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Filmism.net Dispatch October 20, 2013

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A quick shout out to the film of 2013, Gravity. For the purest cinematic experience you've had all year, it's got everything, from incredible visuals to the edge-of-seat-thrills the incredible visuals give. It's a great example of how the image, the story and the technology on a movie screen support and deliver each other to the viewer (but do so all too rarely nowadays).

And boy, are the punters responding. It's just had a $30m weekend three weeks after release, for a worldwide total so far of $216m on a $100m budget. And that excludes the Chinese box office, where it opens on November and could easily double what it's already been rung up.

But we also need to give a shout out to another form of media that doesn't have nearly the cultural legitimacy as cinema but which has for a number of years been showing the movies up as the fusty, century old institution it is. Keep your digital, your 3D and your more comfortable reclining seats. The latest instalment of Grand Theft Auto made $800m.

In a single.

God Damn.

Day.

Three days later, it had cracked $1bn (more). Bloomberg financial news said it 'probably' cost about $250m over five years to make and market, similar to a Hollywood blockbuster these days.

And sure, there are all kinds of finer details in the comparison. You sit at home for a video game, you have to go out, park, pay a fortune for stale popcorn, watch teenagers text each other, etc for a movie, so games have an unfair advantage. But the fact remains Grand Theft Auto V wielded market recognition and buzz the likes of which Hollywood can only dream about.

Of course, as I've said many times, increased revenue isn't really a revelation of anything. Everything costs more today (and price-jacking gimmicks like 3D artificially inflate numbers even more). There are simply more people in the world every year to consume media, particularly among the demographic that counts (kids).

But Grand Theft Auto V did something to get that demographic's attention, something moviemakers struggle to do to the same scale. Is it because kids today are more conditioned to control their entertainment and not just sit and watch? Is it because, conscious their products aren't seen as 'art', video game publishers can push envelopes studios don't want to?

Whatever the answer, if I ran a Hollywood studio, I'd be trying to poach video game marketing people as much as I can. If I was a director I'd pay one to sit next to me throughout the whole development and shooting process. If I was a screenwriter I'd call a game writer up and ask what they think grabs the audiences of their products.

There's still a disconnect between the two, because movies based on video games still suck (will Shadow of the Colussus and Warcraft be any different?), and games have more intricate stories all the time.

I don't know what it is, which is probably why I'm sending you this newsletter instead of ordering the lobster and Moet on a cruise ship in Belize right now. I'll bet the team at Take Two Interactive Software (makers of GTAV) are doing just that as we speak.

Meanwhile, there was a great documentary from 2012 called Catfish, which you've probably never heard of (let alone seen) that I promise you'll be gripped by.

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