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Paul Casserly: Movies bad - TV good?

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'The Fast and The Furious 6'.
'The Fast and The Furious 6'.

Movies bad. TV good? Blame the Chinese.

How many times have you been watching back-to-back episodes of say Mad Men or Breaking Bad or The Killing or House of Cards - whatever your favourite show is - and said to yourself, 'This is way better than a movie'.

Is this because movies have gotten worse or TV better? And why are so many movies now sequels of well-worn brands? Superman, Spider-Man, RobertDownyJuniorman? Meanwhile the sorts of stories that used to be movies are now on cable TV.

Well, it seems that Winston Peters is on to something, because it turns out it's all down to the Chinese.

I know this because the Triads told me so. Just jokes, I saw it on CNN.
In her book Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the new abnormal in the movie business, Lynda Obst makes the point that, "In 1991 eight of the top 10 movies were original screenplays, in 2013 none were."

They were sequels, prequels or part two, three or even in the case of The Fast and Furious franchise, number six. ("Franchise" really is a terrible word. It always makes me think of a Jim's Mowing or a Subway.)

Obst was talking on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS to push her new book.

"The DVD business died in the 1990s. This meant the industry lost 50 per cent of the profit margin of the movie business. The constant profit stream of people stocking their DVD library came to an end."

Sure, new technology, "new streams" like iTunes and Netflix bring in something, but it's not much. Tie this in with globalisation, and the domination of new markets like Russia, Brazil, and now China - where "they build 10 new theatres a day" - and you get a sense of the changing landscape.

Obst - a producer whose credits include Sleepless in Seattle and Contact -refers to this as "Sequel-itis" using the Ice Age franchise as a case in point. The first one made $170 million in the US and $190 million internationally.

The second one made $190 million in the US and $400 million internationally, while the third one stayed static in the US but jumped to $759 million internationally. The point being that it's now the international market that Hollywood is catering to, and they want stuff they're familiar with. This is known as "pre-awareness".

A movie star is one form of pre-awareness but the best is a familiar franchise title, a Toy Story, an Ironman, or a Harry mother-freakin' Potter.

The Chinese may well be worried about American culture having an impact on theirs - they only allow 34 US films in each year and they censor much of that - but it seems that Hollywood is now worried that the Chinese are impacting their culture too.

With the Chinese market tipped to be the biggest in the world by 2020 it's seems likely the trend will only intensify.

The silver lining being that many of the people who used to make the sort of movies that have nothing in common with mowing rounds or sandwiches are now making TV.

Which reminds me. God I miss Mad Men. It's like I've lost a limb.

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