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Looking Back at the Decade in Movies - 2000 thru 2009 Film Trends

Changes and Trends That Affected Studios and Moviegoers

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The first 10 years of the 21st century were an interesting time for filmmakers and movie fans. The explosion of social networking websites, advances in technology, and the changes in attitudes of ticket buyers affected the film industry in sometimes subtle, but more often noticeable ways. Here's a look back at some of the biggest influences on the industry over the past decade.

Twitter

Twitter
© Twitter.com
Social media can be a filmmaker's best friend or it can be a studio's biggest nightmare. Paramount Pictures used the power of Twitter to hype the heck out of Paranormal Activity, launching a word-of-mouth campaign in which anyone interested in the movie was asked to demand its release in their city. Twitter users spread the word, posted early rave reviews, and built the buzz on the $11,000 film to such an unprecedented level that the low-budget horror movie is now one of the most profitable films in history.

On the other hand, films can be crushed by negative Tweets posted during their opening weekends. Bruno's the classic example of a movie Twitter users all but killed by posting bad reviews immediately upon exiting the theater.

No Guarantees at the Box Office

Public Enemies
© Universal Pictures
High salaries don't equal high grossing box office hits. There aren't any sure things anymore. It used to be the teaming of two big stars could drive traffic, even if the resulting film wasn't of a high caliber. But you have to look no further than Julia Roberts' films from this decade to see that moviegoers are no longer buying a ticket just because of a big name on the marquee. Even Johnny Depp, one of the most popular actors of his generation, can't guarantee a big opening weekend. Jack Sparrow (Depp) united with Batman (Christian Bale) for a Michael Mann movie about gangsters-and nobody cared. Will Smith, a box office favorite, couldn't make people show up for Seven Pounds. Predicting the box office is no longer a piece of cake.

No Star Power? No Problem.

District 9
© TriStar Pictures
Expanding on the 'No Guarantees' discussion, established A-list actors were struggling to justify their salaries in the 2000s, and there's every reason for those who earn $5+ million a film to be worried about being sought after for future starring roles. If we learned anything over the past decade it's that you absolutely do not need a recognizable name in the lead role in order to make a profitable - and entertaining - film. Just take a look at a few of the biggest films of 2009 and it's obvious 'big names' aren't necessary for a movie to grab the attention of ticket buyers. The Hangover, Star Trek, District 9...no big names, but huge box office results.

Performance Capture

Beowulf
© Paramount Pictures
Love it or hate it, it makes no difference at all. Performance capture with it's strangely detached, mannequin-like look and vacant-eyed characters is here stay. Instead of hiring eight different actors to handle eight different parts, directors can now use one actor, put him or her in a suit covered with dots, and manipulate the final outcome to retain the performance but change the actor's physical appearance. It's not animation yet it's not really live-action either. What it is is the go-to filmmaking technique of Robert Zemeckis (Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol), and it's likely other directors are going to heed his call and try their hands at this still-developing art form into the next decade.

Up Close and Personal

Up
© Disney/Pixar
3D has vastly improved since its first appearance in the early 1900s. This decade has seen nearly every major studio up the production of 3D films, with the technology now making movie-going an interactive experience. Even the funky 3D glasses have been redesigned, and the viewing of a 3D film is much less distracting than it used to be.

Along with 3D, the big studios are upping the production of IMAX releases. The closest thing you can get to actually being on the set during filming, IMAX delivers unparalleled clarity and clear, crisp sound. The Dark Knight was so successful in the format on just 94 screens that it all but forced IMAX into expanding its inventory of screens.

Women Can Drive Movies

Sex and the City
© New Line Cinema
Well, what do you know? Women can drive box office business after all. 2008's Sex and the City may have been the turning point, with its $401 million worldwide take helping to open a lot of doors for other female-centric films to be greenlit. But all you have to do is look at the Twilight saga to know women of all ages will show up in droves if you give them what they want. New Moon holds the title for the third biggest opening weekend on record, and you know what audience catapulted it to such astronomical heights.

Dramas and War Films Aren't Cutting It

Valkyrie
© United Artists
2000 was a tough decade economically, unemployment numbers skyrocketed, and America's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq divided the country. People looking for an escape from reality via the movies were not interested in sitting through heavy dramas or buying a ticket to anything having to do with any war. Benefiting from this new direction in attendance were fantasy films, musicals, and horror films - a genre that always does well in uneasy times.

The Return of Adult Comedy

The Hangover
© Warner Bros Pictures
As dramas tanked, comedies took over - in particular R-rated comedies targeting adults ready for humor that's just a little raunchy, a little vulgar...something you can't take the kids to. Studios had been shying away from nudity, language, and adult subject matter in big budget comedies until suddenly they realized there's an audience out there for films that go there and don't hold back. Released in the late '90s, There's Something About Mary and American Pie made studio heads sit up and take notice. And take notice they did... 15 of the top 20 grossing R-rated comedies of all time were released between 2000 and 2009, according to Box Office Mojo, with 09's The Hangover leading the way with $277 million.

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