"Sleepless in Seattle" producer Lynda Obst explains why studios can't stop making sequels.
"Sleepless in Seattle" producer Lynda Obst explains why studios can't stop making sequels. - 
Listen To The Story

Hollywood, like any other industry, hasn’t been immune to the pressures of a long and grinding recession, a whole bunch of technological changes and a new global economy.

You may not have noticed it, but long-time producer Lynda Obst has. Her credits include "The Fisher King," "Contact," and "Sleepless in Seattle," and her latest book is called “Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business.”

She says she noticed something had changed when her son told her, “Mom, trying to get movies made because they’re good is so 2003.”

Obst noticed it took her longer and longer to get a movie made “and it’s not as though the moguls in charge of green-lighting movies suddenly changed their standards, it’s that the business entirely changed,” she says. People stopped buying DVDs.

“When the DVD collapse occurred, it took half of the profits of the industry away.” Suddenly, it got harder to make “interstitials” -- smaller films, like romantic comedies, that were never huge box offices draws but that studios financed using profits from bigger Oscar films released in the winter or summer blockbusters.

At the same time that Americans stopped buying DVDs, international sales jumped. “Suddenly Russia and even more so China started building more theaters and loving our big blockbusters.” The audience overseas loves big action franchises. Studios responded by making more of them -- from “The Avengers” franchise to “Fast & Furious” sequels to the “Superman” reboots. And that doesn’t leave much room for the films Obst loved to make.

Is this the future of Hollywood? Obst says she isn’t sure but “technology is going to be our friend as well as it was our enemy. Technology allows a young filmmaker to make a film on his iPhone.” And she points out there’s still a third screen to consider after the movie screen and the television screen -- the computer screen.  

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal