I recently read an article in The New York Times on the state of the American movie industry. It claims that, as more people turn to television and ticket sales continue to drop, the cultural relevance of movies is fading faster and faster away.
Hollywood’s proposed solution, so it seems, is to get high-profile directors to launch PSA-like campaigns for theaters and commercials, begging them to come back to the movies. It’s like an Above the Influence ad, but with Steven Spielberg instead of a pot-smoking teenager.
When I sent my dad the article, he sent back a solution that I hadn’t even thought of (how do parents always manage to do that?). No duh the film industry is struggling, what else could they expect when an average night out at the movies for a couple is almost $50 if you count tickets, drinks and snacks.
This, by the way, only applies to the Bay Area ““ a magical land where parking is free and the Giants are World Series champs.
But then I thought back to the article. Its major complaint was that Americans weren’t watching movies “of cultural relevance,” that one episode of “Glee” could get more viewers than the total number of people who’ve seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.”
The point is a valid one, but I think if anyone should be blamed, it’s the industry.
Americans have already proven they’re more than willing to digest complex, character-driven storylines, as seen in the popularity of shows like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” The problem lies in the fact that Hollywood stuffs these types of movies all in one go.
When I talked about the art of award season campaign politics in my last column, I left out one important element: timing.
It’s integral in today’s award seasons that studios release their heavy hitters in the months of November and December.
Think of it this way. When Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” came out in the summer of 2010 he was, as James Cameron would say, king of the world. It was a box office hit, a critics’ darling and, most importantly, no one could stop talking about it.
But it was released in July. By October everyone was talking about a different movie ““ David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” and suddenly he was the one getting all the buzz.
But it was a different movie that won the Academy Award for best picture that year, Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech.” The movie came out in limited release at the end of November, gaining traction by word-of-mouth and warming Academy voters’ hearts right before they had to fill out the ballot come the beginning of January. Nolan didn’t even get a best director nomination.
The result of campaign politics is a frustrating one.
It creates a movie release calendar full of blockbuster superhero movies in the summer, high-brow complex films in the fall and a bunch of awkward months in between filled with Tyler Perry movies and bad romantic comedies starring Matthew McConaughey.
With ticket prices as high as they are and the season as short as it is, it’s impossible for the public to keep up and see these “culturally relevant” films that The New York Times article is talking about.
A number of films being called Oscar contenders, including “Lincoln,” “Les Miserables,” “Django Unchained” and “The Hobbit,” won’t be wide-released until near Christmas. When you’ve got only so many days off from finals or work and so much extra salary to splurge, some movies will have to be sacrificed.
What Hollywood needs to realize is that acne-scarred 13-year-old boys aren’t the only ones watching movies when school’s out for the summer. As much as I love rewatching season four of “Breaking Bad,” I would rather go see one of the amazing movies that only seem to come out in December. Something’s gotta give, Hollywood, and having Spielberg tell us about the magic of movies isn’t it.
Who would you rather see in an Above the Influence ad, Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino? Email Konstantinides, who’d pick Walter White, at firstname.lastname@example.org