‘Men don’t go to see women making action movies’: Why filmmakers need to stop whining and blaming audiences for their films bombing and focus on quality

The film industry has undergone a series of transformations in recent years, particularly with the advent of streaming services and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on box office revenue. Despite these difficulties, some filmmakers have started blaming the audience for the poor performance of their films instead of introspecting and examining their own shortcomings.

This practice not only undermines the creativity and hard work of filmmakers, but also distracts from the real issues.

Directed by James Cameron

Blaming the Audience: A Misguided Approach by Filmmakers

Recently, there has been a trend among some film directors to blame the poor performance of their film at the box office on the audience. The act of watching a movie has become a political and social statement, something that was unimaginable two decades ago.

Hollywood’s marketing strategies and social media have played a significant role in this transformation. For example, Elizabeth Banks, the director of the 2019 film Charlie’s Angels, blamed the film’s failure on the idea that

“men don’t go to see women make action movies,”

despite the success of films like Wonder Woman, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Captain Marvel around the same time. This tendency to blame the audience for a film’s poor performance is not new. When in 2016 Ghostbusters reboot didn’t do well, the director attributed it to the franchise’s “toxic male fans,” ignoring flaws in the story and characters.

Charlie's Angels 2019
Charlie’s Angels 2019

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Acclaimed director Ridley Scott also expressed disappointment with the reception of his 2021 film The last duel. Scott claims that audiences didn’t flock to theaters to support his film because,

“the audience that was brought up on these fucking cell phones,”

Sam Mendes, another famous director, similarly blamed the poor performance of his film Empire of Light on the audience, saying that viewers have developed bad habits by watching blockbusters and franchises like Avatar.

Empire of Light
Empire of Light

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However, such claims ignore the main reason people go to the movies in the first place. Audiences go to the movies to be entertained, not to pay homage to the filmmakers.

The real reason: Focusing on quality and innovation

The real reason for a film’s poor performance at the box office is often the lack of compelling storytelling, visually stunning cinematography, and an unforgettable experience. Filmmakers must create films that engage the audience, provide an escape from reality and offer something unique.

And this is also the reason why Hollywood audiences are so motivated by foreign films like RRR and A parasite. Movies like these take the audience into a very unfamiliar realm. While most of the Hollywood films delve into the same dimension.

RRR movie
RRR movie

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Another side of the captivating audience theory is the story. Deep and personal stories were an audience staple before larger-than-life stories and world threats came along. But over time, such stories became too disconnected and distant from the audience. Stories like RRR have been successful because of the small-scale story along with the presentation that makes it larger than life.

In addition, Hollywood directors and filmmakers must work to draw audiences back to theaters by offering a unique and memorable theatrical experience that cannot be replicated on streaming services.

Small- and medium-budget directors have faced particular difficulties in recent years, but their films have still been successful at the box office. For example, the low-budget horror film Get out was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $250 million worldwide. This shows that it is possible for smaller directors to create films that resonate with audiences and become box office hits.

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Get out
Get out

As much of a hindrance as they are, streaming services have also become an opportunity for smaller filmmakers to create films without the pressure of box office success. In addition, streaming services provide an opportunity for filmmakers to reach a global audience and showcase their work to a larger audience.

Instead of blaming the audience, filmmakers and directors should strive to make films that will appeal to viewers and provide an unforgettable experience. The film industry is a dynamic and ever-evolving industry, and filmmakers must keep up with changes in audience preferences and behavior to remain relevant and successful.

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