Cashing in: Films, shows about money make a killing in Hollywood

Global Business

Cashing in: Films, shows about money make a killing in Hollywood

Hollywood may be obsessed with making money, but it seems that films about money are becoming a big draw. And platforms like Netflix and Amazon are getting the credit.

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports from Los Angeles.

Reality TV is big in the U.S., but it appears that viewers are hankering after something even more real.

Movies about events like the financial crash, or money in general, appear to be drawing crowds.

While Hollywood has spent years giving us dramatic takes of such events with offerings like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, ‘Margin Call’, ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Rogue Trader’, it seems that documentaries are now proving to be big crowd-pleasers too.

Netflix series, ‘Dirty Money’ for example, said by some to be one of its biggest ever hits. ‘Generation Wealth’, meanwhile, has been wowing crowds at the major film festivals and hits Amazon in July.

And ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’ has been acquired by PBS. In fact, this movie even had a shot at Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars. Its Director, Steve James, explaining how this genre is now proving popular at awards ceremonies, 
“The stature of documentaries has really grown quite a lot in this country. There was a time when the best documentary Oscar was just something that happened during the show and people would go ‘whatever, maybe I’ll go get a sandwich now’. Nowadays, there’s way more attention paid to the documentary process and who’s going to win.”

Matt Pressberg is an investigative reporter for website, The Information. He tells CGTN why he believes these movies are proving to be a hit, “The prime movie-going demographic really had their lives shaped by the financial crisis, and they’re starting to be interested in how this affects all aspects of their life. There’s a lot of dramatic characters, a lot of larger than life personalities, and it’s really hitting a vein with the audience.”

Documentary films will be unlikely to hit the dizzying takings enjoyed by some of the mainstream movies you’ll find at the box office – especially those from the likes of Marvel – but they can still be lucrative if they get the tone right.

For example, the movies ‘Inside Job’ and ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’ both took around $4 million, proving to be big hits in documentary terms.

But it’s not a get-rich-quick genre, as Kimberly Reed explains. Her movie, ‘Dark Money’ has just been acquired by PBS in the United States and took years to make. It’s an investigative nail-biter, looking at the shady world of election campaign finance, based in her home state of Montana, and asks the question: who is financing election campaigns?

She tells CGTN, “There’s been a compression in journalism and there aren’t as many watchdog reporters who are following the money. So I think that leaves it up to documentary filmmakers to do it. Our story is pretty complex.. … Here in the States, I think a lot of people recognize that if you really want to figure out what’s going on, you need an in-depth story that’s going to do the reporting you used to find in a local newspaper, you’re going to have to turn to a documentary.”