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Saturday 2 January 2010

Death Of The Movie Star?

I saw a piece in my newspaper this morning about the new film "Avatar" & the fact that it is already on course to become one of the biggest grossing films of all time.

But, as with all of these blogs & indeed my vlogs, thinking about this article led me on to thinking about another aspect of the film business.

What do you actually call a motion picture these days? Is it a 'film", or is it a "movie"?
This is one of those questions that pops up in my head whenever i refer to a motion picture.

As you can see from the beginning of this blog, i've started off by saying "film". This is probably because i'm British & this is what we still tend to refer to a motion picture as. Even in these days of American culture seemingly taking over the world, the term "film" is still hanging on by it's fingertips in the UK.

But, what is the correct term & does it really matter anyway?
Well, for me at least, it does matter. I, like a lot of people, spend an increasing amount of time online & a lot of that time is spent conversing with people from the USA. Now, as i'm sure we all know, the Americans always refer to motion pictures as "movies".

So, where did the word "movie(s)" come from in the first place?
Well, according to (a very valuable website & one i have to use far too often), as expected the word "movies" is a shortened form of "moving pictures". And according to the site, the word "movies" was first used in around 1912.

The word "film" can be used to describe the actual filming process itself, what the motion picture is recorded onto & also the finished product. Apart from several other unrelated definitions too.

So, i'm going to make a unilateral decision & say that, in future, we should just use the term "movie(s)" to save us all a lot of confusion & debate.
Just think how much shorter this blog post would have been, if i hadn't felt the need to clear this up first!

Anyway, on to the main feature. As they would say at the movies.

As i was saying, the movie Avatar has already grossed over $745 million, or £460 million. So, it is well on it's way to becoming only the fifth movie in history to gross over $1 billion.

There is nothing too remarkable about this, i suppose. Especially as the director of the movie, James Cameron, is resposible for highest grossing movie of all time, Titanic ($1.84 billion btw)

But, what is different about Avatar though, is that it's "stars" are all, with one exception, relative unknowns. The exception being Sigourney Weaver, who is hardly the biggest movie star in the world. Although she's still a fine actress in my opinion.

Apparently, James Cameron wanted to concentrate on getting the technology correct, to enable the movie to be shot in 3D. This, as you can imagine, cost a lot of money ($237 million) & probably didn't allow too much to be spent on signing up "A" List movie stars.

So, is this the beginning of the end for the "A" List movie star? After all, if a movie can become one of the biggest grossing of all time & without the draw of any of the big name stars, will this send a message to other directors & movie production studios?

Yes, i accept that the 3D aspect of Avatar is a big draw in itself & i know of several people who have seen the movie more than once, to enable them to see it in 3D. But, i also know of people who have been to see Avatar, more than once, for no other reason than that they thought it was brilliant.
But, nobody appears to have been put off going to see Avatar by the lack of big star names.

Too often these days, any new movie seems to be more about the star names involved & less about the actual movie itself. For, me at least, this can be a big turn off. I don't go to the movies to see a star name, i go to see what i hope will be a good movie.

We all have our favourite movie stars. Just as we all have our favourite authors, or musicians. But, we soon stop buying, reading, or listening when those favourites stop producing good material.
I think, with the movie industry in particular, there has been far too much substandard material produced over recent years. With far too much reliance on big star names to try & attract us to go & see that substandard material.

Maybe another aspect of this is the actual cost of making a movie, when you have to pay top dollar to get an "A" List star, or stars to sign up?.
Avatar cost $237 million to film, without any of those big star names. Would that movie ever have been made if it was felt a big star name was needed? Could the cost of have justified? Or, would the production values have been lessened by the need to pay top dollar for that star name, or names?

Hopefully, in my view anyway, the huge success of Avatar, which i haven't seen by the way, will make movie makers sit up & take stock.
Maybe now is the time to start concentrating on original story lines & production values, rather than on those big star names? Or, on sequels & tired remakes?
Or, maybe, in these credit crunch times, the big movie stars will have to take a pay cut?

I don't expect many people will moan about that?


  1. In the industry, Movies or Motion Pictures usually refer to big blockbusters (ie Avatar) whereas more serious fare are referred to as Films, usually those that end up as Oscar bait.

  2. Thanks for the info Craig.
    That does all sound like a bit of snobbery though.
    No wonder us Brits call them Films!

  3. I may just be old and out-of-touch, but I have no interest in seeing Avatar (I openly admit to actually hating - HATING - Titanic).

    The picture my wife and I chose to see when at the theater the other day was "It's Complicated" and a big part of that decision was that it had actual movie stars.

    Special effects are interesting, and I appreciate how cool they are, blah, blah, blah, but if you want to hold my attention for 1.5-2 hours, I need a good story and performers who can make me give a crap about them.

  4. Ken: I'll admit, i don't have much interest in Avatar either. I didn't mind Titanic, but that's about all.
    I think there's a bit too much emphasis on special effects these days. Directors are going for the bangs & the bucks, often to the detriment of the actual story. If there ever was one?
    I agree that a good story & good performers are important. But good performers aren't always the "A" list stars are they?