As the decade comes to a close, it's worth taking a nostalgic look back at what we lived through in the first 10 years of the new century. A list of the top films that have come and gone over the past decade, though, brings some lessons and signs that a shift has taken place in Hollywood.
We don't like movies anymore. Well, adults don't. Not in the way we used to at least. Just look at the list of the top worldwide grossing movies of the 2000s and you'll struggle to find a title that was primarily sold for an adult audience. It's evident that big blockbuster franchises reigned supreme in a way they never had before and nobody would have anticipated.
And they did it bigger than any decade before. These so-called "kids' movies" pulled in huge numbers around the world. Just compare some of the stats to 1990s for context: Three movies topped $1 billion in the 2000s; Just one did that in the 1990s. Eighteen topped $800 million; Just four a decade earlier. All fifty got to $500 million; Just 14 by comparison in the 1990s.
It's hard to judge with any certainty what changed in the landscape and make up of the movie industry. But what's clear from these two lists is the emphasis over the past decade went from being focused on domestic numbers and appeal to the vaster global market. America emerged this decade as a powerhouse in animation and explosions. Guys like Michael Bay ushered in an era where America could dominate at foreign box offices and generate additional revenue as the leaders in expensive, innovative projects,
Character-driven stories, as a result, have been largely abandoned. Foreign directors can partially fill in the gaps left behind by big American studios going after the next huge hit. Filmmakers like Pedro Almadovar should seize the chance to really break out as proven and proficient filmmakers for an American audience. Because for those of us looking to be captured by a beautifully written and shot story, there's a dearth of material nowadays, uprooted in the name of larger productions with possibilities of massive payoffs.
Which may help answer why many mothers have turned to the "Twilight" series as their saving grace amid a movie world full of fantasy, robotics and cartoons. They have grown a decade older along with their daughters. They contributed the tens of dollars at a time to help establish studios like Pixar as forces in the Hollywood game. But now they're outgrowing those kids' movies, seeking cinema worth spending their money on that they can enjoy with their teenage children. In a different era, they would see movies with their husbands or friends; today they accompany their children to theaters for movies that have a broader reach and shrink the perceived gap between the two generations.
It's keeping parents young rather than, as the past decade's movies did, reminding them that they once were young. Fourties these days skews younger, not older, and that's where Hollywood is seemingly heading in the next decade. Sure, new parents are bound to pop up to replace the young moms who have outgrown Dreamworks' animated films. Nevertheless, if this decade's enormous box office stats has taught us anything it's that people are willing to see twice as many movies as long as it keeps them feeling young and in touch with what's popular.
What we are seeing now is Hollywood growing up with a generation of men and women who were marrying in the 90s, having kids in the 00s, and are staring ahead at an uncertain future in the next decade. Thus far, things look promising (at least at the box office) thanks in large part to the success of the "Twilight" series. There are bound to be tons of 40-somethings on lines and in crowds this weekend at "New Moon" showings. And there are a couple more sequels to follow in the ensuing years that will find equal fanfare from the aging fans.
These "tweener" adults are a smart investment for movie studios. More than ever, when it comes to movie picks, people want to stay young. At any cost.