even Avatar looks set to become a franchise with rumours of Avatar 2 and 3 already doing the rounds.
Avatar was PG-13, which effectively meant anyone could go and see it, and it became very much a family friendly experience. There were arguably much fewer family oriented movies last year than in previous ones, with only really animated ones filling the void. The benefits for studios however are obvious. Your potential target audience is the biggest possible because it includes everyone. Each household can provide multiple viewers, even if the marketing only reaches one of them. And afterwards, word of mouth reaches schools, colleges and places of work. It can even benefit audiences by virtue of bringing families together for a joint experience.
Long Development Periods
Long development periods are nothing new, but there’s a big difference between a time consuming project and development hell. Cameron was probably busy the whole period, but will studios now follow his lead and finance marathon length production? Unlikely. Cameron got away with it, he was coming off of Titanic and was the boss. Funding came from several sources, and he didn’t have to answer to anyone. The major studios aren’t going to want to hand that kind of power to anyone, and if a long period of time goes by without any tangible progress, they’ll get nervous. Waiting a year or two for a return on investment is one thing, but paying out hundreds of millions with no bottom line in sight is not going to be a popular endeavour.
Avatar has been said to have been financed from half a dozen sources. Will we see more deals of this type? I don’t know enough about these type of things to know the answer, but i do have a couple of thoughts. I don’t know if major studios will want to share a big budget movie with each other, i don’t know if it’ll be seen as a wise investment, and there’ll be issues over control and final cut. Also, with several investors, when it comes to dividing profits there’s likely to be less transparency over how much each party is due. Smaller companies may be more likely to part finance, but with the amounts of money involved it might be seen as too much of a risk.
Whatever your opinion of Avatar, love it or hate it, there’s no denying it is a cultural phenomenon, and a piece of movie history. However it affects the industry, and there’s no doubt it will, it will long be remembered as one of the most influential movies of all time.
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Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann