Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Can Disney Grow With Boys and Men?


With the Mancession in full swing it would appear odd that Disney, along with Time-Warner, is busy restructuring itself to appeal more to men, and boys, but nevertheless, Disney is busy doing just that. Disney recently fired Disney Studios CEO Dick Cook, shortly after making an offer to purchase Marvel Entertainment. Reportedly, Disney CEO Bob Iger is considering Disney Channels Worldwide President Rich Ross as a successor, according to Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily. Nikki's batting average on Hollywood rumors is the best among the Hollywood reporters, frequently scooping both Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, so the rumor is likely to have substance to it. But what the move shows, if true, is how thin the executive ranks in Hollywood are when it comes to proven ability to attract boys and men to either movies or (especially) television. The latter being a female and gay ghetto. [Disney's ABC is especially bad in this regard.]

Disney, Time-Warner, and other media conglomerates would prefer not to make the effort. They lack the ability, mostly, to shepherd complex, boy and man-appealing entertainment into success. Most of their outlets appeal to the "New Girl Order." But a terrible advertising climate, a crisis in DVD sales, and the threats of piracy, the internet, and simply watching existing DVDs has led Hollywood's media conglomerates to one conclusion. Women and girls are not enough.

Not enough to provide real growth in revenue, particularly if Larry Summers is correct and the current recession, with permanent job losses and structural unemployment at the 10-15% range over ten years or more, curtails the "New Girl Order." Even with men making up most of the unemployed, single mothers face economic pressure as well, if nothing else from declining real wages as tax increases and inflation mounts, along with job uncertainty. This promises to end the easy money of selling $100 "Hannah Montana" tickets to the parents of tween girls.

Hollywood focused on the female and tween girl audience because it was easy. Disney particularly was able to develop a strong stable of tween girl appealing stars, from Hillary Duff ("Lizzie McGuire") to Miley Cyrus. Disney's bets on Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez have not fully paid off, however, as the predicted influx of Hispanic/Latino girls flocking to those stars never materialized. Unsurprisingly to anyone but Disney execs drinking the Multicultural Kool-Aide, Latino/Hispanic (read, overwhelmingly Mexican) tween girls prefer real, authentic, Spanish-speaking idols from Mexico, available in Spanish-language television, magazines, and movies.

From the Wall Street Journal article:

Like other studios, Disney also has to combat the decline in DVD sales. Hollywood still makes the bulk of its profits from home-video sales. But that market, which grew more than 15% a year between 2000 and 2004, has begun to wilt. According to Adams Media Research, consumer spending on home video fell 9% last year. It projects home-video sales will fall between 8% and 10% for 2009.Mr. Iger has said DVD sales are in an irreversible decline, but he said Marvel's strong brand profile should offer a measure of protection. "They are not immune from the changes that we're seeing," Mr. Iger said, referring to Marvel, during a conference call with analysts Monday morning. "But they have established a footing that we think is more solid than what you typically see in the nonbranded, noncharacter driven movie."


As Charles M. Blow of the New York Times has written, the speed of the collapse of the Music Industry is amazing, cut in half from its peak in 1999, in ten years. First piracy, and then music streaming over the internet, free and legal, have severely cut industry revenues. Clearly, Hollywood can see the same problems facing themselves. Already Hulu.com, ironically created by NBC Universal (GE), Fox Entertainment Group, and ABC (Disney), has taught consumers to access streaming movies, television shows,and clips instead of buying DVDs. The success of South Park Studios where every South Park episode can be watched, for free, online, shows that creative people can build their own portals very quickly and capture consumer interest (and advertising revenue) without much cost. The success of "District 9" in providing a unique, and expensive look with a production budget of $30 million means that the studios, with high costs and overhead, face real challenges from productions in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and potentially many other nations with low production costs and favorable tax treatment.

Hollywood clearly must have a male audience, both boys and men, to provide revenue stability, let alone growth, if the pressures of piracy, online competition, and simply re-cycling existing DVDs (and video games) continues. Tween girls and women are not enough. From Box Office Mojo and the Wall Street Journal I have compiled the list of Female Skewing movies and Marvel Superhero movies:
























































































Female Skewing MovieWorld-Wide Gross
Sex and the City$415,252,786
27 Dresses$160,259,319
Devil Wears Prada$326,551,094
Jane Austen Book Club$7,163,566
The Proposal$272,060,335
He's Just Not That Into You$172,011,653
Marvel MoviesWorld-Wide Gross
Blade$131,183,530
X-Men$296,339,527
Spider-Man$821,708,551
X2: X-Men United$407,711,549
Spider-Man 2$783,766,341
Fantastic Four$330,579,719
X-Men: The Last Stand$459,359,555
Ghost Rider$228,738,393
Spider-Man 3$890,871,626
Iron Man$585,133,287
Wolverine$363,362,640
Punisher War Zone$10,089,373
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer$289,047,763



Most of the Marvel Movies outperform the Female skewing movie average (which was $225 million). Only 2 out of the 13 Marvel movies listed did less than the Female-skewing movies, and that is including the "Hard R" rated Punisher War Zone movie and 1998's "Blade" made over 11 years ago and featuring a very minor Marvel character. Even a not very well made movie like the second Fantastic Four movie brings in nearly $290 million. Obviously, the usual caveats apply. This applies to world-wide box office, including foreign box office grosses, and generally the studios receive significantly less than the gross for both foreign and domestic exhibitors. Often, foreign receipts are less percentage-wise to the gross than domestic receipts. Moreover, foreign receipts are more vulnerable to pressures of piracy. As MTV reported, the movie "American Gangster" was available in major US cities on bootleg DVDs (of high quality, too) before its release. Eli Roth reported that "Hostel II" was on sale in Mexico City for the equivalent of a quarter.

However , the average of the Marvel movies is $430 million world-wide. That is serious money no matter that the net for the studios is likely to be less.

Which makes Disney's move puzzling.

Disney has access to Marvel's characters, assuming they settle with Jack Kirby's estate over the rights to characters he created including Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Hulk, and the Avengers. These characters, are proven money-makers in extracting cash from the wallets of men and boys (who are the audience who sees the movies, and buys the DVDs). Disney also has family-film studio Pixar, with hit after hit, and a deal with Dreamworks for adult fare (likely to produce prestige but little cash). The role of the successor to Dick Cook as head of Disney Studios is to push products from the Marvel character library (and undo existing exclusive deals with Sony, and other studios such as Columbia, for characters like Spider-Man and Ghost Rider respectively) to grab more of the dollars "lying on the table" that belong to men and boys. Because clearly more "chick flics" and tween-girl pop princess fantasies face limited growth potential amidst DVD piracy and audience erosion from streaming online video.

According to Nikki Finke (who has an excellent track record), Disney is considering Rich Ross. Ross is listed in After Elton as one of the most powerful openly gay men in Hollywood. As noted in the NY Times article about how Disney used "Kid Whisperer" Kelly Pena to find out what boys liked, Ross was quoted thusly:

While Disney XD is aimed at boys and their fathers, it is also intended to include girls. “The days of the Honeycomb Hideout, where girls can’t come in, have long passed,” said Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide.

Disney XD, which took over the struggling Toon Disney channel, has improved its predecessor’s prime-time audience by 27 percent among children 6 to 14, according to Nielsen Media Research. But the bulk of this increase has come from girls. Viewership among boys 6 to 14 is up about 10 percent.


Ross's track record is one of failure to increase boys watching Disney XD. As a Gay Man, he's incapable of understanding what boys and men like in entertainment. Ross could read market research report after report, and never understand why certain content succeeds and others fail. Including girls will automatically exclude boys, by making the content "girl-friendly" and therefore actively repellent to boys and men.

The extraordinary durability of Marvel Comics characters created from 1941 through the 1970's stems from the creators themselves. Often nerdy, shy, young men who did not find enormous success with the ladies, the creators (often deeply patriotic and assimilated Jews) created power-fantasies whereby "ordinary" young men with good character were transformed into weird and powerful heroes. Some were more upbeat, others more angst-ridden, but all were "fun" in the way that only a truly masculine identity could embrace: Spider-Man swinging through Manhattan's skyline and mouthing off to adversaries the way he could not in his ordinary life, Daredevil vigorously maintaining the line between hero and villain in a struggle to save his neighborhood, the Hulk's embodiment of a child's anger and innocence, or Captain America's exuberant love for his country and smashing his nation's enemies.

Making these characters "girl-friendly" requires mutilating them out of any appeal to young men and boys. Creating female characters who "tame them" and far too much competition over the female characters. The whole point of a character like Daredevil is that while his outward self may be handicapped, the inner person and hero is a ladies man, irresistible to a host of female characters: Elektra, Black Widow, and so on.

