Do we produce too many movies?

People are very familiar with cinema and its effect on us. With over 50 films produced every month by Hollywood alone, audiences aren’t short of options when it comes to movies. However, this sparks debate amongst film enthusiasts: are there just too many motion pictures?

Having too much of anything is profitable. That is the motto of film industries like Hollywood and Bollywood. The reason why it makes perfect sense to have too many films is that it allows production companies to make their money back from their ‘investments’ - what we generally refer to as a ‘movie’. Ultimately, Hollywood is a business, and just as how companies produce a variety of products, the film industries produce multiple genres of films that cater to different sects of the audience, culminating in box office receipts that profit the production companies and flood the movie theatres for audiences.

The trend of producing more films than the market needs is not something that is recent, but has existed since the mid-20th century. For example, Warner Brothers released 44 films in 1940, 29 in 1950, and 21 in 2017. Imagine the 1940’s: if one studio releases 44 films a year, and there are 4 other studios producing similar quantities of movies because they’re in direct competition with each other - the consumer is bound to be overwhelmed with choices, and the producers are very likely to get a return on their investments. Multiple films also allowed studios to reuse their sets, costumes and actors. Production companies like Warner Brothers signed expensive 7 year contracts with actors and got their money’s worth by making them do several films during their tenure. In these films you could see recycled sets and costumes, to the tunes of recycled soundtracks. All this helped them gain back the money they had invested. This brings up an aspect of filmmaking and cinema that always stays in the back of our minds, but is masked by the escapism that a movie gives us: movie-making is a business, and it will be run like one.

People aren’t the same - they have different tastes, upbringings and cultures. In order to cater to the largest consumer base possible, a production company needs to produce several products for different people. Using Warner Brothers as an example again, they distribute horror films like The Conjuring and romantic comedies like Crazy Rich Asians: all an attempt to get the greatest market share they can. This strategy is employed by almost all of the ‘Big Six’ film production companies - Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Walt Disney, Universal and Columbia - in order to maximise profits. When you have several production companies creating various films, there is bound to be an abundance of movies.

Just like how Universal capitalised on Frankenstein by coming up with 8 sequels featuring the reanimated monster in the 20th Century (including Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948, which, apart from the major change in tone, is actually quite good), production companies today aren’t afraid of over-flooding the cinemas by creating various sequels for successful film franchises. The Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU) is a brilliant example, as it is the highest grossing film franchise of all time. Owned by Walt Disney, the MCU never fails to deliver in terms of profits. One of its recent instalments, Avengers: Infinity War, made a profit of over $1.5 Billion - becoming one of the few films to ever cross $2 billion dollars in box office receipts. The massive turnout for superhero films is the sole reason why there are so many of them, with DC Comics and Warner Brothers releasing their versions of the same. The only reason there are so many action-packed superhero films is because they’re in demand; once the ‘fad’ of superheroes are over and people are done with them, the films will stop being produced. This can be applied to other crowd drawing genres like romantic comedies and horror: since there are fans for it, producers create multiple films to generate profits from them.

While it’s hard to argue that there aren’t too many films, it could be argued that this isn’t healthy for filmmaking as a whole. A plethora of similar films reduces filmmaking to a money-making exercise, one that is diminishing the expressive qualities a movie can have and replacing it with clichés and CGI. But, the various genres of film allow most cinema-goers to be gratified - whether they’re into easy-to-watch Disney films or complex Art cinema. Just like how all film is plastic and malleable, the multitude of movies make the viewer’s choice of movie plastic as well - which, in my opinion, is the closest to perfect it can get.