MY FAVOURITE films last year were, in no particular order, Crazy Stupid Love, Perfect Sense, X-Men First Class, Black Swan, Source Code, Bridesmaids and Arrietty. What target market does this put me in? Men in their thirties who like comedies about women and divorcees, plus children’s films, superhero movies and ballet?
Target market is an ugly, soulless phrase, the enemy of art. If you are over 50, though, congratulations, you are Hollywood’s new target market. Statistics show the number of older people going to the cinema has increased dramatically, and so movies are now being made especially for you, like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. If a bomb had landed on that set, every famous British actor over the age of 60 would have been wiped out in one go.
It’s been suggested that older people’s newfound influence will result in better films – older people aren’t hooked in by noise and special effects, they want thought-provoking stories and well developed characters. I’m sceptical. More likely, studios will second guess what older people like – just as they already do with everyone else – and make bad, formulaic films.
Good films defy assumptions. Look at Inception, thought by some to be too esoteric for a young multiplex audience, but which made a lot of money because that audience kept going back to figure out what was going on. Or Up, regarded as a risk on the grounds that it was a children’s story with a pensioner as a main character. But children loved it – what child, after all, can’t relate to a grumpy grandpa? The King’s Speech, regularly cited as a “grey pound” success story, defied assumptions too, ultimately thriving because it appealed to a young audience as much as the older one it was marketed to.
Close attention to statistics can create successful movies – the Transformers films, for example, aggressively marketed at teenagers like junk food – but it can’t create good ones. I’m with Mark Kermode on this one. Bad movies prosper because their target audience simply aren’t aware that there are better options available, often because the people selling the good films either can’t afford enough ads to get their attention, or are too busy targeting someone else to bother.
If older people’s new influence does result in better films, it’ll be by happy accident, in the shape of a story that people of all ages want to see but that nobody bothered to make before, because they assumed its particular target market wouldn’t be interested. «
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