Four-quadrant movie

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In the movie industry, a "four-quadrant movie" is one which appeals to all four major demographic "quadrants" of the moviegoing audience: both male and female, over and under 25 years old.[1] Although each demographic is made up of individuals with many varied tastes and ideals, there are some features that define each quadrant. What is unique about a four-quadrant movie is that these ideal thematic elements are common to all four demographics. These films target (whether intentionally or incidentally) audiences at a much broader level than movies targeting a specific smaller demographic.

Four-quadrant movies are not necessarily family movies; they may, for example, be too frightening for children, yet still be able to pull in all four quadrants of adult moviegoers. The common thematic elements of these movie include

  • A universal, or irresistible story. Typically this will be a simple and easy to grasp concept or theme.
  • A struggle between two sides, good and evil, wrong and right. Simple and well developed opposition, through clear characterization. Ambiguous characters are a tougher sell.
  • A well defined plot. Though this seems obvious, many movies fail to give viewers a concrete theme or storyline.
  • Excitement. Action, peril, and mild violence appeal to most audiences because they invoke an emotional response, and let us 'feel' what the actors feel. Tastefully done is the key here.
  • Humor. This gives us a break from the tense moments and adds endearing moments (hopefully) as well as a memorable counterpoint to heavier themes and tragedies that may follow.
  • Romance. Yes, it can be sappy, but nearly all movie audiences respond to a romantic interest or elements of romance. Keeping it light is important, however.
  • Casting. There should be some big name A-List actors. There should be some children or young adults. The big name actors don't need big parts. They just need to headline to validate the quality that the audience should anticipate. The young adult/child actors, however, need to be critical to the plot, assuring the interest of the younger crowd. Children in peril is a draw for adults as well, and tends to add an additional emotional element to the movie.

In addition to these points, four-quadrant movies often lend themselves to sequels (especially in this day and age). Often these movies are adapted from young adult literature, which has similar themes and usually simple plots, and often are short enough for adaptation without losing much content.

Some movies that fit this category include: Holes[citation needed], Harry Potter series, E.T., Star Wars series, The Hunger Games series, Avatar, Indiana Jones series, Back to the Future series, The Host[disambiguation needed], Pirates of the Caribbean series, etc...

Commonly, other attributes can determine if a film is a four-quadrant movie or not. For example, many movies that fit all the qualifications may lean too heavily on specific elements, such as too much graphic violence (eg. Die Hard), or too much romance (eg. Twilight series). Another determining factor can be the ratings. Often G rated films tend to lose credibility as 'kids movies', while R rated films lose much of the younger audience.


  1. ^ Neil Smith (26 October 2011). "Why did The Help clean up at the US box office?". BBC News. 

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