Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cinema: In The Wake Of A Broken Week

What makes a good film? It's the cast, the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the music, the crew. So many elements come together to craft a motion picture truly worthy of an audience. The surprising and sad fact is, the movies that most deserve respect and recognition often fall flat come release. It's happened with many of my favorites (GATTACA, The Big Lebowski, 12 Monkeys... all gaining their audience after several years collecting dust). But people usually still show up to the movies... often not the right movies, but still you, the consumers, have planted your butts in the seats and will be staring off in one direction for about two hours, conveniently able to watch something new on a Friday or Saturday night when you finally have that free time.

This last weekend, theaters across the nation saw the release of several movies hopeful to make a killing in the box office... and it just didn't happen. In fact, what looks to be one of the worst movies of the year (New Years Eve) has become the highest grossing picture of the week. It didn't have big numbers, but there are seriously better options out there. Look, this weeks numbers have been lower than the slump seen after the attacks of 9/11. That's a scary prospect.

If Hollywood can't find a way to put together a season worth seeing, then there's a problem. But it's not just the movies. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a very good movie just sitting on a limited release. Shame will not get play in most theaters because people are too afraid to give NC-17 another chance. But times change and people do too. I think people are more willing than ever to give NC-17 a try. And I personally am excited to see Young Adult, but the critical response to Diablo Cody of late has been both harsh and completely uncalled for. She is an Oscar caliber writer. Anyway, these are minor issues.

First and foremost, it costs too much to go to the movies. It's true. How can the public be asked to visit a theater, spend $10-$15 (in some cases $18) on a ticket, then spend another $6 on a tub of popcorn that should be $2-$3 tops even in a thriving market, and spend another $2-$5 on a beverage that they could get for less than a dollar at the grocery... much less bring another person with them (cause no one wants to come alone) and spend the same sums on them?

Look, date night is taking a hit. People want to be able to talk with each other. Yes, films are a happy distraction for the new couple (or the very old), but it's not enough to assume people will just chuck up the change for any random picture. Sure some marketing could improve... there are very creative ways of getting the word out on new film that people just aren't taking advantage of. I'm not really a fan of the Paranormal Activity franchise, but they have consistently marketed these smaller budget flicks well somehow getting the audience to "request" these films come to theaters. That's unprecedented to say the least. But marketing aside, the main word on my mind is: GREED. Studios, if consumers are not buying your product you need to find a way to fix your business so they will.

It's that simple. The movie theaters are not solely responsible for the mark up in ticket prices since the '90s... it's the studios. And they need to find another way.

Then again, perhaps we are entering a new age. With new content constantly at our fingertips at home and on the internet, perhaps we will see a complete overhaul of the system. But in the wake of the death of big studios, what will take its place? I for one am not interested in just watching viral material for the rest of my life. So what's next?

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