Because the executive talent pool for Disney and Time Warner is such a female and gay ghetto, reflecting much of its product, it is not surprising that Time-Warner appointed a female marketing executive whose prior experience was Harry Potter promotions as head of DC Comics. Nor is it surprising that Disney is considering an openly Gay executive, who notably failed in attracting boys to the male-oriented channel, as head of Disney Studios. Old habits die hard, and the Hollywood studios have pursued a gay/female ghetto strategy for so long that even when recognizing that growth, or more likely simply reducing the revenue erosion, depends on attracting boys and men, all the choices on hand to run the whole thing are women and Gays.

Thus, I expect Marvel Comics to get a lot "gayer" and existing projects such as the Iron Man 2 movie, the Thor movie, the Avengers movie, and so on to become a lot "gayer" and more "girl-friendly." Read: a flop like "Jane Austen Book Club" only costing a lot more. Hollywood simply does not know how to appeal to men.





18 comments:

Erik said...

I was not a happy camper when I read that Disney bought Marvel. Comics are perhaps the last bastion of masculine media for boys (and young, or not so young, men) and with Disney owning them it isn't a question of IF they will frell the story and characters, but when and how bad.

Anonymous said...

All this proves is that we need to expend more effort feminizing and homosexualizing our young boys. Unless you're some kind of bigot and you don't want women and homosexuals to be able to appeal to the male demographic?

Marquis said...

case in point: watch the latest Superman film....i tried very hard to like it....but it was low on action, homoerotic as all hell, and simply boring as fuck. period.

i'm not saying that a gay director can't make a movie that appeals to guys, as i'm sure it has been done, i'm just saying that some things so deeply rooted in the psyche of a certain demographic will likely be better packaged and made by someone from that demographic. ironically, some might construe my above comment as homophobic or stereotypical, but imagine me trying to write a book from the perspective of a gay man, or direct a film with a gay protagonist...i'm the first to admit i would be completely clueless as to the inner workings of the character.

Kevin said...

I have to admit that I never much liked DC/Marvel comic books as a kid but I had plenty of friends who did. Now looking back these characters do strike me as kinda gay since they normally feature exaggeratedly muscular men in colourful tights wrestling each other ,so maybe it's not so surprising Disney went queer on this assignment. But that's just me and I might have a different opinion if I had grown up reading more comics. But what really struck me was the idea that entertainment for boys would somehow be limited to just watching super heroes. Why? And what are the political implications of this limiting of boy/male entertainment to super heroes?

First we have to admit that the Hollywood elite has to have a much larger agenda than just making money. At the very least, being dominated by Jews and Gays, Hollywood will want to help change any prevailing negative attitudes held my the unwashed masses about these subgroups. Fair enough, I suppose if I belonged to one of these subgroups and had the chance, I would probably do the same thing.

But there is another even more important characteristic of the Hollywood elite; they belong to the ruling class of extremely wealthy Americans. And so they are definitely going to have an interest in making the masses more governable. In other words more passive, more easily manipulated and yes even more stupid. Not only for today but the current ruling class will want their own children (or ethnic group, queers get a pass here since they have no children) to continue to rule over the next generation of Americans. And so Hollywood has absolutely no interest in producing any content that might even slightly enrich the intellectual abilities of the consuming masses. In fact they have the opposite interest; to lead the middle and working classes towards ghetto culture. But of course Hollywood big-shots then have to restrict their own children's access to the cultural garbage they produce, because, like biological warfare, you've got to try to restrict the blowback damage to your own side as much as possible.

In addition to any long term public conditioning, the elite will certainly be alarmed at the growing popular anger towards the recent bailouts of the Wall Street elites to be paid for by future generations of entertainment consuming masses. This may be one reason for recent Wall Street interest in buying entertainment companies. Perhaps they feel their Hollywood cousins have not done a good enough job in conditioning the population for further bailouts. The idea is not just profit (of course they wouldn't mind that as well) but the critical goal will be emergency doses of pro-elite brainwashing, especially aimed at males since they are the dangerous ones, to head off any future hesitation about transfers of wealth from the masses to Wall Street.

What super heroes bring to the table is the idea that problems are solved by super-endowed others, not by ordinary Joes, who seem relegated to just to sitting around passively and trying not to get in the way while the super heroes (elite) take care of business. That not a message I want my two sons (or daughter for that matter) to hear. Which is why I don't let any Disney (or similar) garbage in my house.

Mil-Tech Bard said...

