Behind the Greenlight: Why Hollywood Makes the Films It Makes

Jeffrey Hirschberg. The Business of Entertainment. Editor: Robert C Sickels. Volume 1: Movies. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009.

Cutting the $100 Million Check

Have you ever sat in a movie theater and quietly asked yourself, “How in the world did this film get made?” Me, too. That’s why I wanted to delve into the underbelly of the studio system to explore that all-elusive decision to place a feature film into production, aptly called a “greenlight.” Put simply, when a studio issues a greenlight for a feature film designated for wide release in North America (typically, there are only one or two executives at each studio who yield such power), the studio is pledging, on average, over $100 million. That’s quite a sum, especially when one considers the abysmal failure rate experienced by the average Hollywood feature film. (According to Daily Variety, the research firm Global Media Intelligence says that “production costs for mid- to big-budget movies have risen much faster than revenues over the past few years, leaving the studios’ business model deep in the red.”)

It should be noted there are different decision-making processes employed when television and cable networks decide whether or not a series or “Made-for-TV” movie goes into production or when a studio decides whether or not to make a movie designated “Direct to DVD.” This chapter, however, will focus on feature films intended for theatrical release in North America and beyond.

The Blueprint

It often is stated that the blueprint for any film is the screenplay. A feature-length screenplay, which typically runs between 90 and 120 pages, is the linchpin for a studio film project. It is the screenplay that inevitably attracts “elements” (a director and/or a star) to a project, and those elements in their totality assist a studio in deciding whether or not it is prepared to write that astounding check for $100 million.

Even though screenplays are frequently the starting point of a feature film project (some projects simply begin with an idea, predictably referred to as a “pitch”), the journey a script takes from 120 pieces of paper to an internationally released feature film is as unique as the screenplay itself. In fact, some scripts are purchased with the understanding that a studio is interested not only in greenlighting the project but also putting it on the fast track.

For instance, on April 14, 2004, Daily Variety reported that a screenplay titled The Passion of the Ark sold for $1.5 million against $2.5 million to Columbia Pictures (in this case, the writers were paid $1.5 million for their script and would receive an additional $1 million if the script went into production—an extremely high sale price in the world of Hollywood screenwriters). The script, written by Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg, is a modern-day tale of a man approached by God to build an ark to save the world from a second flood. A month later, Daily Variety ran the following story:

Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Spyglass are in talks to mount a Bruce Almighty sequel based on the Bobby Florsheim/Josh Stolberg script The Passion of the Ark. Talks are just getting under way, but the plan is to court Jim Carrey to reprise and to have Tom Shadyac return as director … Turning a free-standing script into a sequel is not unprecedented. After fruitless attempts to make a third installment of Die Hard, Fox finally took the Jonathan Hensleigh’s script Simon Says and redrafted it as a vehicle for Bruce Willis’ John McClane cop character.

In this case, even though The Passion of the Ark was written as a standalone original script, Universal Pictures saw the potential to modify the screenplay into a sequel for Bruce Almighty—a comedy that grossed $485 million worldwide. The studio undoubtedly sensed that the screenplay for The Passion of the Ark could benefit from a built-in audience (discussed later in this chapter) and thus gave the picture a greenlight. But Universal did not get the star they originally wanted. Jim Carrey passed on the project, and the studio instead hired Steve Carell in the starring role. While not as bankable a star as Carrey, Carell was on a positive career trajectory, mostly due to a hit series on NBC (The Office) and a well-reviewed and financially successful recent feature film (The 40 Year Old Virgin). But did the greenlight pay off?

On Monday, June 25, 2007, Daily Variety provided its assessment of the film’s opening weekend:

Evan is the first sequel of the summer to open well below previous installments. Pic, starring Carell instead of Carrey, bowed to $32.2 million, less than half of the $68 million Bruce took in its 2003 opening. Still, the film is hardly sunk. Evan did finish the weekend at No. 1 and, pointing to positive exit polls and cinema scores, U execs say they expect the film to have good word of mouth and strong legs. They also report that auds were fairly evenly divided between families and adults, as well as between the religious and nonreligious. What’s causing U the biggest migraine is Evan’s cause celebre status as the most expensive comedy ever made. The minute word of the budget—estimated to be $175 million—began circulating, the studio knew it would be fighting an uphill battle, despite the fact that U had a co-financing partner in Relativity Media.

