Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Studios Looking for the Next Juno?

I also posted a version of this as a comment on Alligators In A Helicopter.

The question is: how to repeat the (financial) success of Juno.

I think studios will have a hard time making a film to capture "the" Juno audience, because I don't think it has one audience. It's a film that, due to a variety of factors, was in the right place at the right time to attract multiple audiences.

One factor is that in a downbeat political and economic climate and when a lot of downer films are out, Juno is quite light despite its potentially difficult and melodramatic subject matter. It also balances aspects of how it deals with the teen pregnancy issue in a way that allows it to sit on the fence and avoid alienating either Liberals or Conservatives too readily.

Another factor is that pretty much every Xmas 07 film exceeded box office expectations (Alvin and the Chipmunks over $200M, you gotta be kidding) -- and Juno got an Oscar nomination bump (not as good as an Oscar bump, but it did increase its profile in the media), AND Fox advertised the heck out of it for a film in its genre and cost range (which they also did successfully for LMS).

Plus, it was good -- but lots of equally good or better films, often ones targeted at a similar base audience (hipsters), fail -- even ones which might even have had crossover appeal had they gotten legs out the gate.

I am not sure that the Juno factors can all be deliberately repeated. I think the best studios can do is take more chances on cheaper films that aren't designed to be blockbusters, knowing that like with more expensive films some will hit and some won't -- but when they do, the payoff is a bigger multiplier. I hope they will, because that strategy means more opportunities for those of us who don't get those "hey, here's a million bucks, go write me a guaranteed blockbuster" type of calls.

I'm encouraged, because Juno is in my own natural genre (a truly successful pair of writers recently agreed to have lunch with me and share some insights, and we talked about how we both were angry at not naving written LMS or Juno ourselves. It made me feel better to know that successful people also get angry about not having written scripts they loved).

However, I don't think that being in that genre, and being good, is quite enough. There are a lot more factors that also need to line up.