Whatever Happened to the Family Film? Hollywood Today Mistakenly Believes That, to Be Successful, Movies Must Be Hip, Edgy, Shocking, and Rife with Sex, Foul Language, Violence, and Bad Taste

By Anschutz, Philip F. | USA TODAY, July 2006 | Go to article overview

Whatever Happened to the Family Film? Hollywood Today Mistakenly Believes That, to Be Successful, Movies Must Be Hip, Edgy, Shocking, and Rife with Sex, Foul Language, Violence, and Bad Taste


Anschutz, Philip F., USA TODAY


IN TODAY'S WORLD of mass media and instant communication, movies still have an enormous influence on our culture and an even larger effect on young people. Research shows that the average American child between the ages of 2-18 spends five hours and 45 minutes per day with media--mostly electronic. Think about that in the context of these figures: Hollywood turns out more than five times as many R-rated films than those rated G or PG or soft PG-13. No less than 2,146 releases in a recent four-year period received R ratings, compared to 137 rated G and 252 PG.

Is this preponderance of R-rated films simply--as we so often hear--a response to the market? I would say not, considering that, of the top 20 moneymaking films of all time, not a single one is rated R and, of the top 50, only five are rated R. Don't these figures make you wonder what is wrong with Hollywood--if only from a business point of view? Why, in the face of these statistics, does the cinema capital of the world keep putting out so many nonfamily oriented pictures?

Let me mention the ideas that I have run across which define the typical Hollywood mindset. One is that the way to be successful is to be hip and edgy. A second: to be noticed and, therefore, successful, shock value must be utilized to gain attention. A third dictates that sex, foul language, violence, and bad taste always seem to find a market. Another states that you have to grow up in the film business in order to understand it and have the right creative instincts for it. Moreover, to earn respect from your peers within the West Coast's moviemaking community, you have to produce, at the very least, films that have Academy Award potential--which in recent history predominantly have been R-rated.

My wife and I now have a number of grandchildren who are growing up surrounded by the products of this culture. Five or so years ago I decided to stop cursing the darkness--I had been complaining about movies and their content for years--and instead do something about it by getting into the film business.

My reasons for jumping into the entertainment field were not entirely selfless. Hollywood as an industry can be insular and does not, at times, understand the market very well. I saw an economic opportunity in that fact. Also, because of digital production and distribution, I believe the film industry is going to be partially restructured in the coming years--another great opportunity. Finally, I saw a chance with this move to attempt some small improvement in the culture.

Let me tell you a few things I have learned about the movie business since becoming one of the "players." First of all, you need a clear vision of the type of films you will make--and an equally clear vision of the kind of movies you will not make. People in the industry have to know that they need not bring you certain kinds of products because, right from the get-go, you are not interested. Just as importantly, your own people must understand the type of movies they are going to be held accountable for producing. Our company, by the way, makes G and PG and, occasionally, very soft PG-13 movies. They primarily are pictures that families can watch together. We expect them to be entertaining, but also to be life-affirming and to carry moral messages.

The next thing I have learned is that, if you are going to be in this business, you need to bring your own money to the table and be willing to spend it. Otherwise, Hollywood does not see you as a serious player. Nothing communicates with the people that make the real decisions like spending your own money and showing that you can make profitable films.

Another lesson is to keep firm control of the creative process. Many things happen between the time you hatch an idea for a film and the time that it gets to theaters--and most of them are bad. So, you need to control the type of writers you have, directors you get, actors you employ, and editors that work on the final product. …

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Whatever Happened to the Family Film? Hollywood Today Mistakenly Believes That, to Be Successful, Movies Must Be Hip, Edgy, Shocking, and Rife with Sex, Foul Language, Violence, and Bad Taste
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