It is worth noting that Relativity Media is one of several new private film financier/hedge fund partners that help defray the cost of big budget studio pictures. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The emergence of the hedge fund, a form of investment company that enjoys wide latitude as to where it can place its money, has created millions of dollars in capital that is now being made available to the entertainment industry. Experts also note that the recent slowdowns of real estate and the stock market in delivering solid returns on investment have helped shift Wall Street’s focus to Hollywood.”

So, what happened to Evan Almighty? As of August 15, 2007, the film has generated only $97 million in its U.S. theatrical release—an enviable gross for most films, but a disappointment for a film that reportedly cost $175 million to produce, excluding marketing costs. Having said that, Evan Almighty will still generate revenue from other countries as well as alternate distribution outlets (e.g., DVD rentals). So, did Universal Pictures make a prudent decision in greenlighting Evan Almighty? The proverbial jury is still out.

As you have seen, a million dollar script does not necessarily equate to a financially successful film. And, what about the value of a major movie star in a film? Today, Julia Roberts may be the most likeable, bankable female star in the world, but that’s today. Tomorrow, no one knows for sure. In any event, the total value of the elements attached to a screenplay play an enormous role in a studio’s decision-making process.

This high stakes Texas Hold’em game of motion pictures begs the obvious questions: Why do Hollywood studios choose to make certain films and deny others the light of day? What screenplays are worthy of attaching a check for $100 million? Is it as simple as, “Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts are onboard”? Or, “The first two Shrek films grossed over a billion dollars. How can we not make Shrek The Third?”

In some cases, greenlighting a film seems frightfully obvious. Or is it? Let’s pretend you are the president of TriStar Pictures in the late 1980s. One of your trusted development executives (a generic term for studio folks who are charged with acquiring and developing screenplays) bursts into your office and merrily exclaims, “We got Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, and Matthew Broderick in a three-generation mob comedy. And better yet, Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict) is going to direct!” If you were sitting in the presidential suite of TriStar on that fateful day, chances are you would have greenlit the film in question as fast as you can say, “Oscar.” But, when the film finally becomes Family Business (1989) and generates only $12.2 million in domestic box office receipts and primarily negative reviews, one must wonder: Does the concept of an obvious greenlight—in other words, a safe bet for your $100 million—even exist?9 It is the goal of this chapter to explore such questions and posit some theories as to why Hollywood bets tens of millions of dollars on some projects and passes on others. But first, as Carl Sagan was fond of exclaiming, “You have to know the past to understand the present.”

A Passion for the Pictures

Hollywood was “invented,” for lack of a better term, by seven men of Eastern European descent in the 1920s who saw an opportunity to bring entertainment to the populous while enabling those individuals to assimilate seamlessly into the upper crust of American society. These visionaries—Harry Cohn, William Fox, Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, Jack and Harry Warner, and Adolph Zukor—and the story of their rise to fame and fortune is told meticulously in Neal Gabler’s award-winning book An Empire of Their Own.11 What process did these founders of Hollywood use to choose which screenplays were made into motion pictures and which screenplays would forever collect dust on a bookshelf tucked away in a bungalow on the studio lot? Is it possible that the global entertainment conglomerates of today can learn from their forefathers? On Jul 9, 2007, I had the opportunity to interview Gabler for this chapter. All subsequent quotes from Gabler are taken from this interview. His insights into the decision-making process of the Hollywood moguls helps inform us on how motion pictures are greenlit today.

When one looks at the business models of today versus yesteryear, a glaring difference arises in terms of the distribution of feature films. “Years ago, each individual film was not sent out into the marketplace with marketing support to attract an audience,” says Gabler. “The reason for this was because, with the exception of Universal, virtually every studio owned firstrun theaters in every major market.” So, in stark contrast to today—where the Hollywood studios must negotiate with third parties that exhibit their films—the Moguls and the theaters were one in the same.

This business model would begin to unravel with the Consent Decree of 1940—a decision that would eventually prohibit Hollywood studios from owning theater chains, as expressed in The United States v. Paramount Pictures in 1948. The Decree and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision was a major blow to the Moguls and a central factor in the fall of the studio system. The fact that today’s business atmosphere requires studios to work with third-party exhibitors is just one of the many dynamics that separates decision making in the past from the present.

