Why Does Hollywood Make Bad Movies?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Before I start writing on a new project, I often feel compelled to explain myself. Why am I putting my words to paper (or coded into bits, since you’re reading this on the web)? Why are my words worthy of your time to read? Why do I want to get these thoughts out there?

On a really simple level, I think I can provide insightful analysis on a topic (entertainment strategy) that I haven’t really seen. I’ve seen good journalism on the goings-on of entertainment; I’ve read good writing on the statistics of entertainment; I’ve seen good articles on the future of entertainment in general; but I haven’t seen the one place that ties it all together.

That’s a gap in the market I think I can help fill. Still, what’s driving me to write to fill that gap?

Basically I want to answer the question in the headline, “Why does Hollywood make bad movies?”

This seems to be the du jour criticism of Hollywood. And it has been since I started reading the Los Angeles Times annual preview of upcoming movies as a child. Critics have consistently bemoaned the state of the US film industry and the quality of its movies. They’ve criticized the number of sequels, which in recent years has turned to criticizing blockbuster franchises and/or superhero movies. But it’s not limited to film. Those same critics have bemoaned the state of TV or video games, even as we entered a golden age of television and independent games studios thrive.

Those same critics who bemoan the state of Hollywood have also tried to offer explanations for why Hollywood makes bad movies: It’s studio executives trying to make more money off sequels. It’s studio executives trying to make movies to sell toys. Or happy meals in the 1990s. Or its studio executives who won’t give creative freedom to creative types. Or it’s studio executives who care about international box office.

So it’s the studio executives. Hmm. It’s like we could modify the NRA slogan: “Hollywood doesn’t make bad movies, studio executives make bad movies.”

The critics are onto something, but they just can’t explain why. Or I’ve never heard an explanation I love. After blaming bad movies on studio executives, they can’t answer the key logical fallacy they just exposed: why would these studio executives willingly make bad movies? They don’t want to make bad movies.

Instead, I’ve always felt the explanation for why Hollywood makes bad movies is fairly simple: it’s the decision-making.

But I feel a bit like Han Solo after Obi Wan Kenobi drops the “without Imperial involvement” line in the Mos Eisley Cantina. If you asked, “The decision-making. Hmm, can you explain that to me?” Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Which is how Han Solo responds.

Well, it isn’t just decision-making. Studio execs make these decisions because of how they perceive or understand the business of entertainment. So it’s decision-making in the pursuit of the business of entertainment.

Studio executives make decisions to further their interests and, ostensibly, the interests of their company. And these decisions are are influenced by winner-take-all economics with logarithmic returns. The winners tend to be blockbusters, with additional revenue streams, so from a portfolio perspective, executives decide to make more blockbusters. Yet, blockbusters are poorly correlated with awards success, which is highly correlated with critical acclaim. So that’s what many studio execs try to do, and why many critics criticize their movies.

But that paragraph feels woefully incomplete. Each of those sentences could be its own post explaining the decision-making and economics and business and organizational behavior of studio executives. All the things that influence the decisions they make on a daily basis. Basically, each part of the above paragraph could be one paragraph explaining how Hollywood does and doesn’t make good decisions.

That’ll bring us back to the question at the start of this post. All those ideas–and more–align on the same theme, “Bad movies get made because people make the decision to make bad movies.” That’s right, instead of wondering why this happens in confusion/befuddlement—a sort of throwing up our hands and saying, “Man where do these bad movies come from?”—I want to say, “Bad movies are made because studio heads, development execs, marketing execs, creative talent and others make bad decisions.” And they make these decisions because of how they understand the business of entertainment.

Honestly, I don’t see another website out there that is trying to explain how and why Hollywood works. I want to try to do that.

But it won’t just be movies. Or TV shows. I want to dig into the business of entertainment and media (and tech when they intersect) across all forms of entertainment. And that means studying and explaining and analyzing and critiquing the strategy of various entertainment, tech and media companies. By studying their strategy, we can learn more about the business decisions they make around everyone’s favorite product, content.

That’s why this website exists. I want to explain Hollywood and how it works from a business perspective, with side trips into economics and data. I want to explain Hollywood in the lens of the decisions people make, and how that affects what makes it into the marketplace. I think these explanations could help business people and creative types make better decisions. And hopefully help us all understand why Hollywood does what it does. (But really the people in Hollywood.)

If we know why we make bad decisions, well, maybe we can make fewer bad decisions and more good and great decisions.

Welcome and happy to have you.

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


Join the Entertainment Strategy Guy Substack

Weekly insights into the world of streaming entertainment.

Join Substack List
%d bloggers like this: