by Loretta C. Rogers/aka L. W. Rogers
As an author of westerns and western romance novels, and a lover of the old west, I am part of a western movie discussion group. Members are historians of the old West, authors of western novels, retired Hollywood stuntmen, and a few former cowboy actors, now retired.
The recent chat centered around why doesn't Hollywood make western movies anymore. I'm talking about classic cowboy movies circa John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, and even the more up to date actors such as Tom Selleck and Kevin Costner.
This question generated an abundance of comments which ranged from: it costs too much to hire horse and cattle wranglers, plus the expense of feeding the animals, to dealing with PETA. Another suggestion was the cost of shooting a western on location vs box office intake.
While these are all legitimate thoughts, there were several comments about the demographics of today's movie-goers; specifically the age of average people who enjoy sitting inside a theatre with a bag of popcorn and soft drink. The general consensus was that Hollywood caters to teens, tweens, and ages up to 49. Thus, the explaining the popularity of movies with explosions, car chases, androids, vampires, werewolves, and other sci-fi, paranormal elements.
Obviously, several movie producers have a different opinion as to what constitutes a western. For example: Cowboys and Aliens, Hex, Django Unchained, and a movie slated for release May 2014, "Bone Tomahawk," starring Kurt Russell. Here's the synopsis: "Bone Tomahawk follows an outlaw who unknowingly leads a band of cannibalistic Troglodytes into the peaceful western town of Bright Hope. When the monsters kidnap several settlers, including a rancher’s wife, a small rescue party consisting of the injured rancher, the sheriff, his aging deputy and a strong-willed gunslinger, journey into hell to try and rescue them. They soon find themselves in dark unknown territories where savage inbreeds armed with the ultimate weapon leave no hope of survival."
Umm, cannibalistic Troglodytes, and savage inbreeds in the 1800's old west? This leaves me scratching my head as to the thinking of Hollywood movie producers. Perhaps there are viewers out there who are champing at the bit (pun intended) for the premier of this movie and its cloned relatives.
This brings me to the age demographics of movie-goers. Studios seem to forget that the 26 and under crowd is not the only audience. What about the over 50 crowd? In my humble opinion, it's silly when films are geared toward "niche" groups. People crave good films, so when there is one, people go to see it. The majority of the over 50's were raised on Western films. Heck, a lot of actors still want to do a Western, and for some, it was the reason they got into the business. There's plenty of room for all types of films, but there is no reason why the Western needs to be micro budgeted into unearthly realms which destroys the code of the old west, and suppresses an important historical period of our great country.
So readers, if Glen Ford, Audie Murphy, Ben Johnson, John Wayne, or any of the other great cowboy stars were alive, how do you think they would answer if asked: With all the wonderful Western novels enjoyed by today's readers, why isn't Hollywood interested in making authentic movies about the old West?