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June 7th, 2007


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09:31 am - 1. find soapbox 2. stand on soapbox 3. point accusingly 4. get all shouty
I'm going to make a very obvious statement now and say that Hollywood is extremely myopic. Tomorrow I shall make some enlightening remarks about how water is wet, cows go moo and that if you push something hard enough, it will fall over [1].

Two events in the past week or so certainly help the obviousness of this statement. The first was the release of the study that Americans are increasingly preferring to watch their movies at home. If anybody is Shocked, I Say Shocked at this finding, they have obviously not (or they have obviously not seen anyone who has) plunked down nearly $50.00 for a family of four at the Mondo SuburbiaPlex 25 (and that's just for the tickets) for the privilege of sitting in a theater watching commercials, getting a nice faceful of Army propaganda, and enduring cellphones, chatty bitches and parents who insist on bringing their three-year-old to the 9:30 pm showing of a loud, violent, R-rated action/horror movie. (Said three-year-old will spend the majority of the movie shrieking in fear, but of course the child can't be removed from the theater as this sort of torment builds character or something.)

I admit that around Boston, we're pretty damn spoiled when it comes to film offerings presented in decent surroundings, even if we see the landscape here as sometimes bleak and on the verge of going the way of the buggy whip and the vinyl 45. We have more choices than just going to an Annoy-O-Plex: the Brattle, the Coolidge Corner, the Somerville, the Kendall and a host of other smaller, single or double screen indies all offer a better theater experience than the one you'll get from the theater chain that is able to continually start new screenings of "Shrek the Third" every fifteen minutes, just in case you missed the 7:15 show.

And spoiled we are, but the article at least mentions:
...our survey finds that people with more home movie viewing devices and services are also the ones most likely to watch a lot of movies - both in the theater as well as at home. Movie buffs, in short, tend to watch a lot of movies, no matter what the venue.
Truth.

But buffs aren't the audience Hollywood wants to go for, even if their money is just as green and often spent with far less reservation. (Still, we must band together and boldly support the small cinemas to stave off that buggywhip-going. C'mon, lads and lasses! To the balcony!)

The really bizarre part is that apparently it's not just enough to go to the theater to see the film anymore, either. You wanna know what's really getting execs' shorts all a-twisted this year?

It's not that nobody's showing up to see this summer's crop of blockbusters-with-'three'-in-them, no. That's not the problem. People are. It's just that they're not going back again and again.

Uh huh. I believe the phrase I need here is "cry more, noob."

The way I see it, you can either spoo with glee over the fact that you've broken Yet Another Opening Weekend Record (which happens every four months, given whichever holiday we're dealing with here) or you can blame home viewing, DVDs, piracy, the Internet, dogs, anything for what you perceive as lackluster business which is not turning enough of a profit. But you can't do both. Yet they do.

Some days I sure wish they'd bring back the studio system and benevolent despots such as Jack Warner or Louis B. Mayer. They may have ruled with an iron fist, but at least they actually had a lick of business sense.

I'd sum up here by saying "Golly, they're blame everybody for the death of the theater experience except themselves" but then I'd have to file that Obvious Statement along with the others up at the top, as well as "clipper ships go fast" and "It goes in; it must come out." [2].

Though I do like the comments in the Jim Hill Media article that Pirates of the Caribbean 3 actually lends itself to repeat viewings, as you have to see it a few times in order to figure out what the hell's going on. Truth!




1. Fudd's First Law of Opposition.
2. Teslacle's Deviant to Fudd's First Law.

(29 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:ungratefulninja
Date:June 7th, 2007 02:31 pm (UTC)
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And, from the viewer side:

Why on Earth would I go back again and again to the theatre to watch the same movie? It's not going to change. The Titanic isn't going to make it this time. Unless the movie was pure (and this is important, kids) storytelling gold there's fuck-all to inspire me to go back and see it again while it's still in theatres. If you're lucky it might be worth watching once in a while once it's out on DVD and the incremental cost is effectively zilch.

Hollywood has been taken over by people who can show things happening but can't tell word one of a story. It's a fairly fine distinction, but it makes all the difference in the world. It's depressing, because the first round of a lot of the movies out this summer, I thought, were decently-told stories. Now they're being driven into the ground by rehashes that do nothing more than show More Stuff Happening.
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From:infinitehotel
Date:June 7th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
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For me, that question has always been somewhat similar to asking "Why on earth would I listen to the same CD again and again?" Movies fill a similar niche for me such that I'll more often throw a particular film in as background noise than I will dig through the CDs to find something appropriate. It's not plot, it's pattern, and if the movie is really good, sometimes the theater is the best place to enjoy it.

That said, I agree with you, the movies they're complaining about don't work that way because the stories aren't worth revisiting. Pirates in particular was disappointing because those sea battles would have rocked harder than any movie in recent memory if only I'd cared one bit about anyone on any of the ships. Creating even cardboard characters worth investing in seems beyond the Hollywood Blockbuster Wing these days.
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I, too, love wallpaper media and movies do it for me more than music sometimes. Depends on my level of distraction. More often than not when I'm on my computer at home, I've also got Turner Classic Movies or Fox Movie Channel on the TV. Some times it doesn't even matter what's on, as long as it's old and has some kind of style to it, y'know? Westerns, period pieces, good ol' gangster movies, musicals, yeah. Pretty much the only thing I won't/can't watch as wallpaper media are courtroom dramas (you can't just listen on the periphery) and animation, cause that stuff really is meant to be watched.
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From:ungratefulninja
Date:June 7th, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
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That's not what the studios are complaining about. The studios are complaining that revenue is dropping after the initial opening-weekend rush because people aren't returning to watch it a second-through-nth time. While I totally agree with you about some movies being great wallpaper (thanks spatch), this is about box-office revenue not matching the pink fuzzy sales projections they brainwashed themselves into believing.
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From:infinitehotel
Date:June 7th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
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Except, age aside, I'm the demographic they're referring to, the people who *would* go and see a movie multiple times in the theater if it hit the right notes. And if it's good enough, I'll also be dragging people who might not have seen the movie otherwise along with me for company, in multiple combinations. Contrast that with my reaction to two of the summer blockbusters where I not only didn't want to see them again, I told friends "You can go if you want, it's not worth seeing twice." Dunno if it's the same for the actual 13-24 blockbuster demographic, but I wouldn't be surprised. They're the generation that was raised on CGI and computer games; beautiful visuals may not be enough to hold their interest anymore.

Nick Hornby had an interesting digression in one of the essays in his book _Songbook_, talking about the compulsion to listen to a particular song over and over being an attempt to puzzle it out, to figure out the secret of why we like it so much and why it works. He points out that eventually this appeal wears off; after all, a three minute song can only hold so many secrets. A 2 hour movie? If it really works, that's plenty of time to ponder and a lot to ponder about and where better than on the big screen in the dark with all the distractions removed?
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 7th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
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It's kind of like how the "analysts" treated Pixar's CARS last year. It became apparent that Cars would not break the box office records set by The Incredibles and thus, it was Doomed To Be A Flop.

But it couldn't beat The Incredibles, and for several reasons. Sure, the film isn't one of Pixar's best. But the real reason is that historically and statistically, there's going to be a time when your Next Thing won't live up to or exceed your Last Thing. To expect that a release is always going to automatically surpass the last thing the studio did is so incredibly... naive or thick-headed or ... or ... SOMETHING that it boggles my mind to think how much these useless analysts get paid.

Did Cars make money? Yep. Did it turn a profit? Yep. Did it do well in theaters and DVD? Pretty well. Did it make enough money for the uselessysts to proclaim it "Not a Flop"?

Nope.

These people are about as dumb as bricks and thick besides.
From:dcart
Date:June 8th, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)
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When things are going well, "analysts" always seem to expect they'll keep going good forever. Within months of the tech bubble ending, there were people still talking about the extended bull market, the nasdaq reaching 8000 or 10000 soon, etc. Same thing for the recent real estate bubble. Then when things start going badly, it's almost like they feel a duty to talk them down and make the bad worse than it really is.
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From:genarti
Date:June 7th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Indeed. I'm not one of those people like infinitehotel there who see movies as background noise; they're a story, and a distracting one. If I'm watching a movie, I'm going to actually watch it, or at least multitask with something relatively mindless that I can drop and pick up again as distraction and interest levels warrant. I can't just ignore one as background.

I will see a movie multiple times in the theater if I liked it a lot and I have friends who want to go. I won't likely see it more than once of my own volition. I might watch one a few times on dvd, if I happen to have access to it, but it's a very rare movie that I want to see over and over and over again even in my own house.

If the movie studios are upset that people prefer seeing something once on the big screen (with all the attendant cost and effort and potential annoyance) and then watching it more if at all in their own homes on their own time... uh, too bad.

Honestly, now. It's called listening to your market; the concept's not all that difficult to grasp.

(Reposted for font tags.)
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From:28bytes
Date:June 7th, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC)
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I blame the energy crisis. All those special effects burn a lot of coal, and people are trying to conserve. That's why I don't plug in my Lite Brite, but rather hold it up to the sun.
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From:resk
Date:June 7th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)

Rantish

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I haven't seen POTC 3 yet and am in no hurry to do so. I'll wait for it to come to the dollar show and then see it on Extry Bargain Tuesday for fiddy cent.

Why? I heard it sucks. And while I enjoyed the first 2, I'm not a big ole bandwagon opening weekender. I'm not waiting with bated breath to see what becomes of Dullando Bloom.

The studios can suck it. They're getting plenty of money from The Epics. But they pay the price. Literally. Well over $100 million for these action/adventure flicks.

Meanwhile, Judd Apatow is making movies for chump change and raking in huge profits. Will Hollywood learn from his success? Kinda. They'll try to copy what he's doing, but it won't have any depth. It'll be more gross-out comedy that appeals to the lowest common denominator viewers. And they'll make money. And churn out cookie-cutters. Until those hackneyed stories stop selling. And then they'll wonder where they went wrong.

They'll never get it.
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From:fancycwabs
Date:June 7th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
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Of COURSE I want to spend twenty bucks visiting a movie that I can own (as much as I can own physical property in my household, which is by turns a Blockbuster, Rent-a-Center, or The Home Depot tool rental department, only without the revenue stream) a few months later for fifteen. That just makes perfect sense.
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From:cloudscout
Date:June 7th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
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"if you push something hard enough, it will fall over"

In the spirit of sequels and pushing things until they fall over, perhaps it's time for PUTBAD 3.
(Deleted comment)
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)

Re: totally off-topic, as is my wont

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I wish I could claim the Firesign Theatre as the main inspiration for the game, but honestly, I made it up as I went along and when I came to coding in a response to a certain game-winning verb, I just wrote it as is... then realized that this could very well indeed be a winning condition.

it does fit in very well with their philosophies, though.
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From:vanguardcdk
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
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When I was much younger I remember vividly the joy of going to see Batman multiple times in the theater. (the Micheal Keaton version)
A lot of it was the "cool" factor of seeing the superhero in darkened theater. :) Admittedly it also helped that these were kid's tickets in Nebraska many years ago...not a huge expense.

The Jim Hill article is dead-on. If you want to see the movie on opening weekend, you're going to. So unless you have a sleeper hit, everybody's in and out those first three days.
The people who are in a really bad spot with this are the theaters, not the studios. The box office money is on a sliding scale, with most of the first week money going to the studios, and then the ratio shifts per week to more towards the theater.
Therefore you get the theater chains leaning more on their concessions and ads.

From:archangelsk
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:36 pm (UTC)
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...but of course the child can't be removed from the theater as this sort of torment builds character or something.

I imagine it's because the parent(s) can't be arsed to leave the theater. They couldn't find a babysitter, but by-goddamn that will not ruin their night, no sir. If your night is ruined as a result, well, that's just not their problem.

It may be worth noting, for anecdotal counterexample purposes, that the last shouting match I got into with talky assholes at a movie — and shouting is rather an understatement, though no one was ejected — was at the local university/indie-hip theater.
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From:ron_newman
Date:June 7th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)
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Movie theatres used to have "cry rooms" -- separate balcony seating areas, separated by glass from the rest of the audience. Parents could go their with their kids if the kids got restless and started crying. I remember being taken to one of these in Memphis when I was little, though I think my brother was the one acting up.
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From:dolphinsolo
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)
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And, even if you are an Opening!Weekend! person, you're not going to go to repeat showings because you have to save your money for the next big thing that's coming out the next weekend. I can't go see Spiderman 3 again if I wanted to, had to save for Pirates. Can't go see Pirates again, got Transformers right around the corner.
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From:ron_newman
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
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Any time a movie plays 30, 40, 50 weeks, people are going to see it over and over again. King of Hearts once played for four years at the Central Square Cinema in Cambridge, and Harold & Maude lasted a couple of years at the late Allston Cinema.
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 7th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Well, cult films, hold-overs and midnight movies are different animals altogether, often shown repeatedly years after their initial release. Heck, The Harder They Come was shown at the Orson Welles for how many years? And, really, those films are repeatedly shown on one screen only. The industry is sobbing like babies because their precious 18-34 demographic is going to see Spider-Man 3 but then not coming back. Sure, every week people are going to see the film for the First Time, but for some reason, we're supposed to be compelled to see summer blockbusters over and over again now. They're not content with just a strong summer opening or a consistent summer run. They just want more moneys.
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From:cheezdanish
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
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YES HELLO THEY DON'T GO SEE IT OVER AND OVER BECAUSE THEY ARE FULL OF THE SUCK AND LOSE

Forget Jack Warner, bring back Lew Wasserman.
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 7th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Let's bring back Uncle Carl Laemmle. He was one of the good ones, wasn't he?

(I call dibs on Mack Sennett and Keystone Studios!)
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From:susskins
Date:June 7th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Look at the balls spin now!
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 7th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)

read me doctor memory?

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Doctor: Question.
Evaluate: Why does the porridge bird lay his eggs in the air?
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From:fancycwabs
Date:June 7th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
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I would have happily gone to see Grindhouse again in a theater. Unfortunately, it didn't stay in Memphis more than three weeks before being supplanted by something crappier, say, Delta Farce.

You'd think with 174 first-run screens in Memphis, that there would be some money to be made in counterprogramming.
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From:ron_newman
Date:June 7th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
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You have 174 first-run screens in Memphis? Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline all added together have only about 70.
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From:fancycwabs
Date:June 7th, 2007 08:58 pm (UTC)
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The greater Memphis area--I think the average for a new multiplex is about 16 screens (and we have some with 22) and we have 13 first run multiplexes around town. I didn't include the three (formerly four, but there was a fire) screen drive in or the 16 second-run screens in my count.

11/13 of those theaters are run by the same company, incidentally, which is what makes counting them up fairly easy.
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From:cursethedark
Date:June 7th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
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-I caught Spidey 3, but haven't seen POTC 3 yet...hell, I still haven't watched 2.

-I've never been the type to see a movie in the theater more than once. (This is mostly due to laziness. Hell, it's amazing I even get there once.) The only two I recall are Sin City and Identity. My second viewing of Identity was on a first date, because no matter how much I liked the girl, there was no fucking way I was going to see Daddy Day Care.

-Random thought: recently I had an idea that I thought was pretty good, which probably means someone else is already doing it. Basically, it is this: the "movie bar." Basically, you fill up the place with couches and a huge screen, show movies and serve beer. I'll probably flesh out the full idea later...provided, of course, it doesn't already exist.
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From:ron_newman
Date:June 7th, 2007 09:20 pm (UTC)
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Chunky's Cinema Pub
Strand Theatre Movie House and Grille
Stoughton Cinema Pub

I haven't yet been to any of these, so I don't know if they have couches. Our local Somerville Theatre now serves beer and wine, but otherwise it's a regular movie theatre with regular movie seats.
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From:giantfightbot
Date:June 7th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
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The only places I even think about going to go for theater anymore are Cinetopia and The Bagdad. The former is a way-upscale place with tapas and a wine list, the latter will give you beer and pizza and plays second-run movies.

The more you whine about not making enough money, the more you sound like the RIAA.

The theaters execs like to cry, "Piracy is killing us!" No, the fact you are OUT OF IDEAS is killing you. When 80% of your output this summer is a sequel or a remake, there's not much reason to go the first time, let alone a second time.

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