How Studios Operate
It's a widely held theory that movie studios operate on fear. This is not entirely wrong. With millions of dollars at stake, jobs on the line, and investors and stockholders clamoring at the door, the studio executive has very good reasons to be afraid. Her job is to predict the viewing habits of a highly unpredictable audience. Part of the formula is to see what films are currently successful, or were successful in the past. Given the volatility of the industry, decisions made in this film guessing game are what make or break careers.
Studio executives must also live in the future. It takes an average of three years for a film to go from script to screen. This means that studios must determine what an audience will like three years from now. Action films are a safe bet. Romantic comedies seem to do well consistently. But what about the occasional offbeat film? Will anyone go to a movie about two unsympathetic guys on a wine-tasting road trip? Or what about the big-budget risk? Who wants to see a film about a ship that sank ninety years ago, when the audience already knows how it ends?
Made with a budget of $6 million,
To the average filmgoer it seems that on occasion the studios are copying each other. One releases an action movie and another is right behind. One comes out with a comic book hero brought to life, and another will soon have a competing superhero bounding across the silver screen. Remember that movies are planned long before they are released. A wave of similar movies is the result of marketing plans that foresaw a certain pattern and made films that were expected to be popular. A blockbuster in a specific genre will likely send the studios running to make a comparable movie — one they hope will be even better and bring in more box office revenue.
If a movie has done well, a studio may decide to follow it with a sequel or, as seems to happen often, a trilogy.
Sometimes real-life events can affect which films are made. If a war breaks out or a tragedy occurs, people feel a surge of patriotism, and films will be made that reflect that feeling. The studios constantly monitor what people are watching, and attempt to green-light films that they believe audiences will want to see in the near future. As a filmmaker, you're constantly playing the odds. A concept brought to a studio's attention that happens to fit a mold of what they're currently looking to fill will be more likely to find its way to the screen.