With tentpoles and low-budget movies holding up disparate ends of the industry, is there still a place for the middle-ground budget in filmmaking? Universal’s studio head Donna Langley certainly thinks so. “There’s a market for it absolutely,” she said, speaking at the Vanity Fair Summit in Beverly Hills on Tuesday.
Universal had “actually done very well” with midbudget films such as Straight Outta Compton, Mamma Mia and 50 Shades of Grey, Langley added. “You can deliver a really compelling reason to get out to the movie theater…I really think there’s room for all types of budget ranges in the studio system.”
For co-panelist Jason Blum, his low-budget horror lane at Blumhouse Productions is certainly not detrimental to the quality of his storytelling, as proven by his recent huge hit Get Out. “If I thought it was about commerce versus emotion, we would never have a hit movie or TV show,” he said. “What makes a great scary movie is the emotion, the same thing that makes a great tentpole.”
Despite having the classic tentpole of Wonder Woman under her belt, director Patty Jenkins agreed budget was not a driving factor for her. “I am primarily a filmmaker interested in emotion,” she said. “It depends how that syncs up with budget and what kind of release that should be…I’m interested in story and shared universal emotion.”
Currently working on the Wonder Woman sequel, Jenkins said she had experienced both extreme ends of the budget spectrum. One of the main ways the budget map has evolved is through streaming, so does Jenkins care where her content is viewed? “I don’t think I have only one preference,” she said, “but Wonder Woman, I definitely think we made it to play in a theater. It’s made to be a big experience, and it’s designed to be a shared experience. Other things I’ve made are things I think are right to be a more intimate experience and can be viewed on a smaller screen.”
For Langley, theater attendance still remains an all-important assessment tool. “Our job is to make films that are inherently global,” she said, “and can really stand up to the audience litmus test of, ‘Is it worth getting in my car, spending the money and going to the theater?'”
As to whether the panelists themselves still go to the movie theater, the results were mixed. “I love going to the movies,” Blum said. “I have a movie theater across the street from my home and I go there twice a month.”
But for Jenkins, making it to the theater has been tough lately, especially during the 2 1/2-year stretch when she made Wonder Woman. “I haven’t gone to the movies much for the last two years, but generally in my life, I go to the movies twice a month,” she said. Langley also cited a lack of time for getting to the theater, explaining she has small children. Fortunately though, for those who can’t make it to the cinema, at least there’s always time for a lower-budget home-streaming experience; possibly even a midbudget one.