Turns out Hollywood can make money on more than just giant, effects-driven spectacles based on comic book characters and old TV shows. Studio-made prestige dramas like 'The Town' and 'The Social Network' -- the sort of Oscar-courting, grown-up fare that the studios used to produce routinely before the blockbuster era -- are doing well at the box office, too.
There's a caveat, of course: The movies have to be made on the cheap. In a recent column in the Los Angeles Times, industry pundit Patrick Goldstein observed that such movies only seem to make sense on the balance sheet when studios can make them for under $40 million. But it's hard for an industry built around the making and marketing of $200 million movies to make and sell what used to be considered the quirky, adult-minded fare best suited to smaller, fleeter independent distributors. Those outlets have all but gone out of business, while the studios have all but forgotten how to launch anything but mega-event movies -- or cheap horror movies, which pretty much sell themselves without the need for star salaries or big marketing budgets.
Still, the notion that Hollywood has to relearn how to spend just $40 million in order to get back into the quality drama business doesn't necessarily have to be bad news. Maybe the successes of 'The Town' and 'The Social Network' can point the way back -- the way forward -- to an era when everything is on Hollywood's menu, not just movies on the extreme ends of the spectrum.
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