What attracts movie audiences?

By Laura Crisp Davis - January 5, 2022
What attracts movie audiences?

Happy New year and Happy National Screenwriters Day!

I’m changing things up for 2022. This year, rather than keep a running count of the quantity of scripts I read, I’m shifting my focus to the AUDIENCE. 

  • What makes us go to the movies (or stream them)?
  • What compels us to recommend a movie/show to friends?
  • What makes us loyal fans (spend our time and money on collectibles, party supplies, Halloween costumes, cosplay, social gatherings, home décor, and theme park visits)?

I’ll draw from my experiences as a screenwriting competition juror, screenwriter, bestselling author, standup comic, writing coach, and audience member to analyze eight factors audiences love:

1. A story that draws me in within the first ten minutes (pages) with a HIGH CONCEPT HOOK. That’s Hollywood jargon for a question/goal that sets us up for a great time. 

2. The EXCEPTIONAL CHARACTER qualities that make talented actors want to play a character also make audiences want to play it for Halloween or cosplay.

3. When a character has badass, relatable, and especially MEMORABLE DIALOGUE, we love to quote it in everyday life.

4. THOUGHTFUL WORLD BUILDING gives plenty of material for the actors, director, and the art department to create something spectacular. It's the creative collaboration of description brought to life for the audience to experience.

5. The movie needs a PULSE. We need tension between premise/punchline, hope/fear, perception/reality, goal/obstacle. The hook keeps us in our seats, but the pulse keeps us on the edge of our seats.

6. GENRE LOGIC gives the audience a recognizable framework yet entertains us with surprises and unique points of view. We despise plot holes that take us out of the story and solutions that are too easy. We love it when the protagonist has to figure it out on their own.

7. A PERFECT ENDING is often a new beginning. If it answers the core story question, it lets us experience falling in love, victory or growth, a powerful truth, an untold story, or a gut-busting punchline—something that we can’t wait to recommend to friends.

8. Forget whether it wins awards. LONGEVITY and FANDOMS are the true measure of success, IMHO. It’s the kind of story that people love to rewatch. It attracts a cult of fans, bonds friends, impacts pop culture, becomes a holiday tradition, and one generation shares it with the next. It creates merchandise and jobs, influences activism and public dialogue, and inspires future screenwriters, directors, special fx artists, and actors.

Whether you’re a fellow screenwriter or a movie fan, hopefully you’ll find insights, inspiration, and a few laughs this year on my 2022 #LauraAtTheMovies journey.

Thanks for joining me at the movies,

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Sometimes I'm serious, sometimes I'm silly. Any scripts referenced are for educational purposes only. (My lawyer made me say that part.)