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Hollywood Insider Says Quiet Part Out Loud

by Amber Simmons

Few modern filmmakers grasp Hollywood better than Joe Russo.

He co-directed multiple Marvel movies with brother Anthony, including the final “Avengers” films that capped the MCU’s first three phases.

“Avengers: Endgame” earned nearly $2.8 billion globally.

Russo also straddles the line between the theatrical and streaming worlds, directing and producing big titles for Netflix like “The Gray Man” and “Extraction.”

So when he speaks, people should listen.

Russo shared his thoughts on streaming, Hollywood 101 and more during an appearance at the Sands Film Festival. He spoke bluntly, acknowledging the precarious situation the theatrical model still finds itself in despite a hearty start to 2023.

He cited FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out – as being a critical distinction between theatrical releases and streaming titles today. That matters even more as films make the leap from theaters to VOD (Video on Demand) platforms.

Netflix, he cautioned, has no loyalty to theaters and will only put its product in them to appease select directors.

It’s what his colleague said during the festival, though, that should matter most to the industry moving forward.

Russo was joined by Cinetic Media founder John Sloss, who brings decades of experience to the panel including extensive producing credits (“Green Book,” “Boyhood”).

The Movie Star Era, according to Sloss, is over. And that’s been a boon to a film genre hardly known for its box office prowess.

Sloss added that streamers are bolstering the distribution of docs, but the growing popularity is also an inadvertent result of a decrease in the draw of classically defined movie stars.

“We’re in a post-movie star era except for maybe Tom Cruise,” he said, explaining that few stars are able to draw people to the theatre.

Cruise, who rallied audiences back to theaters last year with “Top Gun: Maverick,” is often cited as the Last Movie Star. And for good reason. He’s apolitical, driven to produce and promote movies that connect with the average movie goer and keenly aware of his brand.

Tom Cruise, Old-School Movie Star.

He’s also thankful to his fans, to a fault, praising their patronage in sometimes outrageous ways.

Most stars don’t follow that blueprint.

They embrace divisive political narratives, bounce between genres and overshare on social media and elsewhere.

That means movies that gather a gaggle of A-list names can belly flop at the box office like “Babylon” and “Amsterdam” did last year.

The “stars” today are mostly IPs (Intellectual Properties) that can be leverage for franchises, shared universes and more. Think the MCU, the Transformers toys, Barbie dolls, etc. etc.

Margot Robbie may score big with the upcoming “Barbie” movie this summer, but she couldn’t draw a crowd for either “Babylon” or “Amsterdam.”

It’s the new normal, and Hollywood studios better start paying attention to it rather than writing gargantuan checks to stars who can’t put fannies in the seats.

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