There was a time when the idea of turning a video game into a movie was interpreted as Hollywood scraping the bottom of the barrel. In fact, the “Hollywood has run out of original ideas” song & dance is the same number audiences have been singing for decades. Still, I can’t think of another era in filmmaking where it was so blatantly obvious that the studios were chasing brands instead of ideas.
At this point, it’s hardly even a surprise when we read about an outdated action figure or a board game being turned into a film. After all, this is the industry that thought a gum wrapper had franchise potential. It’s actually somewhat amusing that critics once accused video games of being too thin on content to sustain a film. I understand that the movie business is first and foremost a business. With the fragile state it currently finds itself in, I also understand how important it is to them to find properties that already have a built-in audience. Why spend all that money trying to make an audience aware of your film – when you can just capitalize on something they’re already familiar with? Like, for instance, a widely-viewed holiday tradition.
Case in point, according to THR, producers Scott Glassgold & Raymond Brothers of IAM Entertainment have just closed a deal to develop a feature film based on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This deal was made without a script or even a basic premise in place.
Instead, Joel Venti (a storyboard artist who recently worked on Thor) was hired to draw a few sketches for IAM’s presentation that helped convey what a Macy’s Day Parade movie could look like. The Macy’s company claims they are frequently approached with proposals for film and television projects and that they usually decline. However, they’re now interested in establishing themselves as an entertainment brand and felt that Glassgold & Brothers made “a compelling case.” The store will also be featured in the upcoming Ben Stiller comedy Tower Heist.
Macy’s most well-known appearance on film is probably Miracle on 34th Street and Glassgold is hoping that his project will have a similar universal appeal:
“We’re aiming to make a four-quadrant, family-friendly film somewhere in that Night At The Museum, Elf sweet spot.”
Now that the deal has been made, IAM is accepting pitches from various writers and considering any number of concepts – including one where the floats come to life.
I’m not sure you can really fault Hollywood for making brand names their priority. The fact is, they’re looking at, as they mentioned, certain films in a demographic they’re aiming for – and minimizing risk where they can. Just take a look at which articles on this site are consistently the most popular. Sequels sell tickets. Nostalgia sells tickets – and even something as ludicrous as a movie based on a parade has the potential to sell tickets.
I’m not trying to make some blanket statement about the evils of unoriginal ideas because the fact of the matter is sequels can be amazing and even remakes can turn out better than we expected. What’s disheartening about this is how little effort seems to have gone into the decision. There are no characters and no premise – just a setting that audiences will recognize.
It’s not even like a writer attended the parade, became inspired, and a story grew organically out of that experience. Instead, this is like what producers used to do with exploitation films – create the poster first and work backwards from there.