Ryan Kavanaugh on the Post-Pandemic Future of the Film Industry and the Movie-Going Experience
TrillerNet co-owner and founder of Relativity Media founder Ryan Kavanaugh recently spoke at the Carl Film Forum 2021 in Sweden, where he was asked about the current state of the movie industry and what should be expected moving forward in a post-pandemic world. Ryan Kavanaugh produced more than 200 films while at Relativity, ranging from critical successes, such as "Frost vs. Nixon" and "Atonement," to classic comedies, such as "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." Kavanaugh's films earned 60 Oscar nominations and scored eight Oscar wins.
In 2019, Kavanaugh and Bobby Sarnevesht become majority investors in TrillerNet, which includes the video-creation-and-social-sharing app Triller; Triller Fight Club, a new professional combat sports league that combines exciting fights with A-list musical talent; Verzuz, the rap-battle platform launched by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, in addition to other complementary ventures.
Here are the highlights of Kavanaugh's comments to the Carl Film Forum 2021.
On the Changes in the Film Industry in Recent Years
Ryan Kavanaugh: COVID has changed the entire industry, and I'd say in some ways for the better. I think it accelerated what would have taken five to 10 years and mashed it into about 18 months. I've seen two major trends occur. One, we spent close to a year in total shutdowns where there were just no new productions. We, both as the human race and in Hollywood, we learned to adapt. So, I'll say, unfortunately, for some of the people who enjoyed the way that that production worked prior to COVID, it's no longer an adult summer camp, but a little bit more like a boarding school with COVID bubbles. So, it certainly changed the dynamic of what it means to be "on set".
Additionally, in many ways, COVID changed the consumer's behavior. I think what has come out of this is that there are three different types of consumers now. There's the consumer who has recognized that the be-at-home form of entertainment is quite enjoyable and calmer than the kind of life that everybody had gotten used to where you're just always running and always going out. That leads to increased at-home consumption. People recognize that they don't have to go to the movie theater. When a new movie comes out, they can enjoy it just as much in my home. That's the consumer who would do either the theater or at-home. That consumer is up for grabs.
Then, there's the consumer who doesn't want to go to the theater anymore. They recognized they can do it all from their house. They think: 'Why should I go to the theater when I can enjoy the experience just as much at home?'
There's still the consumer who sees the theater as the inexpensive form of entertainment for the family for a day. You know, there's not much comparable you can go do on a Friday night or Saturday night for $100-$120 all-in with food to put a couple of hours of fun together and get out of the house.
On the Core Elements of Deciding on a Location for Shooting a Film
Ryan Kavanaugh: I hate to simplify it, but it is really simple. It's: 'How much is it going to cost me? How much money do I save, and what's the availability of the crew?' So, at the end of the day, any major movie pretty much does the same thing because it is run as a business. It's going to be about a Producer saying, "Let me budget this in three or four locations. See what kind of incentive I get from that location. See how much it costs me after that incentive, whether it's flying in the talent, the local cost of transportation and lodging, and the availability and cost of crews." Unfortunately, the place itself is second.
On What Foreign Countries Need to Do to Attract Hollywood Movies to Film There:
Ryan Kavanaugh: There's something called the multiplier effect, which asks: 'For every dollar I spend, as a production, what is the value to the local economy?' There's a ton of research out there and there's also a ton of groups that will help with this. We use everybody, from Ernst & Young to Deloitte, for every U.S. state and every country. The worst we found are multipliers of 1.29, meaning, for every dollar spent, $1.29 is infused into the economy. Conversely, places like Australia and the UK are getting as high as $2.4 dollars for every dollar spent.
It's all about understanding how the multiplier effect works. It looks like a big grid -- you put the production in the middle of the grid, and then you put multiple layers around it. So, layer one, layer two, layer three, and so on. Layer one is hiring local people, buying local lumber, renting local hotel rooms, and going to local restaurants. Remember, productions last for quite a long time, so it's not one day. Then, layer two creates tangible change. I'm hiring local people and hiring local drivers, and staying at local hotels, and buying local food. Those businesses and people now have more money to spend, so that means they buy more goods, and so on. Understanding that enables governments to craft a proper economic incentive that works.
On Whether Influencers are Replacing Movie Stars
Ryan Kavanaugh: How do you build talent with the advent of influencers? You know, there's a large argument that movie stars are kind of a thing of the past and that influencers have replaced movie stars.
We work currently with about 2,000 influencers, and they represent the top users on TikTok and Instagram. I started many dinners with them asking if they know Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, and they respond with, "Yeah, he's that actor guy." Or, "Not really." The movie star mentality isn't the same anymore because of the kids. That 18-21-year-old influencer is the movie star of today.
The world moves so fast. Movie stars used to get 'built' over a long time; George Clooney was 40 by the time he was discovered. Now, people are discovered after a few days, then they're famous, and they're not famous in five years. I was in a company meeting and our Head of Influence commented that someone on YouTube had 8 million followers and is very, very famous. One of our partners said, "So, maybe we can do a deal with him." Someone else said, "Not really. He's a thing of the past. People don't care about him anymore." He's like, 30 seconds into the game and already, he was not relevant anymore.
On the Kinds of Films That Will be Made in the Future
Ryan Kavanaugh: I think there are two trends here. One, it's pretty obvious that when people go to movie theaters, they want big movies and they want an escape. It's action. It's an adventure. It's a major comedy, family films, dramas. People don't want to go to a movie theater to watch two hours of something that's very real-life, gut-wrenching. I think that's becoming more and more obvious.
Also, those (realistic) movies don't have a huge commercial audience. They have a place in art, and that's what they are, art. If you're making them, you're understanding they'll be made for art and their financial benefits are not as big. There's always going to be the breakthrough (realistic film), but they're not as big because people are also making fewer of those.
On 'Copycat' Commercial Films, Netflix and Apple
Ryan Kavanaugh: The focus is on copycat commercial films. I just watched this Netflix movie, "Red Notice," that literally looks like they just rewrote the same script. I don't even think they read the script. It feels like they just stopped the actors and said, "Do what you normally do." I think that's a function of the fact that places like Netflix aren't making movies for art. I mean, look at how big Netflix is and how much money they have. I can't tell you the last time they put a good movie out. Apple, I think they're getting it right. They take a slow approach. There's a lot of really good content on Apple+ and they're focusing on quality and not speed and not size. I think, overall, there is a lack of quality right now that hopefully will change.