mattclancy

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The Curse of Plenty

Thanks! I think there is also a pessimistic read, which is that these dynamics affect the direction of cultural creation; specifically, commercial creators will be pulled towards doing franchise-like work for anything expensive. Original and outlier work will have to happen on smaller budgets, where a smaller return can justify the investment. Whereas we used to get "expensive + original", now we'll probably have to content ourselves with "cheap + original."

The Curse of Plenty

More evidence that, until quite recently, it paid to make a good movie to get a big audience, but that’s no longer the case. For several years, critics ratings for the top ten movies have steadily diverged from audience ratings. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2022-08-28/critics-and-fans-have-never-disagreed-more-about-movies

The Curse of Plenty

Agree that franchises are fundamentally about branding!

But I think it's not just that it took movie studios a long time to learn that branding was effective. I think the strategy only became very effective in the new environment where there were lots of choices for consumers. One way to think of it is to assume that consumers rely on two pieces of information when making a judgment about which movie they will most enjoy: word-of-mouth and similarity to other movies they've seen and enjoyed. 

When the number of movies is small, enough people see every movie that word-of-mouth is a very reliable guide to the quality of a movie. Here, I'm thinking word-of-mouth is from people you already know well, and so you can judge their taste. Like in a small town, everyone knows the artisanal coffee shop, and so Starbucks isn't desirable. But when the number of movies is really large, word-of-mouth is not very reliable. You never know more than one or two people who have seen any movie, and even fewer who have seen more than one that you're choosing between.

In the latter environment, you start to give more weight to the similarity of a movie to other movies you've seen. And that creates a feedback loop, because if more people start choosing to go to movies based on their similarity to other movies, then you can only get accurate word-of-mouth information about those kinds of movies (franchises). In the second environment, it starts to pay more to make movies that are similar to existing movies, even if they not be as good as the best original movies. In the second equilibrium, the problem is that the really good original movies can't be identified, and so they languish at the box office.