The entertainment business is fixated on intellectual property, let’s face it. This obsession won’t go away. However, given that many older franchises (such as “Fast & Furious” and “Mission: Impossible”) show the difficulties in maintaining their appeal past a certain sell-by date, it could need to change its focus.

At The Times’ El Segundo offices, I recently organized a panel discussion on the state of the film and television industry, which included a discussion on intellectual property and the debate over more “original” material, whichever that is defined. More from the event will be available in the upcoming weeks. (Make sure to return for the entire video; it’s well worth seeing.)

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Roy Lee, the creator of Vertigo Entertainment and a man with experience in IP, was one of the panelists. He has produced original works like the horror blockbuster “Barbarian” from last year in addition to productions like “The Lego Movie” and “It.”

He believes that the popularity of video game-based films like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($1.36 billion) and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” ($283 million in worldwide ticket sales) shows the direction that studios are taking to attract Gen Z audiences, who spend endless hours on the Roblox and “Fortnite” games. Furthermore, because the studios use such games as marketing tools, younger consumers are interacting with more established entertainment franchises through those games.

Lee predicted that computer games would replace comic book movies in the eyes of the future generation. “It seems like every video game company wants to get into the game and actually help self-finance the movies, too, after seeing what happened with ‘Mario’ and ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s.'” It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

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I’ll be extra precise here, out of caution, because there’s an argument regarding the force of originality and newness that gets oversimplified to the point that it’s often used as a straw man. The industry is still dominated by franchises. Even if the superhero genre has produced numerous noteworthy errors, superheroes continue to be a strong economic force.

This year, seven out of the ten domestic top films are either sequels, remakes, or adaptations of hugely successful current brands, such as the number one movie right now, “Barbie” (eight, if you include Taylor Swift). Comic book movies make up three of the top ten. Only one is an adaption of the video game “Super Mario.”

However, as it mostly affects young people, the PG-13 horror film “Five Nights at Freddy’s” from Blumhouse and Universal Pictures is especially instructive. Before its debut weekend made news, I’d wager that the great majority of consumers over 35 had never heard of the bizarre video game property. However, players have been streaming playthroughs of the different versions for a while, so it’s been quite popular.

The gaming community is a crucial market for the film and television industries to break into, and there have been some notable hits in this regard, like HBO’s “The Last of Us” and “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” as well as “Uncharted” and “Super Mario.” Executives have long recognized that YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and the gaming industry are major competitors for people’s attention.

According to a recent Newzoo analysis, the number of players globally is expected to reach 3.38 billion in 2023, an increase of 6.3% from the previous year, with mobile accounting for the majority of this growth. By the end of 2026, 3.79 billion gamers are anticipated in the company. According to my colleague Sarah Parvini, the study indicated a rise in younger generations’ gaming engagement, with more people taking up the hobby as existing players get older and new players join the scene.

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With the exception of “Barbenheimer,” “Five Nights at Freddy’s” has been one of the more entertaining success stories of what has been a fairly dismal year for the entertainment industry due to two massive strikes and the postponement of several major films, including Sony’s upcoming “Ghostbusters” sequel and Warner Bros./Legendary’s “Dune: Part Two,” until 2024.

The inability of most actors to market their films hindered the ones that did manage to premiere on time. Comscore reports that box office sales in the United States and Canada for the first half of this year have reached $8.24 billion, which is 18% less than what they were at the same point in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

With the recent release of “Wish,” which debuted to unfavorable reviews and made a meager $31.7 million over the extended Thanksgiving weekend, Disney, in particular, is having a difficult year. However, it may still bounce back, much like Pixar’s “Elemental” did. “The Marvels” was a complete failure. Epics directed by amateurs have also had trouble in theaters, although at least Ridley Scott’s $200 million+ “Napoleon” performed better than anticipated.

We discussed last week how the business is growing more risk cautious in light of the unpredictable box office landscape and the quick demise of linear television. According to industry experts, the number of scripted shows would drop to roughly 480 next year from pre-strike Peak TV levels by about 20%.

Our panelists, who included Nicole Brown, president of TriStar Pictures, Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation, Jonathan Glickman, founder of Panoramic Media Co., Fred Anthony Smith, vice president of non-scripted at SMAC Entertainment, and Chris Hart, partner and co-head of talent at United Talent Agency, were all clearly thinking about that evolution in addition to Lee. There will be more to all of this.

It’s not as easy as saying, “Great content will always get there,” in my opinion. because there are less consumers,” stated Glickman, whose most recent projects include the critically acclaimed Netflix series Wednesday and the Amazon-MGM film Creed III.

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Glickman remarked, “I think people are very concerned about what it means to spend that kind of money marketing a film, much less making a movie, especially on the theatrical side.” “And in my opinion, the idea of taking chances and taking chances is what leads to the creation of new franchises. Just take a look at the beloved films that five studios passed on. The things that are unconventional eventually find their way into the mainstream.

But even as the industry grows more competitive, some panelists expressed hope because they saw that audiences frequently reward films that address societal needs, such as by providing for underserved audiences through innovative marketing, such as middle America or faith-based audiences with “Sound of Freedom” or teenage girls with “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.”

According to Brown, whose TriStar unit most recently produced Eli Roth’s original slasher film “Thanksgiving” ($29 million global on a minimal budget), “I think that what we’re seeing is that audiences are driven by original.” “They are motivated by activities that feel new, urgent, and relevant to their culture. Additionally, I believe that… Even [Lee] stated that video games are the comic books of the future. I believe that viewers are searching for new content.


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