Innovation Reflections Prompted by Avatar, and the decline of the Box Office Mojo of Harrison Ford

"The King of the World" -- again

News item:  Avatar is now the greatest money maker in movie history


In the last few days, I saw Avatar, and I read an intriguing article about Harrison Ford.

Avatar is now the all-time money maker for movies.  (It is helped by ticket prices at least as high as $13.00 for the 3D experience).  The budget for making the movie has still not been revealed, but it is now very clear that it was worth every penny.  And many, many of those pennies went into the development of and use of new technology for 3D.  I am no movie critic, but here is my take:  the story was well-told, though clearly borrowed from other sources.  But the 3D – well, it was innovation worth waiting for.  It was spectacular.  (The book I presented at the January First Friday Book Synopsis, Trade-Off:  Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t by Kevin Maney, started with the story of the technological innovation developed for Avatar).

Shortly after watching it, I read this article about Harrison Ford, whose latest movie, Extraordinary Measures, went nowhere at the box office:  The Fall of Harrison Ford by Richard Rushfield:

The actor who could once carry an entire franchise now has yet another box office bomb in Extraordinary Measures. Richard Rushfield on the downward spiral of Ford’s career.

Ford's latest

I have been a Harrison Ford fan (as was everybody for quite a few years), but I have noticed that his box office mojo has definitely been slipping.  (Extraordinary Measures, in its opening weekend, was extraordinarily anemic at 8th place, with barely $6 million).

The Rushfield piece reflects at length on the decline of Ford’s popularity, but it boils down to this – he is a one-note actor.

As one-note as Ford’s performances were, audiences seemed never to tire of that note. Until one day, they did.

What is the business lesson?  It is that the day will come that if you are still doing things the way you did them yesterday, the audience/customers will disappear.  And to avoid that, you simply have to keep innovating.  Innovate or fade away.  Those are the choices.  Cameron is quite an innovator.  Ford, not so much.

Rushfield said it directly:

Business seminars could use the Ford implosion as a case study to show the need to remain agile and change with the times.

Ok – movie criticism over.  Back to Ebert! Here are the first few lines from Ebert’s review of Avatar:

Watching “Avatar,” I felt sort of the same as when I saw “Star Wars” in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron’s film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his “Titanic” was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.
“Avatar” is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough.

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