Whiskey,

Large organizations like Disney, Time-Warner, CBS, ABC & NBC don't have people who knows beans about straight males, being either female, gay or feminized males out to get a GLAAD award.

Specifically these organizations don't have people at the first book/script reader or the higher acquisition editor levels who can empathize or understand what straight males want. And the people above them are all far to interested in the power/promotion games of catering to organizations like GLAAD to put on any hostile to Gay/Feminist values straight male media products.

As organizations, they are in fact hotile to the very concept of "Straight Male Friendly" media fare.

The idiots who are hostile to the straight male media market within Disney, Time-Warner, CBS, ABC & NBC etc have patrons in the system to protect them from failing to market to straight males. These organizations all are "tall" corporate bureaucracies that provide niches for these value-subtracted idiots to hide in.

I just don't see any of the major media incumbants being able to get back into the male market as a result.

Their parent corporate cultures are so "value subtracting" that their buying a flat bureaucracy media organizations like Baen Books -- that "Got it," as far as straight Male marketing and product development are concerned -- would see that purchase destroyed inside of a single TV season via sabotage in the form of "Managerial Oversight & Help."

Can imagine seeing ABC try and turn John Ringo's book "Ghost" into a television series?

Zeta said...

So it seems Marvel will be lost to men to a greater or lesser degree. As one of the last bastions of maleness, what does that leave for us? What will come up in its place besides World of Warcraft, the Internet, porn, etc.? This doesn't seem to bode very well, but maybe there's a chance for some kind of encouraging new trend to emerge from the destruction. I can't see what, but you can always hope...

Whiskey said...

The point of Superheros is that they are supposed to, anyway, give hope to the powerless and marginalized. The deeply assimilated and patriotic Jews that created Superman and Captain America (punching Hitler in the mouth before America's entry into WWII) were part and parcel of the idea of a superhero as a catalyst. Not the fascistic ruler (explored in the WildStorm comic "the Authority" with terminally PC/Multiculti superheroes creating a dictatorship of SWPL) sense but as a way for ordinary (boys and men) to break through the sense of overwhelming odds.

It *IS* sad that this is what the US is reduced to, heroes for boys and men being purely superheroes. I shudder to think what ABC would do to any Baen Books novel. Fortunately the stuff is so masculine that it will repel the female readers at ABC/Disney.

My guess is that Disney has seen those Marvel grosses, the failure of chick-flics to come anywhere near the highs of Spider-Man in particular, and revenues trending down from the pop princess machine and is moving in desperation. Still wanting to "gay it up" not realizing you can't make young men like stuff young women do.

There is already a "Spider-Man the Musical" project in the works, I assume other stuff will erode the characters into one giant feminized mess.

Which is sad. Even minor characters like the Punisher, created by Irish-American Gerry Conway as a reaction to 1970's NYC crime, have interesting things to say.

I don't think the elites have a conspiracy -- they just are what they are.

Anonymous said...

"Latino/Hispanic (read, overwhelmingly Mexican) tween girls prefer real, authentic, Spanish-speaking idols from Mexico, available in Spanish-language television, magazines, and movies."

What is the size of the young Hispanophone demographic? How do their numbers compare to Anglophones of the same age? I've tried tracking down the data but can't find the specifics.

-A. Nonny

randian said...

i'm not saying that a gay director can't make a movie that appeals to guys, as i'm sure it has been done

Bryan Singer can do it, if he tries.

The Usual Suspects
Apt Pupil
X-Men
X2
Valkyrie

He's also responsible for Superman Returns, which you refer to.

The annoying thing is that he probably gets more attention from Hollywood hotties than straight guys do.

You'd think gay men would reject, rather than seek, female attention and approval.

Whiskey said...

The Census Bureau has breakdowns for age, race and sex. So you could do that. You'd have to do some Excel jockeying but nothing too terribly difficult.

According to Box Office Mojo, Apt Pupil did 8 million, Valkyrie $200 million (severe underperformed, probably lost money due to high costs, most of it Cruise's salary), Usual Suspects did $23 million (note Usual and Apt have only domestic box office listed, but still low), X2 did $402 million and X Men $296 million world wide. Both less than Favreau's Iron Man at $500 million.

Singer's basic problem is that he does not understand what men want out of stories. If Superman is reduced to being a sad stalker of his ex-wife and kid, what's the point of being Superman? If you have super-powers and are reduced to fighting other superpowered guys over the gal, what's the point of being an X-Man? But if you are a gay guy that sounds pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

>If you have super-powers and are reduced to fighting other superpowered guys over the gal, what's the point of being an X-Man?

