Hollywood contemplates killing off the "middlebrow" movie for a better blockbuster

The box office has spoken — no longer will the public fork over their wages for derivative movies like The Wolfman or Gulliver's Travels. But does that mean better movies in 2011? Perhaps.

The New York Times has an interesting round up of this year's best performing films, paired next to the worst. It's pretty easy to see that the public is no longer willing to pay movie theater prices for sub-par flicks. Why is this happening? Is the public's taste just naturally evolving? Yes and no. Says the Times, more and more audience members are relying on social media and the internet to gauge whether or not a movie about angels with guns is worth their $12.00 (more or less). These sites also pick up a hefty load of online marketing — how many "the Social Network is great" status updates did YOU see this year?

Online word of mouth is the new tastemaker, and thankfully the choices have been leaning towards quality films like Inception, and original concepts such as Despicable Me. What does this mean for Hollywood? That it's time for studios to raise their game. No longer can they stay afloat on tried and true properties — instead, studios claim they're spending cash to get quality filmmakers on board with new productions and interesting franchises. Sony's Spider-Man is a perfect example — Marc Webb was merely an indie darling, yet word of mouth helped (500) Days of Summer soar, landing him the director's chair for the Spidey reboot. The NYT also points out that Phil Lord and Chris Miller of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs fame have also been swooped up by Sony to make 21 Jump Street (a film we would all but brush off if it wasn't for Lord and Millers involvement, which is exactly the point!).

"We think the future is about filmmakers with original voices," said Amy Pascal, Sony's co-chairwoman. "Original is good, and good is commercial."

The box office effects are being felt everywhere, even at Disney. In 2009 the mouse house produced some serious stinkers in the box office live action department. But this year they took the risk with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. And while it wasn't our favorite film of the year, it was certainly paid off at the box office (it's #2 in this years box office growth). And it's not stopping there, Disney has nabbed David Fincher for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Guillermo del Toro to develop a film around the park's Haunted Mansion ride.

"In years past," Sean Bailey, president of production told the NYT, "most live-action films seemed like they had to be either one thing or the other: commercial or quality. The industry had little expectation of a film being both. Our view is the opposite."

Fingers crossed he's right, because if this trend passes on we should start seeing a lot more quality films right around the end of 2011 and 2012. We can hope, anyway.