So, what was the impact of this vertical integration—the studios’ ability to control every step along the supply chain? For one, the Moguls were able to choose the films they wanted to make without regard to third-party exhibitors. Because they believed their instincts were in line with what the public at large wanted, greenlighting decisions were often based on nothing more than the desires of the founders of each studio. Today, the process is much more complex (to be discussed later in the chapter).

In addition, there was an emotional, ego-laden element to the Moguls’ decision-making process in that their name often was up on the screen. In other words, when Louis B. Mayer greenlit a film, he put his personal reputation on the line. In addition, the Moguls were very interested in making films that impacted the status of their studios and, thus, their own personal status. “The Moguls focused on quality pictures,” says Gabler, “not necessarily because they had an overwhelming desire to make great movies; rather, psychologically, they understood that great films were the surest way to raise their status. If they could raise the status of their motion pictures, they could raise their own status. They were very concerned with how they would be regarded.”

There were two primary ways in which the Moguls were able to achieve status with their motion pictures: (1) winning Academy Awards (the first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929) and (2) attracting new audiences. Adds Gabler, “When movies began, it’s no secret that they made their chief appeal to immigrants and working class. In the 1920s, however, the major transformation of the motion picture industry was the attraction of the middle class.” Thus, the Hollywood studios were able to grow their audience base and therefore their prominence, or status. The Moguls invented the concept of motion pictures as mass entertainment—a notion taken for granted today—with the goal of legitimizing an industry that previously was regarded as low-class entertainment. Today, while the executives who run the major Hollywood studios have much less of an emotional investment in their films, they have other pressures that are perhaps more ominous: namely, to create a perpetual flow of hits that will generate a constant stream of revenue to their parent companies, thus serving the goals of the corporation and its shareholders.

Finally, the Moguls had a far greater captive audience than the studio chiefs of today. Says Gabler, “Back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, Americans didn’t just go to a movie, they went to the movies—and often. Back in those days, over 110 million Americans typically went to the movies every week. And, there weren’t competitors for their attention like there are today in the form of television, the Internet, iPods, video games, and the like.” In contrast to today, the studio heads in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s relied more on their instincts rather than the multitude of factors that affect studio heads in today’s complex global economy. “The Moguls were substantial stockholders in the companies they founded,” says Gabler, “and they had the power and authority to make the pictures they wanted to make.”

And while they relied on their gut instincts to make films they felt would increase the status of their studios and themselves, there was another factor that influenced the types of films the Moguls decided to make: movies that celebrated America and its ideals. According to Gabler, “Ever since The Jazz Singer, many studio films were explicitly about rejecting one’s ethnicity or religion and accepting America. Assimilation was a topic that was very much on the minds of the people who ran Hollywood and had an effect on the films they decided to make. The Moguls idealized America and then defined the images of America.”

Greenlighting Today

The decision-making process in Hollywood has undergone a metamorphosis since the days of the Moguls. Today, the studios are horizontally integrated, global empires with interests in film, television, the Internet, video games, and so forth. Consider, for instance, Viacom and its modern-day mogul Sumner Redstone. According to Redstone’s official bio, “Sumner M. Redstone serves as Chairman of the Board of both Viacom and CBS Corporation, roles he assumed after the separation of Viacom into two publicly traded companies, which occurred at the end of 2005. Mr. Redstone is the controlling shareholder of both companies.” A careful look at Redstone’s media universe (comprised of Viacom and CBS) would make the moguls of yesteryear green with envy.

Television holdings include:

  • BET Networks
  • CBS Television Network
  • The CW
  • MTV Networks (including Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, TV Land, and VH1)
  • Showtime Networks

Filmed entertainment holdings include:

  • Paramount Pictures Corporation
  • DreamWorks Studios
  • MTV Films
  • Nickelodeon Movies
  • Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Paramount Vantage

Publishing holdings include:

  • • Simon & Schuster

While Redstone’s empire does not include theater chains, his ability to synergistically produce and market a feature film via Hollywood studios, broadcast networks, cable networks, and publishing companies is extraordinary. This is the Hollywood of the twenty-first century—a Hollywood with global production and distribution systems across all media; a Hollywood that lobbies Washington and the world via the Motion Picture Association of America and its international counterpart, the Motion Picture Association; a Hollywood the Moguls could never have imagined.