Assuming I'm right about what you're referring to, the rivalry between Cyclops and Wolverine over Jean Grey was in the original comic books.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey,
Thanks for your many superheroes themed posts. Like you and I suppose, many of the guys here, I grew up stacks of Marvel comics - never could get int DC, as they didn't seem realistic to me outside of Batman, and even then, he seemed a bit over the top.

Hands down my favorite Marvel hero has to be ole Hornhead. And depsite the bad reviews many gave it, I actually liked the Daredevil movie; I thought Affleck wasnt bad as Murdock/Daredevil. I thought the film was well shot and did a good job of explaining/displaying Daredevil's powers and how he got them.

I can relate to Daredevil; he's handicapped, and being Black, so am I, in a sense. Plus, unlike Spiderman, whom according to the powers that be at Marvel, Daredevil can actually beat in a toe-down despite Spidey's powers, is a result of skills-Daredevil trains himself to be a peak athelete and martial artist. Only Captain America can hope to best him in hand to hand combat.

Plus, I like that Daredevil is just trying to save his hood, Hell's Kitchen. While other heroes are duking it out with fantastical villians, Daredevil is concerned with the common thugs and lowlifes of his neighborhood, protecting those who have no voice or money or power. I also like that he's a religious Man, and that his superpowers reside only in the realm of his remaining four senses.

The Frank Miller run of the comic was among my favorites, although I liked John Romita Jr's artwork and liked that and his run on Iron Man in the earlier 90s. I was also a big fan of that style of the armor, although the current style used in the movie and created by the Eastern European artist is cool, too.

I understand that Marvel has its own studios now. If that's so, and I think the first movie to come out of said studios was Iron Man, they should have a good deal more creative control over its product. Already this was the case, as we saw Tony Stark appear at the end of the recent Hulk movie starring Edward Norton. Of course, trhis comes from the long Marvel tradition of various characters popping up in each other's comics; in the Marvel world, everyone knew, or at least knew of, each other.

I think another major reason for Marvel's enduring success over the years is because it attempts to grapple with realworld yet eternal themes. The X-Men was based on African Americans, the Civil Rights Movement and Racism. The Fantastic Four and Iron Man, are actually meditations on the role of technology in our lives, and its real limitations. Spider-Man's struggle is to learn how to use his powers correctly, as his wise Uncle Ben tells him, with great power, comes great responsibility. The Punisher is indeed a comic book version of Dirty Harry, itself a commentary on the nature of crime in early 1970s San Francisco and the rise of the "victim's rights" movement. People, specifically Men and Boys, relate to all of this, and even moreso because all of it is set not in some made up place like Gotham City or Metropolis, but places we all know - New York City, California's Malibu Beach (where Stark lives), and so on. It occurs in the realworld. And that's what makes it so real, so relevant.

I don't think all is lost on the entertainment for Men front. The Wire, while never garnering any awards, was nevertheless universally critically acclaimed as one of if not the best drama series ever to air on a tv set. It is without question a Masculine show. And as you point out, District 9 proves that it is very possbile to make a hit film on the cheap, so long as you've got a tight story and a cheap place to film it.

Holla back

The Obsidian

prosa123 said...

So it seems Marvel will be lost to men to a greater or lesser degree. As one of the last bastions of maleness, what does that leave for us? What will come up in its place besides World of Warcraft, the Internet, porn, etc.?

Sports. Hugely popular and overwhelmingly male. And not in any danger of being feminized.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Whiskey, will you be posting a roundup of the new TV shows (e.g. Flashfoward)? I'd like to see what you think--your reviews would probably help me decide how to waste less time on bad shows.

American Monarchist said...

The author of How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and Found Inner Peace speculated that the success of the Harry Potter books is that they're the first ones in a long time to allow a boy to be a hero.

ztp said...

Disney wants to attract adult male viewers? How? "Disney-After-Dark"?
"Hannah Does Montana"?

costa rica retirement said...

The Census Bureau has breakdowns for age, race and sex. So you could do that. You'd have to do some Excel jockeying but nothing too terribly difficult.

viagra online said...

maybe marvel can give some advices to disney, and teach how produce a real kick-ass movies like iron man or spider man, no matter if disney is now the owner of marver I hope this company don't send all to waste.