Movie Revenues Are Going Down and This is Old News to Everyone

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Roger Ebert recently posted an article giving his reasons and theories as to why box office revenue had decreased in the last two years. You can find the article here.

In it he cited 6 basic reasons:

  1. Lack of event films
  2. High ticket prices
  3. “The theater experience”
  4. Refreshment prices
  5. Others ways of watching movies
  6. Lack of choice

Here is my response, vehement, sardonic, snarky, and somewhat snobby.

Agree on all points. Going to the movies isn’t what it used to be. When you went to a film years ago it was something fun to do a mini event. But now, the only reason is for “the event movie”, which honestly are overloaded pieces of crap because the execs put so much effort into making them event films. The individual quality of the film is subjective of course and variable. But you won’t get insight or thought from today’s audience. You’ll only get “that was effing awesome” or “that sucked”. You won’t get why. It’s like if everyone went to a great buffet where they were serving a large turkey that had been carefully cured for hours. The fat content is through the roof. The are other dishes there as well, the supporting players. And the guests gorge on it, regardless of its health content. And what do they say? “Oh that meal was great” blah blah blah. No comment on how it actually tasted, how the ingredients worked together, how each dish was complemented by its respective side dish or drink. That’s why I hate today’s public taste. They don’t care at all about what they’re watching. I would at least respect someone who likes Transformers and understands and articulates why, but that inability to do so pushes me over the edge. It’s just eating or watching without real consideration. Also, fanboys and girls suck. They’re annoying and rude during a film.

Back on topic from that dangerous segue. With Netflix, Hulu, iTunes (sort of), UltraViolet, Amazon Prime, and even buying hard copies of films, there’s little reason to pay $10 for something you see once. (Speaking form the mind of today’s audience, bot my personal reasoning.) Films are released on home video in less than four months. Streaming, however, is the “way of the future”. Doesn’t take up room. You can watch it whenever and wherever and however often you want. It’s cost effective, with subscriptions usually being no more than about $13 a month.
Movies are disappearing too fast because of that home video demand. Which is the reason I didn’t get a damn chance to see that damn masterpiece Drive in theaters, dammit. However, films like Melancholia, which can be released VOD (another reason for above paragraph) are independently produced and thus have smaller marketing and distribution budgets. Maybe make more room for these films and do a better rotating schedule in theaters?
Ebert makes a good point about art films. A) People need to grow a pair and open their minds to things like that, as opposed to bitching about it without knowing anything. (“OH MY GOD, SUBTITLES, NO!” “IT’S IN BLACK AND WHITE, OH MY GOD!”) If more art films were available in theaters, not only would that film get a larger audience but more people would be exposed to those films and thus would begin a circle of self reflection and self reflexive thought in terms of their taste. Calling something pretentious or stupid is useless if you don’t put any effort into understanding it.
I don’t really think the refreshment thing is that big of a deal. People have been sneaking in food to the theater since the dawn of time.
These ideas, theories, conjectures are nothing new. People have been citing these reasons whenever a) new technology is introduced to make home viewing better (slash “more fun) and b) whenever there’s a drop in annual revenue. Granted, home viewing hard copies have in the last couple years gone down nearly 11 percent, but the growing ubiquity of Blu-ray and its convenient “combo” packaging (with the Blu-ray, the DVD, and a digital copy) is making up for those losses. For $25, you can get all three. yes, it may be about five dollars more than DVDs were when a new film was released at Walmart, but now DVDs are about $10 cheaper and, if you wait a month or so, the Blu-ray, regardless of its combo pack, will also go down. It only took a month for Martin Scorsese’s newly refurbished-in-4k-glory classic Taxi Driver to take a step down from $20 on Amazon to a very reasonable $13. With a big name title like that, you can’t go wrong. Even the new 3D Blu-rays (which, as far as I can tell, still have yet to really catch on) offers the four formats all in one set, for about $30.
As I said, the conjectures are not new. This will be written about again eventually, within the coming months or years. If anything, studio execs should take a hint from the indicators. They should spend less time taking polls and creating useless studies and instead read more about what the public wants. Go online once in  a while. Read a blog. And take note of exactly who your audience is. Even if it means feeding them something they won’t initially like, what critics, actors, writers, etc. admire is risk. Take the risk. You may be doing it for yourself and for the money, but for once, do it because it’s your job. Do it for the people who love film.

2 thoughts on “Movie Revenues Are Going Down and This is Old News to Everyone

    chandlerswainreviews said:
    December 30, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Your column seemed frustrated and angry and with good reason. There are, however, a few points of clarification I’d like to add. First of all, the great gasbag Ebert has done more to perpetuate this atmosphere of anti-critical mindlessness with his erosion of genuine thought about films bringing the climax of any intelligent discussion to a standstill with his reprehensible “thumb” nonsense. Endless appearances on talk shows over the years to discuss film along with whatever partner he had at the moment always devolved into a depressing session of fat jokes and supposedly “colorful” callous name calling. Also, I’d love to think that the studios might gauge what is in the mindset of the current film audience by reading the Internet, but I’m afraid what they mostly find is a trivial “populist” mentality that actually mirrors their nonsensical “blockbuster” viewpoint. Evidence of this is simply to scan the WordPress movie blogs and see how much excitement is generated over meaningless events such as a new “Batman” trailer being released. There are a good many serious film watchers out there, but right now the boobs seem to be making the greatest noise on all fronts. Box office revenues are going down and will continue to do so simply because Hollywood has lost it’s audience. The callow youth market has become increasingly bored with the sameness of the mind-numbing Hollywood films they are fed, and the older or more sophisticated audiences have been abandoned by the studios long ago and have no reason to be loyal to what is fast becoming an obsolete industry. Better off seeing foreign films in which wonders are still being unleashed every year rather than the Golden Globe/Oscar fueled pablum of Hollywood.

      rots28 responded:
      December 30, 2011 at 4:09 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I certainly agree with you. I used to be an admirer of him, but he seems to have been the catalyst for the “general consensus” state of critical evaluation, in the form of aggregator websites like Rotten Tomatoes. Critical analysis and evaluation is subjective and it’s been dribbled down to “I like it” or “I didn’t like it”, when a film can certainly shake your core to the extent where you can’t articulate your feelings. There’ve been many films that I think are technically well made but I didn’t enjoy. Given the current state of things, I wonder where my review would be placed: fresh or rotten? I spent a good chunk of my review for The Help complaining of its convention, but wrote (somewhat glowingly) of its performances. There is not middle of the row in mainstream film journalism.

      “the boobs seem to making the greatest noise of all”. Loved that sentence.

      Hollywood cannot, nor should it, afford to release an event movie every damn year. Instead of pouring it into projects like Transformer 56, why not invest your money into help smaller filmmakers reach an audience.

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