Why Banking on Young Males Ain’t Workin'
Listen up Hollywood (and film buyers): banking on under 25-year-old males ain’t working this year. As Yahoo! Movies reports, the superhero genre is foundering as young males begin avoiding the movie house.
Here’s the key takeaway from Daniel Frankel’s article:
“Perhaps no other genre has been as affected by the sharp decline in consumption by what has been traditionally the most active moviegoing demographic — men under 25. For ‘Green Lantern,’ for example, men accounted for 64 percent of the opening-weekend audience, but only 37 percent of the audience was under the age of 25. For ‘X-Men: First Class,’ only 46 percent of the audience was under 25; for ‘Thor,’ it was only 28 percent.”
Despite the enormous success of “Bridesmaids” and other films targeted to women — and those over 25 — the same films and sequels are continuing to be green lit:
“‘It’s a huge problem,’ said one studio distribution executive, referring to the flight of younger males from the multiplex. ‘I keep banging the drum about it to anyone on the lot who will listen to me.'”
My take? Men (and boys) under the age of 25 are not wedded to the movie theater experience like those above 25 (and certainly those above 45). They watch movies — if they do — in the family car, on their laptops, and through physical and digital media on HDTVs. In addition, they are often avid video game players, TV viewers, media producers, bloggers, texters, and involved in a million and one other digital and analog activities.
Hollywood used to produce more movies for women because they often dragged along male friends, boy friends, and husbands with them. This doesn’t always work as well in reverse.
The real culprit here is what Frankel doesn’t report: that domestic box office isn’t where the money for a film is made. That comes in licensing the film for TV, cable TV, VOD, international TV, digital distribution, and, more importantly, consumer products. “Cars” (2006), for instance, generated $10 billion in licensed merchandise sales between 2006 and 2011. Superhero movies, like animated films, are “toyetic”—they lend themselves to licensing and merchandising deals that work best for video games, t-shirts, action figures, happy meals, and the rest.
As long as merchandising is more important to media conglomerates than box office, the industry will continue to focus on the 5-25 year-old-male and the films they believe “he” will want. Sorry boomers: you’ll have to be happy with the occasional Woody Allen or foreign film to remind you of a time when moviegoing meant seeing a film in which narrative trumped spectacle.