The Rise of Social Media Stars Means the Decline of Traditional Hollywood Stars

This is often the hardest pill for those closest to the current casting industry, the equivalent to declaring, “God is Dead”. But when one puts aside their preconceived notions of the world, it is plain to see that this trend isn’t only possible, but inevitable.

The problem up until now is that a lack in measuring abilities has caused many in the industry to confuse correlation with causation.

Let’s use Johnny Depp as an example. The current mental math for having Johnny Depp attached to a movie stems from the over $1 billion in box office returns from Pirates of the Caribbean.

So if we were to write an equation for how the industry values Johnny Depp, it might look something like this:

Movie + Depp = Enough money to buy the island of Ibiza

But wait a minute, he’s also in The Rum Diaries, which floundered at the Box Office. So what might that equation look like?

Movie + Depp = Enough money to buy a house in Ibiza

How do we make sense of these two dramatically different results? Well as we learned in high school algebra, there must be another variable present. So now does our equation look like?

Movie + Depp + X = Varying degree of property ownership in Ibiza

Ok, so now we are getting somewhere. So what variable between these two films could possibly bridge this massive range in results. Well I do remember seeing enough Pirates of the Caribbean ads to make me hate both pirates and the Caribbean, I wonder how much they spent on that?

Total marketing budget for Pirates of the Caribbean: $180 million

Sweet tap-dancing Christ! Were those bus ads made of solid gold or something?! Alright so what King’s ransom did they spend to get the word out about Rum Diaries?

Total marketing budget for Rum Diaries: $10 million

That’s it?! Donald Trump probably spends more than that on actual rum and diaries (I don’t know why, but he strikes me as someone who likes to journal about his feelings at night)

Meaning the real math surrounding film success could be more accurately stated like this:

Movie + Depp < Marketing Budget

But wait a minute, why does marketing a film cost more than running Greece? Well evidently even successful traditional marketing campaigns rarely achieve more than 1–2% conversion rates.

Could you imagine if your surgeon told you there was a 2% success rate for your procedure? You would kiss your family goodbye and make your peace with God. But upon receiving those same odds, studios are currently saying “Amazing! Who do we write the hundred million dollar check out to?”

A fact that is made even more confusing when you consider that conversion rates for online influencers who are cast in movies is generally around 40–60%. So currently, films are being cast on unsubstantiated belief systems about the value of talent, even when definitive data-driven evidence is readily available.

At this point it is worth reminding everyone that the entertainment business is a business, it boils down to simple ROI. How much money did you have to put in to make how much of a profit?

Strangely many of the current A-list celebrities either don’t have social media pages at all or have pages that are all but abandoned. Some even go so far as to declare they find keeping up with fans to be exhausting. This smacks of the kind of complaint one might expect from Louis XVI. It also confusing why they chose the profession in the first place, surely they must have understood having fans are part of being famous, if not the very definition. It’s like hiring a plumber and having him tell you he can’t stand the smell of shit.

As we begin to institute more analytics into the process we will gather data that challenge popular beliefs. Studios will see that “Hollywood Stars” don’t actually bring in billions in ticket sales. Some might even bring fewer ticket sales than their overblown paychecks — but enough about Adam Sandler. Already we are seeing the trend of online influencers being cast by productions looking to court their massive followings. As the industry begins to standardize this process and sees online audiences convert to real box office increases, this will become the new standard. At this point, “Hollywood Stars” will have to adopt and become online influencers themselves, or risk becoming a relic of a bygone era like the VHS tapes they once adorned.