Recent movie releases such as The New and Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet seem to be a crack in the mantra of marketing pundits that the only worthy targets of mass media are teenagers and those who reach the ceiling age of forty-nine, not beyond.
Marigold Hotel, already an astounding worldwide commercial success starring the brilliant Judi Dench and Maggie Smith along with Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy among others, deals with the hopes and dreams of still vital people of years who are determined to aspire, engage with life, seek love and joy, challenge fate, and to, as the British would say, carry on.
Quartet, which marks the debut of Dustin Hoffman at age 75 as a director, is a story of opera singers in their 70's and 80's who live in a retirement home in England and engage with each other in an atmosphere where their lifelong relationship to music thrives and continues to energize them. In this movie as well, the life force of the home's residents is far from over as the characters socialize with each other and the community outside with vitality and verve.
Both movie plots mix revelations and memories of the past with the reality of the present, and in the hands of marvelous and accomplished actors like Maggie Smith featured in both productions, offer a glimpse into what is fast becoming a formidable challenge to the traditional ideas of consumer targetting.
From my own observations of the audiences who attended these films, they were indeed, folks of maturity who mirrored the ages of the performers on the screen, but the universality of these stories is inescapable for the sensitive, the curious and engaged of all ages.
I truly believe that the commercial sands are shifting, and those of us who can hear the ever increasing thunder of mortality's bottom line are increasingly interested in how one deals creatively with the impending endgame. This essential ingredient will be a strong motivating factor in what is offered by the media to this burgeoning audience.
Escapist fare will, I suppose, compete to hold its dominance for this older demographic, but with the rise in a statistically maturing population, the appetite for more honest and involving age related fare will increase, and give that assumption a run for its money.
One cannot escape the coming reality. At this moment, 21% of Americans are over the age of 55, a whopping 60 million. By 2030, a mere 17 years from now, there will be 107 million in that age bracket. As for people over 65, they will represent 20% of the population during the same time frame, accounting for 70.3 million people.
The fact is that the coming generation of retirees will be the healthiest, longest lived, best educated and most affluent in history. My contention is that they will want a lot more than what is offered today.
Of course, most of us have heard these statistics before, but we are now beginning to see them take root in reality and those in the business of harvesting eyeballs are beginning to understand that it would be foolhardy to neglect this powerful and inevitable march of the aging consumer.
My guess is that this older, more affluent and educated audience who have been vastly neglected and underrated as a commercial force will upend all previous calculations and become a demographic to contend with in near the future. The two movies I cited are, in my opinion, the opening guns in what will be a vast change not only in demographics, but in material that will become less mindless, more mature, more intellectually and emotional stimulating than the cultural garbage that has been strewn in the path of our seniors the last few decades.
Warren Adler has just released his 33rd book "The Serpent's Bite." Best known for "The War of the Roses," his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the dark comedy box office hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, Warren Adler quickly became the fountainhead of Hollywood screenplay adaptations, fueling an unprecedented bidding war in a Hollywood commission for his unpublished book "Private Lies." While "The War of the Roses" garnered outstanding box office and critical success with Golden Globe, BAFTA and multiple award nominations internationally, Adler went on to sell movie and film rights for 12 books, all noted for his character driven and masterful storytelling. Produced for PBS' American Playhouse series, Adler's "The Sunset Gang" was adapted into a trilogy starring Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Jerry Stiller, garnering Doris Roberts an Emmy nomination for 'Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series.' The Sunset Gang also premiered Off-Broadway as a musical with music composed by the noted composer L. Russell Brown and lyrics by Adler himself. The New York Times called it, "A bittersweet musical about aging and desire... a deeper examination of love and loyalty among people over 60."
Follow Warren Adler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/warrenadler