Monday, September 1, 2014

Week of 09/01/2014

Hollywood’s Box Office Crisis
Hollywood has a wonderful way of blurring the lines of fact and fiction.
They know how to make the impossible possible.  Thanks to special effects and computers and stunt doubles, they can make a man fly, turn straw into gold, change time, and take us to the ends of the universe.
But what they seemingly cannot do is be honest about themselves, especially when it comes to money.
Box Office attendance is supposedly down this year.  Fifteen percent fewer people showed up at the theaters to watch a movie according to some analysts.  It’s supposedly the lowest summer attendance in eight years.  Some even claim it’s the worst ever and a sign of the cinematic apocalypse. 
Yeah, some of these Hollywood people can go over-the-top on the hysterics.
And it’s all our fault, don’t-cha know?
Yeah, apparently it’s our fault that we are not sustaining the wealth of the big studios by showing up at the theaters when their big blockbuster movies come out.  We’re not doing our part by parting with our money and sitting down for these movies when they come out.  They make the movies and we’re expected to watch them mindlessly.
Hey, I did my bit this year!  I went to see “X-Men: Days of Futures Past” in the theaters when it opened that weekend.  I didn’t wait for it to come out on DVD like I have had to do for all of the other movies I wanted to see.  I bought the tickets, got the popcorn and soda, sat through all of the commercials and trailers before the movie started, and I stayed until the end credits for that little teaser that Hollywood has been throwing in.  And I even enjoyed the movie and told folks so!  So don’t blame me for not helping out Hollywood!
Of course Hollywood also seems to think that piracy is to blame for box office failures.  That’s what some folks are saying when “The Expendables 3” failed to perform.  They blamed a leaked version on the Internet for people not showing up in the theaters to see the movie.
I’m sorry Hollywood, but you’re barking up the wrong tree with that one.  The vast majority of people out there – in other words your customer base – are not that computer skilled to search the BitTorrent streams for a movie that will be out on DVD and Video-on-Demand eventually.  They may use it to look for movies that are impossible-to-find, but not for the ones they can get by going to the local Best Buy store.
But, you know, it is my most recent trip to the movie theater that points to a more realistic reason why box office returns aren’t that great.
Let’s get brutally honest here… the reason why Hollywood’s box office returns are not doing so great has more to do with the movie experience than with piracy or the fickleness of the audience.
Let’s start with my personal pet peeve that really needs to die a horrible movie-style death.
3-D BS!  Say it with me please…
3-D is an overrated and outdated gimmick!
One more time…
3-D is an overrated and outdated gimmick!
You listening, Hollywood?
3-D is an overrated and outdated gimmick!
3-D movies had their day… in the 1950’s, right along with Smell-O-Rama and Duo-Vision.  But the fact that Hollywood is still grasping for this old and outdated gimmick shows nothing but desperation and sheer greed.  After all, theaters can charge people double for a cheap gimmick that still requires glasses in order to enjoy.
And the fact that they have translated this into the world of Blu-Ray DVDs and High-Definition TVs really makes this commentator sick, and not just from having to wear the glasses.
Yes, you still need to wear those stupid glasses!  If this was really state-of-the-art 3-D, then you would not need special glasses to view it.  It is that simple!
You want to know what is better than 3-D?  Go to your local Best Buy store and check out the Ultra-High-Definition TVs with the curved screens.  You get the same effect without glasses!  And now wait until the prices go down.
But that’s only part of the problem.  You’re not forced to watch your movie in 3-D, never mind be forced to pay double for it.  You can still watch your blockbuster movies in “plain old” 2-D.
These other two things, though, are things that the customers have no control over, other than to not go to the theaters.  These are the things that Hollywood and the movie theatres can do on their own to improve things with the very patrons they need to make their box office monies.
Commercials!  Okay, this one is a mixed bag, and what you see depends greatly on the movie theater itself.
First, I think it is great when the theater starts playing some commercials and non-trailer promotional material prior to the scheduled start time of the movie.  It beats sitting in the theater with the lights up and a blank screen in front of you and you’re just watching your watch to see how much time you have left while you drink down your oversized soda and munching on your half-barrel of over-buttered popcorn.
But when I went to see that aforementioned “X-Men” movie earlier this year, I showed up thirty minutes prior to the start of the movie and was mildly entertained by their little commercial and non-trailer promotional stuff.  But then it was the schedule show time and they never stopped airing the commercials.  By the time the movie actually started, it was thirty minutes after the scheduled start!  And, yes, I did check my watch to see how long it took.
What’s worse is that this extra delay in my movie experience were mostly commercials.  There were maybe one or two trailers, which used to be the benefit of not seeing the movie when it is scheduled.  Remember that?  There used to be maybe ten or fifteen minutes before the movie actually started when you got to see trailers for upcoming movies, which would keep you coming back to see those movies.  Now there’s a thirty-minute delay for upcoming TV programs, public service announcements, soda, cars, home improvement… everything except reasons for you to come back to the theaters.
And I need to point out to Hollywood and the theaters that people are paying for this!  You expect your audience to actually pay to sit through commercials!  Is it any wonder why they’re not so prone to come back?
And here’s the other thing that kills the whole movie experience…
The High Price Of Snacks!  Excuse me?  Seven dollars for a bag – not a bucket but a bag – of popcorn?  Five dollars for a medium soda?  You know I can go to the nearby grocery store and buy a full bag of movie theater popcorn for three bucks and a two-liter bottle of soda for less than two dollars!
I realize that this is supposedly how the theaters themselves make their money, but there comes a point where the price just isn’t worth the experience.  If I’m paying more for snacks than I am for the movie, then I’m going to wait for the movie to come out on Blu-Ray so I can watch it on my HDTV with my not-so-recent Bose home theater system with my own snacks and drinks.
Besides, showing a movie is a whole lot different today than it was back when I was a kid.  There are no projectionists skilled in on-the-spot film splicing and threading.  Everything is digital now.  You have server farms instead of film reels.  The curtains and lights are all automated and programmed.  You just need someone who knows how to play with computers in order to get the movie started.  There is more skill needed to run the cash register than there is to start the movie that people are paying to see.
While some have tried to sue the movie theaters over the intentional price-gouging, the only real remedy is what I’ve just mentioned… which is to stay home and wait until the movie comes out on Video-on-Demand or Blu-Ray and enjoy it on your HDTV with your own home theater system and your own snacks.  And that’s something that Hollywood and the movie theater people need to deal with.
And, by the way, maybe Hollywood needs to revise their need-for-greed when it comes to the movies.  Maybe they need to give up some of their fiscal largesse to support those theaters.  After all, their financial futures supposedly depend on people showing up in the theaters.  That’s what the big corporate script says, and they wouldn’t lie about their own script, would they?
You want us in the theaters, Hollywood?  Give us a reason to other than to merely support your own bottom line.
Hollywood can do a lot with special effects.  But while they can seemingly defy the laws of physics, the one thing they cannot defy is the law of supply and demand.  They may have the supply, but they really need to work on the demand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with the 3d thing (where's the migraine meds and barf bag)....but I would also say, all they have produced is crap! I mean seriously when was the last film out that made you think, made you go, "wow!" (minus 12 years a slave) produce garbage, remake after remake and keep hiking the prices what do you expect?...only my opinion!