While the business models of today are far more complicated than the ones enjoyed by the Moguls, many of the fundamentals in deciding whether or not a film gets made are as timeless as storytelling itself: Will this story hit an emotional chord with a wide audience? Does it feature a hero who is relatable—someone the audience will root for? Is there an overarching lesson—a global theme that touches a part of our own morality and core beliefs? Will it make us laugh, cry, think, or sit forward in anticipation of what will happen next? These are only a few of the questions that studio chiefs have asked themselves for as long as feature films have existed.

One of the most significant factors that affect the studio chiefs of today before issuing a greenlight is the subject of marketing. Prior to issuing a greenlight, studios want to understand how to market the film and to whom. One of the tools employed is the Four Quadrants. These Quadrants are critical for studios to determine how they will spend their marketing dollars, often referred to as “P&A” (prints & advertising).

As one can imagine, the ultimate film in terms of potential for financial success is one that effectively hits all Four Quadrants. For instance, consider the library of films created by Pixar Entertainment. Pixar has created eight of the most successful animated films of all time: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, and Ratatouille. The studio has won 20 Academy Awards, and its seven films have grossed more than $3.5 billion at the worldwide box office to date. All of the company’s films have had one key aspect in common: They successfully hit all Four Quadrants—which means that Pixar has effectively produced more than just children’s movies (that appeal to the Male and Female Under 25 Quadrants). They have produced family films that children and adults enjoy equally. A simple concept? Definitely. A difficult goal to achieve? An understatement of epic proportions.

To the president of a Hollywood studio, a film that successfully targets all Four Quadrants equals revenue … and a lot of it. So, if a studio chief truly believes she has a Four Quadrant film on her hands, cutting a $100 million check may not be as risky as one might think. Having said that, studios often make many films that do not hit all Four Quadrants. For instance, Lionsgate’s popular Saw franchise (Saw, Saw II, and Saw III), has generated over $400 million in box office receipts and sold over 15 million DVD units while primarily being targeted toward the Male Under 25 Quadrant (and, to a lesser extent, the Female Under 25 Quadrant). Clearly, the modest budget of a horror film sans major stars (who often require gross profit participation) was an attractive combination for Lionsgate that has paid off.

While the studio bosses of yesteryear listened more often to their own instincts than market research, today’s global publicly traded entertainment conglomerates must answer to higher authorities: impatient Boards of Directors and anxious shareholders. The financial stakes are simply too high … and they are only getting higher. So, when it comes to greenlighting films, what is the impact of a corporate structure that is beholden to daily stock prices and quarterly reports? If you ran a Hollywood studio, would you bet your career on greenlighting “Script A” over “Script B” without sufficient quantitative information by which you can make an informed decision? That’s where marketing comes into the decision-making process.

The Power of Marketing

When it comes to Hollywood marketing, Peter Adee has seen it all. A former executive at The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks, Universal, and MGM, Adee currently is the President of Worldwide Theatrical Marketing, Distribution & New Media for Overture Films (a division of Starz Entertainment). I interviewed Adee for this piece on July 18, 2007. All subsequent quotes from him come from this interview. Adee states that Hollywood films can be divided into three categories: (1) under $30 million, (2) mid-range films budgeted between about $30 million and $70 million, and (3) “tentpole” films that typically run over $100 million (e.g., summer blockbusters and sequels that, while expensive, are “event movies” designed to reach a mass audience and generate hefty ancillary revenue on a global scale). But, if you’re a studio chief, you aren’t done yet. Added to these production costs are P&A costs. Adds Adee, “For the average theatrical film that is released wide, you can usually add another $40 million to the cost of the production on order to effectively market the picture.”

Even though those numbers can be daunting, a studio must not simply look at a film’s financial prospects in domestic theatrical distribution. Another important factor in assessing a film’s success is the global shelf life of the property. “For instance,” says Adee, “how much revenue will be generated from home entertainment, free TV, pay TV, international outlets, and pay-per-view in hotels and airlines? All of these issues will influence a studio’s decision-making process to greenlight a film.”

The Hollywood studios of today truly serve an international audience. According to Adee, about half of the average film’s revenue is generated from countries other than the United States. So, how does a film’s international prospects impact studio decision making? “As an example,” says Adee, “we do know that action films play better internationally, especially in Asia.”

While the marketing department plays an important role in the greenlighting of films, marketers are not usually brought to the table until the screenplay has been purchased and there is potential talent attached. Adee explains, “What the studios do is develop projects for a long period of time, then have a greenlight meeting where marketing (as well as other groups) give their opinions as to how much revenue they feel the particular project will generate. That said, greenlighting a film is a process that is constantly in flux.”

Even if marketers don’t necessarily have the last word, that doesn’t mean the discipline is not critical to greenlighting. “Studio chiefs generally have a marketing point-of-view going into the decision-making process,” says Adee. “They have to know if they are going to reach an audience, so studios will often make a movie with a specific audience in mind or they think they will get all audiences—thus, a Four Quadrant movie. The bottom line is that if a studio greenlights a movie, they better have a very good understanding as to who they think is going to see it.”

The frenetic pace created by the greenlighting, production, and marketing processes must be executed with perfect precision because there is little room for error. If a large consumer company spends $100 million on a new product, there is usually time to build and grow the product’s brand with consumers. Not the case in the high-stakes world of Hollywood. “In Hollywood, we don’t have the luxury of building a brand over a long period of time,” says Adee. “We have Friday night of the opening weekend. That’s it. The first few days of a film’s release will determine if that movie is going to be successful. By utilizing exit polling—which tells the studio how much the audience likes the film—and historical models, the studio has a pretty good sense of how much a film will make during its run based on the first weekend’s gross.”

Studios can make such predictions because of the historic first weekend gross multiplier that has been used. For instance, according to Adee, the multiplier used to be about four for the average movie. So, if a film enjoyed an opening weekend of $25 million, it should have expected to gross about $100 in the domestic theatrical market. That number, however, is shrinking. “Today, the multiplier is about three,” adds Adee, “and no one is sure if the industry has trained more of the audience to go to a movie on its opening weekend—thus precipitating a larger fall-off—or if there is another factor we have yet to discover.” It should be noted that occasionally there are films that defy this methodology by starting modestly and actually building an audience over time. Adee points out My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which grossed over $240 million domestically) as a film that defied the multiplier theory, but he acknowledges that the film was an anomaly.

It has been said that “the planets must align” in order for a film to be packaged with the right elements, greenlit, and successfully marketed to a wide audience. An example of this synergy came to fruition with Universal Pictures’ The Fast and Furious (2001). Adee, who was the head of marketing for the film’s campaign, explains: “The picture was not made for a great deal of money. But, when we test screened it in Sacramento the audience loved it. We originally had planned to release the movie in the spring, but after the test screening, Stacey Snider [the Chairman of Universal] decided to move the release date to June, which is a very competitive time of the year. Since we had to compete against all of the other summer releases, we significantly upped our marketing spend for the film, which resulted in a strong box office [The Fast and the Furious earned over $175 million in global box office receipts]. This project was even more satisfying, in light of the fact that the film did not even feature any major stars at the time. Marketing really had an impact on the film’s performance.”

The bottom line is that even with the right script, talent, budget, and marketing campaign, getting a movie made will always be a Herculean achievement. “It’s so hard to keep all of the parts moving in the right direction,” says Adee. “Everything is in flux. There are a lot of people who have a vested interested in a movie being made—production executives, producers, actors, writers, and directors to name a few—so these constituent groups will always be pushing the studio to say yes, and ultimately it is up to the Chairman of the studio to greenlight a film. The process is part collaborative, part dictatorial.” Still, very few aspects of a potential film increase its likelihood of going into production more than an idea with a built-in audience.

The Built-In Audience

To illustrate how the concept of a built-in audience can affect a studio’s decision to greenlight a film, consider the following oversimplified hypothetical scenario. Picture you are the newly minted president of Warner Bros. You still need to prove yourself to the creative community, your Board of Directors, and the shareholders. The stock price of Time Warner (the parent company of Warner Bros.) has been depressed, and the CEO is pressuring you to produce more blockbusters. In addition, you have been receiving demands from the creative community to greenlight more “quality films” (a grossly overused term that is truly in the eye of the beholder).

Fortunately, two screenplays have landed on your desk. The first script (Script “A”) has been highly lauded by your entire management team—one of the best they have read in years; the other is Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed—a script that is not as highly regarded. Both scripts have similar budgets. Script “A” does not yet have an element attached (although your team says that it will easily attract an A-list actor and/or director), and the second script has commitments from the cast of the original Scooby-Doo film. Your instincts tell you that Script “A” just may be good enough to earn one or more Academy Awards—a mark of distinction you and your team have been striving to achieve. Let’s continue the scenario and suppose that your budget only allows you to greenlight one more film for the fiscal year. What to do?

You call a meeting of your management team and ask, “How much did the original Scooby-Doo gross in its worldwide theatrical release?” The answer? Over $222 million. The sequel, you reason, has the same cast, the same director, and that all-important built-in audience. (For the purposes of this discussion, let us define a built-in audience as “a significant population that is predisposed to attend a film, based on the success of the film’s source material: for instance, the original film on which a sequel is based, a novel, comic book, television program, or play.”)

That stated, you and your team believe that the overall quality of Script “A” far surpasses the Scooby-Doo script. And, one cannot overstate the importance of industry recognition if Script “A” attracts the right elements. Finally, your head of production argues that Script “A” will have “moderate-to-high box office potential.” Your head of marketing, however, respectively disagrees, exclaiming, “While this script will undoubtedly attract an A-list star and director, it is likely to appeal only to women over 25, thus limiting its overall revenue potential. In addition, the subject matter of Script “A” is uniquely American—thus, the outlook for international sales seems minimal. If we make a modest box office prediction for Scooby-Doo 2, say, 50 percent of the original, we are looking at a guaranteed worldwide theatrical gross of at least $111 million—a far better risk.”

Suffice to say that this scenario is completely fictitious and overly simplified, but as a rule, studio chiefs are faced with situations like this on a consistent basis. We may never know what discussions went on behind closed doors when Warner Bros. decided to greenlight Scooby-Doo 2, but the fact that the property had a built-in audience surely played a large role in the studio’s decision-making process. Incidentally, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed earned over $140 million in worldwide box office receipts, not including ancillary revenue such as DVD sales and licensing (achieving over 63% of the original film’s gross).

Times have certainly changed since the days of Louis B. Mayer and his Mogul counterparts. Today, the motion picture industry is a complex, global enterprise with a multitude of factors influencing those who run Hollywood studios. With production and marketing costs outpacing inflation, studios will continue to operate in a way that best mitigates its risks. And while committing $100 million to the average film is in of itself a considerable financial risk, studio chiefs always will look to proven talent and built-in audiences to increase their prospects for success.

It is difficult to predict how an increasingly connected society will impact Hollywood studios regarding the films they produce in the future. Clearly, the advent of YouTube, MySpace, and countless Web sites devoted to motion pictures has had a significant effect on how movies are marketed and consumed today, but it is still unclear how the power of the Internet affects studio greenlighting. One guess is that film concepts (and trailers) will be tested more in the marketplace on the Internet—in essence, creating a 24/7 international focus group. As we have discussed, Hollywood studios are always looking for ways to increase their potential for profitability and mitigate risk.

Finally, a note about the quality of motion pictures in today’s American multiplexes (one could argue that this topic could be a book unto itself). While this chapter has focused on the factors that go into the greenlighting process, little has been mentioned about the quality—or lack thereof—of the final product. Because of the structure of the Hollywood studios in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s and the relative stature of the Moguls, it can be argued that during that period of time, a greater emphasis was placed on quality than in today’s complex, high-stakes environment. Having said that, common sense would suggest that in a business as competitive as the entertainment industry—with so many more individuals vying to write, produce, direct, and act in films than there are slots available—one reasonably could conclude that the entertainment industry must be a meritocracy and that only the best films would be greenlit. As any savvy consumer knows, unfortunately, that is not the case. Studios cannot afford simply to select the “best scripts” to go into production. It is a cruel reality of the entertainment industry and one that ultimately hurts the very people who have kept the movie business thriving for almost a century—the moviegoers.