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  • Writer's picturejodiemariep

Hollywood vs. British Sci-Fi Movies

Financial determinants

I decided to compare and analyse the differences between Hollywood and British movies, which are Men in Black (1997) and Attack the Block (2011).

The movie I have selected to analyse is Attack the Block that is about a gang of local teenagers who take it upon themselves to fight off unwanted aliens that have tried to abduct planet Earth on a council estate in South London. The impressions I gained from watching Attack the Block is that the most prominent conventions of the Sci

-Fi genre where the futuristic elements of extra-terrestrial aliens I then thought the producer included science fiction because the movie demonstrates the conventional and stereotypical views by using aliens that are trying to abduct planet Earth, thriller and action as the producer made sure the movie was fast-paced and intense, such as when the aliens were chasing the main characters around the estate in Brixton in the movie. In Attack the Block, Cornish go against usual cinema conventions and stays with the muggers and not the victim.

The finances for Attack the Block were first budgeted for its production at $13 million (£9million). I believe it was given a low production budget due to the film being directed by first time director Joe Cornish. The main reason that this film had a small budget can be due to the film being produced by a first time director. Film investors are quite reluctant to give a large budget for films for first timers because there is no past work to see whether the director is worthy of receiving a high budget. This also was affected by the cast also, as the majority of the cast was unknown as they had no previous work, which the exception of Nick Frost. However because Joe Cornish had a large portfolio of directing work on television with a strong following as well as on radio, the investors made an exception for this case. I believe that with the budget the film was given the film was really successful. I think this is due to the amount of genres this can fit in comedy, drama, and action. The director including sci-fi into British street films invites a wider audience to target, as well as casting Nick Frost to target more of a international audience. Attack the Block accumulated around $6million.

In comparison to Attack the Block, the Hollywood movie Men in Black had a significantly higher production budget of $90 million (£65 million). This Hollywood blockbuster is about members of a top-secret agency in New York established to monitor alien life on Earth.

Because it had a much higher budget, it allowed the production team and director invest in better props. In a sci-fi film this would be really effective. For example, Men in Black where able to use detailed alien costumes, considerably more advanced software for visual effects. Overall I think that the amount of budget given to a film isn’t always an important

variable in films if it has a strong narrative. However in the sci-fi genre it is proven to be much more effective with better financing for better effects. The box office for Men in Black resulted in gaining $589.4 million.

For Men in Black the funding bodies that where involved are Amblin Entertainment and MacDonald/Parkes Productions. I discovered that Amblin Entertainment have built up a large production company producing various motion picture hits, such as E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, War of the Worlds, Jurassic Park, and Back to the Future. This really impacted the film, as it is a well-known company founded by Steven Spielberg. This is because they where able to provide a well-known cast and realistic visual effects as mentioned previously. I think that for a sci-fi film it is much more effective getting funding from a highly established company to produce the film to a high standard, whereas Attack the Block relied more on the narratives and British culture.

Tax invoices

The purpose of tax incentives is the reduction, which has been created by the government stating the amount of tax, which a particular type of organisation has to pay. Tax incentives for movie productions in the US include tax benefits differing on what state you are in. This is to encourage in-state film production and in response to fight for movie productions against other countries such as Canada. Men in Black was produced in New York City, because the director believed that New Yorkers would be more tolerant of aliens as well as the city’s building structures resembling rocket ships. In New York, to produce there the production would receive 30 % refundable state tax credit, 10% expenditures, and 5% refundable NYC cap. This is an effective way to get money and spend on more visual effects and advanced equipment for the film. I think that this is really effective when producing a film in America depending on what state you base your production in.

Film tax relief within the UK is provided for all films with varying budget levels, the Film Production Company (FPC) state that film production organisations can claim a payable cash rebate of up to 25% of UK qualifying expenditure. UK qualifying production expenditure is defined as expenditure used on filming activities such as pre-production, photography, and post production which take place within the UK, regardless of the nationality and ethnicity of the person carrying out the production. From my research I found that “HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) definition of UK spend introduces the concept of where a good or service is “used or consumed” in the UK. If they are used or consumed in the UK, the expenditure is treated as UK expenditure (under the rules set out in the clauses of the Finance Bill). If they are used or consumed outside the UK, they do not count as UK expenditure”

I think that this tax incentive is also effective like American production companies. However the only con about this would be that because British films commonly have a lower budget in comparison to American budgets, it means that the tax rebates received would be lower in Britain. Though, they are both great to apply to each production company to support the production.

Technologies of production

ttack the Block filmed the movie within 11 weeks, then onto post-production for 4 months.

Joe Cornish stated in an interview that the technique used was old school; I didn’t want to use CGI creatures because a) we couldn’t afford it, and b) I wanted something in front of the camera. As a result, the visual effects in the film that where used consisted of the use of digital work enhancing the characters playing as the aliens dressed in gorilla-like suits. This was done through creating animatronic bioluminescent jaws and enhancing the characters fur making it appear more menacing and spiky. The movie itself focuses more on the characters personalities and the dynamics of the social consequences.

Due to Men in Black obtaining a tremendously high budget, the producers where able to use more advanced production and visual effects that is more in depth. For example the M.I.B headquarters was created with a 1960’s tone due to that being the time that it was created and formed. The film features nearly 250 visual production effects including industrial lighting, makeup, and creature effects. For example, the technologies in the production included CG character animation, blue screen and green screen mixtures, miniature work, and live-action creature effects produced by Bakers Cinivation studios. An example of this in the film can include the “worm guys”. I think that clearly Men In Black was much more successful as a sci-fi film because of the budget and advanced technology used, making it very realistic. However even though the visual effects weren’t as effective, for a low-budget film Attack the Block was successful and relies more on the comedy and drama in throughout the film.

Distribution and exhibition

The film Attack the Block was distributed by Optimum Releasing within the UK on the 13th May 2011. The distribution and production company have an established reputation for innovative research within distribution, which has been proven successful however it is a small independent company. Examples of other movies they’ve distributed include Legend and Paddington the Bear. Attack the Block was effectively distributed through trailers, premiers, interviews, reviews, and merchandise. Distribution was also used through posters, which can be found in city centers and the London Underground. Exhibition for films in the UK is important because it enables non-mainstream films more accessible for screenings.

For Men in Black, Columbia Pictures distributed the film 7th July 1997, and it grossed over $589 million globally, making it the 3rd highest grossed film in that year. Furthermore the film received worldwide praise and acclaim with film critics highly praising the film. Like Optimism, Columbia has also released other successful films, which also have received worldwide success like Men in Black such as Spider Man, Skyfall, and 21 Jump Street. I believe that distributing Men in Black through Columbia Pictures was evidently a good decision to take. This is because it is one of the leading and most successful studios in the world. However I think that because of the film being produced on a high $90 million budget and with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, it would be clear that it would go hand in hand with a successful distributor.

Trends, genres, cycles

Film cycles are a series of films in that which are associated with other films and trends that are made up of organized cycles. The purpose of trends, genres, and cycles is to express how movies are associated and connected with each other based on their style, conventions, content, and narrative. When looking at the data trends for Men in Black, I discovered that it was ranked third for top 1997 movies at the worldwide box office. I discovered that in the top 100 films that 9 out of 30 movies where from the sci-fi genre. This shows that it is a strong and popular genre that had been proven successful in 1997. I also found that Men in Black was the 3rd highest grossing film that year, which included Alien: Resurrection. The film was beaten by an action film and drama, Jurassic Park and Titanic. I believe that this was a popular time to produce sci-fi film because technology was starting to become more advanced such as with blue screens. This wasn’t just in sci-fi films, but within all genres, such as creating realistic dinosaurs for Jurassic Park and superpowers and explosions in Batman and Robin. After that I looked at trends within the 2011 data to see how successful sci-fi films where against Attack the Block.

When looking at 2011 movies at the worldwide box office I learned that Attack the Block was ranked 280. I think this was mainly because the movie wasn’t promoted very well through the small independent companies, which wouldn’t be able to compete with globally established companies that can expertly and successfully promote and distribute films such as Sony or Amblin Entertainment Inc. However the most popular genre in 2011 was comedy, and only 3 out of 30 where of the sci-fi genre. As a result I can see that the trend in Sci-fi films had decreased over the years and it would only be a select few that become successful within the year. Furthermore I found that the most popular genre each year wad adventure, with I think is because the use of exotic locations and high budgets.

Examining and analysing past cycles of genres and what has been proven successful, I think that directors and producers would then try to recreate this in order to generate a high profit like these films.

Stars (actor, actresses)

Actors that were used within Attack the Block where young teens who didn’t have much acting experience. The film stars Luke Treadaway, Jodie Whittaker who has been in St. Trinians and Venus which will attract British viewers, as well as beginners John Boyegea, Franz Drameh, Alex Esmail, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones. Nick Frost attract audience because he is an established well known actor who has been in many successful films such as Paul, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz. As a result, he has received critical acclaim and has become one of the most sought-after actors in Britain. Having an actor like Frost in a movie with unknown cast members attracts and markes more of an audience, as well as an international audience to watch the film.

Men in Black feature many highly experienced actors and actresses which would be recognized globally. These included the likes of Will Smith (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Independence Day), Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever, Captain America), and Rip Torn (Hercules, Bee Movie, Dodgeball).

Using unknown actors would be seen as risky to investors also which would have been another factor for being given a smaller funding budget, compared to the international Hollywood blockbusters with recognised stars. On the other hand, using unknown stars makes the film appear more realistic to the audience as it is something they can relate to. I think that both decisions can be very effective to use when casting actors and actress in the film, depending on what is most important to the director. For example, if the top priority is to make the highest profits possible, it is more likely that they will use a high-profile cast to attract an audience.

Social and political issues

The factors of social issues that Attack the block include are the social negative stereotypes of Londoners. For example Joe Cornish explores “the way we think about kids like that and the way we think about people who live in places like that”. Cornish is referring to issues with race and class structure within youth and in London. Furthermore within the film the group of boys taunt the white, middle-class, and educated character Brewis, as well as mocking Sam’s boyfriend volunteering to help children in Africa, rather than working with deprived kids in England. Towards the end of the film Moses starts to question whether ‘the government bred these creatures to kill black boys'.

When analysing Men in Black I couldn’t identify any political and social issues straight away with a strong argument. However what I did notice was that there where many lines said by Will Smith in the film referencing inequality due to his skin colour but in more of a comedic way. For example in the scene where you see agent J (Will Smith) driving an expensive car and the police pull him over questioning “What work do you do with your ethnic persuasion? Athlete?” And shortly after he responds back with “Just because you see a black man driving nice car doesn’t mean he stole it!” I think Men in Black didn’t include any social or political issues is because the director wanted to focus purely on entertainment purposes as well as the conventions in the sci-fi film, such as the high tech gadgets.

Regulatory issues

Certification used in Attack the block has an age rating of 15. There was no unnecessary gore or violence shown from a human to another only to the aliens, as well as a minor mugging of the group of youths confronting Sam in a beginning scene. The film doesn’t glamorise the weapons used throughout the film and doesn’t promote criminal behaviour or a bad lifestyle which is one of the main images the producer Joe Cornish is trying to get across. For example the main character Sam was disapproving criminal behaviour, using weapons for protection only against aliens. In the movie having the movie rating set for 15 is great that it isn’t any higher because teenagers around the age of 15 in England and areas in London can easily relate to this movie and the characters illustrated in it. Having it set to the age 15 and not 18 means there would be a wider target audience because the movie is appropriate for the younger age group making it suitable for the age range of 15-23.

Certification of Men in black has an age rating of “PG” for its language and sci-fi violence. In the movie there was no extreme sex or nudity, alcohol and or drug use, frightening or intense scenes but there are profanities used throughout the movie all intended for a comedic effect. In one of the film’s ending scenes the audience watches the cockroach alien being attacked and exploding from an internal gunshot. This was acceptable for younger viewers with the supervision of parents but also entertaining to the older viewers. Other scenes where an alien that gets their armed ripped off proposed for a comedic side to the movies kids would find this rather funny than disturbing. the movie having the rating “PG” is great for a wider target audience, the film is funny to both kids and adults with acceptable amount of action throughout the movie, the aliens have A strange appearance but not frightening but instead more entertaining. I think that the director Barry Sonnenfeld tried to reach a wide target audience without censoring the movie a great deal and done this by making the films comedy and action suitable for everyone.

As it has a much lower budget than a Hollywood blockbuster such as Men in Black, it can afford to have a higher rating. It does not have to convince families and younger audience members to come and see it as it does not have to make such a huge amount of money to be profitable.


Synergy is where two companies cooperate o a project together for a greater effect which can boost profits. A prime example of this can be when Wiz Kalifa released the single “See you again” which was about the Fast and Furious film being released at the same time, along with a tribute to Paul Walker.

For Men in Black there was a significant amount of synergy used. The largest and most effective example can be the song released by Will Smith called “Men in Black”, which was inspired by the movie and as one of the leading actors in the film, this helped the song

promote the movie much further. Will Smith sings the song; stars in the movie and Sony produce both the film and the soundtrack meaning that one helps sell the other through cooperation. Sony's music making division assists promotion for the film production and vice versa, meaning both companies benefit greatly financially. The music video uses the cast, locations, special effects, costumes and clips of the film, making it probably relatively cheap to produce. Galoob Inc. also has cooperation with this film by manufacturing action figures of the film’s characters and aliens. There was also an official comic adaptation made which Marvel Comics and official Men in Black video game released. An animated series was created by Sony Pictures to further the promotion of the film as well. Other elements of promotion used in the film where collaborating companies Burgerking and the cigarette brand Marlboro, which was seen in shots of the film. I think that because the movie was produced and distributed through highly established companies.

The organisations would have existing working relationships with other companies and cooperated on working on the project together for promotional purposes. Whereas on the other hand, Attack the Block was distributed and promoted by no other companies except themselves, this can be a major factor on why the films didn’t receive as much profit as Men in Black. Due to the films success the producers created a whole franchise of Men in Black films releasing two more, and there are talks for a Men in Black 4 to be released in 2017.

Vertical and horizontal integration

Correspondingly to the issues in synergy for Attack the Block, the film doesn’t offer any form of vertical or horizontal integration. Both of these terms refer to strategies which are used in order to grow the business franchise, but differing in each approach. Horizontal integration is the process in which several steps in the production and/or distribution of a type of product or service are controlled by taking over/merging with another organisation, in order to increase that company’s or entity’s power in the marketplace. An example of this can be the two companies joining together to make Disney and Disney Pixar or Google and YouTube. Horizontal integration is the business approach to growing a business franchise through cooperation with other companies. Men in Black partook in horizontal integration through producing an animated television series. As a result through each of the movies released (Men in Black 2 & 3) it has become an international franchise which has grossed over $587 million worldwide. I think that this was clearly much more successful than Men in Black, due to the fact that the fil has a significantly higher budget, globally well known and successful.


To conclude, I think that both movies where very successful but in different ways from each other. Attack the Block resulted in being very popular successful within Britain, and first time film director Joe Cornish received very god critic reviews, as well as an effective cast of unknown actors. This movie focused more on the narrative and motives behind it, as well as focusing on the humorous characters in the film. Because of this movie, it has allowed newcomer actor John Boyega to proceed further in his acting career perusing blockbuster roles like the character Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Men in Black was very successful due to several factors: popular stars, expert producers and distributers, enormous budget, and a family-friendly comedy. It is also clear that production and distribution companies differ significantly depending on the location and experience they have. The visuals and narrative allows the audience to indulge in escapism in the sci-fi fantasy. Furthermore the quantity of films produced in the USA significantly outweighs British films, plus because of this they have a wide variety of genres to select. I learned that overall, it is clear that Men in Black was much more financially successful rather than Men in Black, which clearly shows that Hollywood films gross the most profit. Furthermore, high higher the established production and distribution companies are, it is very likely that the film will achieve global success, and British films achieve regional success and a small percentage of success in America.

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