From the Home Office in Hollywood, California...

It’s dueling Top Ten Lists today. First up, USA Today film critic Claudia Puig lists her Top Ten Favorite movies of 2011. Congratulations to our own Roger L. Simon for A Better Life (now out on DVD, Blu-Ray and Amazon Instant Video) making the cut:

  • The Artist
  • Beginners
  • A Better Life
  • Bridesmaids
  • The Decendants
  • 50/50
  • Like Crazy
  • A Seperation
  • The Tree of Life
  • Win/Win

Unfortunately though, quality product was a rarity for Hollywood in 2011, which helps to explain this recent breathless headline in The Hollywood Reporter: “Box Office Shocker: Movie Attendance Falls to Lowest Level in 16 Years.”

Considering similar articles were written throughout the “naughts” (QED), that news shouldn’t come as a “shocker” to anyone, least of all, The Hollywood Reporter. To help right the ship before the iceberg completely subsumes it, Big Hollywood’s John Nolte lists the  “Top 10 Ways Hollywood Can Win Its Audience Back:”

Here’s a sample:

You can trace most of Hollywood’s problems back to the death of the movie star. At first, the industry was thrilled with this development. No movie star meant no big payday, no ego, and none of the baggage too many stahs carry with them. The industry also found that, at least for a while, they could get away with this. Audiences were still packing theatres to see pre-packaged brands developed from high concepts, comic books, novels, and television shows. Sequels, remakes, and prequels were still sure-fire. Who needs to pay Tom Cruise $30 million to run around with CGI’d dinosaurs when just as many people will pay to see Jeff Goldblum do the same?

This was all well and good until the “brands” ran out. Now Hollywood is down to “The Green Lantern” and board games like “Battleship.”

Movie stars, on the other hand, are the most reliable brands out there. People come to see them and if you have enough of them and if you keep developing them, the inventory is limitless. From the 1920s straight through to right around 1990, if you built it with movie stars, audiences would come. Hollywood didn’t need to rely on “brands” because they built pictures around their stars.

Today we’re down to Sandra Bullock, Will Smith, and Denzel Washington — the only three people I know who can still draw a crowd based solely on their name.

Given the Christmastime success of the latest Mission: Impossible sequel, I’d add Tom Cruise to that list — his recent implosions seem not to have fatally harmed his brand. But beyond that, it’s a shorter and shorter list, as Arnold checked out of Hollywood when he became governor, Mel self-destructed, and Bruce Willis’ star power seems to have diminished. And there aren’t a whole lot of younger actors coming up who have the sort of name and good will where moviegoers will say, “Let’s go see the latest [INSERT STAR NAME HERE] movie,” the way that Mel, Arnold, Sly, Harrison and Tom had in the 1980s and ’90s.

The items that immediately follow on John’s list helps to explain why.

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