Who matters most to a film studio?
The fans of a movie, the ones who will devotedly fork out the pricey admission to see their film in the cinema multiple times over in their thousands worldwide?
Or a critic who reviews their film and publishes their subjective opinions for the whole internet to see?
It’s a tough line to walk to please both of these groups. Making an artistically brilliant film that hits all the right notes with followers of the genre or series, is an art that has only been repeated a few times in history. Avatar, Star Wars: IV, and Avengers Assemble are a few that come to mind.
But who should studios be prioritising?
To answer this, we must firstly look at who’s actually in the seats watching the film. That’s overwhelmingly the fans.
They might watch a movie that they love three or four times in the cinema.
Compare that to the tiny population of film pundits. From a utilitarian point of view, the fans are worth much more to a studio.
Also, a factor to consider is the exposure and effect of the film reviews.
Film producers get lots of exposure from a critic writing a positive review of their movie. This could provide more revenue from people going to see it on the author’s advice.
This ignores the fact that the best advertising a production could hope for actually comes from word-of-mouth endorsements from avid fans of the film.
These are far more personal than any review could be, as they come from someone that the target knows and trusts to understand their preferences: the interaction is of higher value because it is inherently personal.
Someone far off in an office in Fleet Street can’t know you better than a close friend – unless by some magic those two aren’t mutually exclusive.
This is combined with the fact that there’s no guarantee that anyone will actually listen to a critic’s review – and if they’re a dedicated fan then it’s very likely they’ll ignore it entirely.
That limits the positive effect of a review to zero with the few people who will actually read the reviews anyway.
The majority of film studios have this balance at least partly right: just look at the fan-service in the recent Star Wars sequels to recognise that fans are at the heart of what studios do.
But criticism from a myriad of outlets suggests that all the effort should go into making an artistically brilliant film.
Those have their place. But it’s worth it if the fans are given what they want.
Franchises like Star Wars or Marvel give some people respite and escapism from what is currently a confusing, brash world.
That is valuable because it breaks the monotony of their soul-crushing nine-to-five jobs and difficult family issues. Fan-service is important and profoundly beneficial to the lives of many.
That’s why a production’s emphasis must always be on the fans.
Lives might depend on it.
-- Will Allsopp is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds