Ever wonder why movies are costing more and more to see in theaters? Well they are costing more and more to MAKE as well. Recently, Stephen Spielberg made an observation about the slump the movie business finds itself in….not the first observation of course but the community knows that when the King of Cinema speaks, we damn well listen to him! And we should, because he is bringing a tough subject to light—one of America’s strongest industries in the past century is going under. When we were in a depression, cinema was strong. As we went through countless wars, cinema was strong. And we flocked to see good stories, to get an escape from the harsh realities of the world, to see something that surprised us or (throwback to my Bachelor blog) made the common man feel better about their situation. We wanted to see the new technological advancements of Star Wars and its sequels (or prequels….don’t hurt me I tread in relatively unknown territory when it comes to Star Wars). We loved the romance of Gone With the Wind or Dr. Zhivago. We saw our books become plays and our plays become films. The cinema was art made to appeal to US and no one else! And the movies prospered!
But then something dire happened…we’ve seen it many times before, most recently with the United States Health Care System. There is no denying that it costs more than ever to see a movie, some of the initial prices used to be as low as a nickel—true this was the 1920’s and currency is a different value now, but it was still incredibly cheap. However, as technology grew and actors and directors and other artists became more well known, salaries and prices for goods and services rose. And unions were formed to protect these artists from unjust treatment, as is neccesary. So when these guilds find wages unjust, they can strike and no entertainment can proceed until wages are risen. The problem is, these wages might seem unjust in the short term but in the long term they actually aren’t. Why? Because the ENTIRE system is overpriced! This has happened to the point of inflation. Costs for special and visual effects increased as the commodity was used more and more. Producers wanted well known stars who kept increasing prices. Writers demanded more. Directors demanded more. If he is getting this much money, why shouldn’t I? And the issue went unnoticed and rising costs of big blockbuster films were dismissed with the phrase “You have to spend money to make money.”
The problem with this is, the more expensive your picture, the more people need to come see your movie. But your audience probably WON’T increase, so what happens? The audience is charged with the debt. And we’ve gone from a nickel to ten to twelve dollars a picture. What does this subsequently do? Some people go to a move. A movie. “A” in the singular sense. Not every picture. Not even MANY pictures because it is unafforable. Some people even say, “Why even bother?” And they have a point! They could wait for them to be available to rent online, on Netflix, or wait for them to get to the Redbox to be rented for $1. Thus, the theaters aren’t making money, the studios aren’t making money and the film is making no profit. Do you see the problem?
Case and point? The Lone Ranger. I hate to keep going back to this movie but it is the perfect example. Still in theaters, the movie had to make at least 75% of what it cost to make in its opening weekend in order to even hope to make a profit. This didn’t happen. It didn’t even make a quarter of what it cost to make in it’s opening weekend—the most profitable weekend a movie experiences. What is so sad is that it just now reached half of what it cost to make after three weeks of being out. About $30 of that amount came from me, as promised, but was being called, “The worst flop of 2013.”
…that was until…
Pacific Rim. R.I.P.D.
Two very flashy, very CGI heavy films with big name celebrities that came out last week and are doing very poorly in theaters….in other words, VERY VERY EXPENSIVE CRAP! And no one is going for the EXACT SAME REASONS THAT THEY AREN’T GOING TO LONE RANGER. I read an article that said, “Is Johnny Depp Losing His Magic Touch?” He used to be box office GOLD. The answer is no, it isn’t him but a myriad of reasons leading up to poor theater attendance (think about it…since Pirates 1, Johnny’s movies have mainly consisted of summer blockbusters as this movie recession is coming down).
Oh. My. God. We’ve arrived at the answer!
My theory is this—people would be willing to go to movies no matter the cost if they were a) devoted fans or b) interested in the story based on the trailers. Now, this could be an error of the trailer itself (example—Premium Rush, although a film of the League, had a trailer that moved so quickly, no one could see what the conflict actually was. Good movie, though), or it could be something that doesn’t strike as “interesting.” It could be observed through trailers, short clips, movie reviews, articles about the film or its actors, or even the film’s posters. This is—the stereotype.
Have you noticed it? Something unique works once or twice, so of course studios try to replicate it. After enough times, the audiences don’t engage like they used to. Recently, we’ve seen it beaten to death. Twilight exploded, so we had five MILLION vampire movies in a period of five years, including but not limited to Dark Shadows, Beautiful Creatures and of course, Vampires Suck. Speaking of which, what about satire films? Originally, movies like Airplane and The Producers really worked as satire flicks. Scary Movie brought the satire back, but then progressed to be pushed into the ground with Epic Movie, Dance Flick, and Scary Movies being replicated as quickly as iPhone updates. What about the year we had TWO Snow White films in one year? Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror! Or this year even, when we had Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down? IT’S THE SAME DAMN MOVIE!!!!
Which would explain The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim and R.I.P.D. People are sick of westerns, the last Western blockbuster being the 3:10 to Yuma remake that barely made back what it cost to make, even so barely touching The Lone Ranger’s current earnings as it were. Audiences see Pacific Rim is a mix of Godzilla and Transformers. And R.I.P.D is just a very odd buddy cop film. The Red 2 Trailer addresses this—and maybe it’s appealing to audiences because it plays up the stereotype instead of embracing it. It’s exaggerated action that tells you straight up that it”s just a fun ride with good comedic moments. In contrast, a movie like The Lone Ranger who takes itself seriously could get many eye rolls as Armie whispers, “I’m a spirit-walker—I can’t miss,” and hits his target dead on.
Now, I don’t wish to imply that any of the films I mentioned as being “stereotypical” are bad, but we are just seeing a lot of the same stuff! Consider this the next time you are watching trailers in the movie theater—What stereotype is this movie? Are they playing to it or simply being it?
In final thought, no I do not believe that the age of cinema is dying or that movie theaters will one day become obsolete. As my title implies, this recession, if you will, is a “slump,” meaning this economic issue will sort itself out as all economic scares seem to do. What the issue needs in order to be resolved is reform in pricing the system, for audiences will NOT cover the faults, ultimately. This is in no way as simple as I make it sound, and this is the long term we are talking about.
Short term, though, the surest way to increase attendance is to give us something new! And for GODS SAKE, LEAVE IT ALONE! DON’T TRY TO REPLICATE IT! IT DOESN’T WORK! All we want is to be entertained! So entertain me! I dare you!