By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall July 27, 2005 at 10:13AM
Hey blogosphere. What's up? It's been a while. I see you've been busy laughing, both at Michael Bay's failures and with Wedding Crashers. Great great. Me? Well, I have a confession to make. It has almost over two weeks since I've written a single word on this blog. Well, I have good reason. I hate summer at the movies. It's official. I fucking HATE IT. Whenever I ask any of my friends or colleagues why they seem to relish the endless parade of junk that is the primary business model for the film industry between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I always hear an array of embarrassing excuses and justifications for the silly season of cinema. These excuses, all of them unquestionably honest, range in scope from an appreciation of air conditioning to get one through the summer heat to the remorseless enjoyment of 'mindless' entertainment that has seemingly become popular among even the most serious minded moviegoers. While I can almost understand paying $10 for a seat in an air conditioned room, it is the almost boastful pride that many people, many of them stalwarts of the independent film community, have in their tender embrace of the junk blockbuster that has sent me over the edge. While art house box office continues to plummet this summer (art houses have air conditioning too, people!), with terrible returns trickling in for almost all independent releases, I continue to watch a parade of attention for garbage like The Island and Wedding Crashers from critics and members of the independent film community. Everyone I run into on the street is talking blockbusters! Not that all of the noise is of any help; while the decline in box-office dollars for independent films reaches near panic-inducing levels, the entire movie industry is facing a major decline in box-office revenue this summer. Apparently, you can�t just throw exploding bullshit at the big screen and be guaranteed a profit. At least, not until the DVD is released.
The Brooklyn Salute To Summer Movie Season
As the film business has begun to realize the tremendous profitability of the ancillary DVD market, there appears to be a correction at play at the traditional box office. People are staying away from the movie theater and staying home to watch movies. Why should that be? Could it be the cell-phone wielding asshole unsupervised teenage cliques running up and down the aisles? Is it the need to pack an extra sweater to brave the 'delights' of absolutely frigid air conditioning? Is it the delightfully gamey smell of nachos and hotdogs that are now on sale at concession stands and in (shudder) vending machines? Or is it a financial decision, since renting a DVD, hell buying a DVD, is a lot cheaper for a family of four than a trip to the movies? Who knows? All I know is that a summer at the multiplex has become an afternoon in the eighth level of Dante�s Inferno. And the movies themselves tend to only make things worse.
While this is terrible news for exhibitors and theater owners who already operate at the margins of profitability (although you�d never know it from concession stand prices), it is even worse news for serious-minded film fans. As the film business continues its hard migration to the opening weekend model for success, the dumbing-down of American movies continues on, full speed ahead. In Hollywood, where success has always been predicated on audience volume, the timeline for make or break decisions has been narrowed down to a single question; "How many asses can we stuff into 4000+ theaters in the first three days?" The Opening Weekend has been kind to films like Batman Begins, while the recent $12 million opening of Michael Bay's $122 million The Island must have sent some production executives at Dreamworks into cardiac arrest. The saddest part of the whole equation has less to do with the actual quality of the films themselves, and all to do with marketing. It seems that if you package shit the right way, America will come running. Who knew?!?
Well, I for one have checked out of the summer movie scene altogether. Or should I say, the blockbuster season. Instead of wasting my time and money on shit at the box office, I can simply wait for corporate synergy to wave its magic wand and catch the same shit when it invariably shows up on my own Home Box Office. Instead of honoring the infantilization of the American movie by supporting the Opening Weekend model, I head to the smaller, out of the way films that really need my $10 to have a chance. It�s my way of not only supporting quality and risk-taking in cinema, but of flipping the bird to the Hollywood suits who continue to produce shit in the hopes that they can package it well enough to dupe an audience into buying it. Problem is, I�ve seen most of the indies by now because summer is the clearinghouse time for indie film distributors who don�t want to compete with the big bucks. There is a lot of quality out there, but not much of it is making any money as turds like Stealth promise to absorb 10 screens at every theater at which they play. It�s enough to keep me knee deep in Netflix and my own, personally regulated air conditioning. Anyway, sorry for the infrequent posts. I'll try to do better. In the meantime, get your asses to the art houses, people! These films need you!