24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Demographics

Is Hollywood having a senior moment?

January 10, 2011 |  6:16 am

  Red
The movie business has been obsessed with young audiences for a long while now, long enough that some of the young people with whom it was once obsessed are now older people (who are lamenting, perhaps, Hollywood's obsession with young people).

But a strange thing has been happening recently in the film world: An older generation has assumed an increasingly important role. Sure, movie types still persistently pursue the teens and twentysomethings who run out to see a movie on opening weekend. But as we explore in a print piece in yesterday's Times, seniors matter more to the film world than they have in a long time.

They matter more as a target audience (for good reason -- according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the same percentage of Americans older than 50 are "frequent" filmgoers as the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 39.)

And maybe more important, ton-screen representations of older people have become more nuanced. In studio action movies such as "The Expendables" and  "Red," getting older is no impetus for retirement -- in fact, it's motivation to stay far away from it. Meanwhile, in independent dramas like Mike Leigh's "Another Year," the literary adaptation "Barney's Version" and the Robert Duvall-starring "Get Low," older people represent some of the more complex and colorful characters around. Betty White hipster irony this ain't.

"Hollywood used to treat older people as dead ends -- at best they sat in a chair and provided wisdom to a younger generation," Bill Newcott, the entertainment editor at AARP the Magazine, told us. "There's a much more well-rounded vision of older people now." For more, check out the Calendar piece.

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Helen Mirren and John Malkovich in "Red." Credit: Summit Entertainment

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