Bums On Seats

January 3rd, 2006 | brainjuice

Here’s a thing, before I forget: US box office takings for 2005 were 4% lower than 2004 (and that’s a lot of money), and the lowest since 1982, supposedly.

But if you want to know how high ticket prices have been cranked over there, and, according to some, how many very long films have been released into the US market, listen: actual admissions, warm bodies and bums on seats, are down 11%. That’s getting on for a quarter of a billion tickets, according to Variety.

Now, one KING KONG-sized film supposedly eats two tickets for anything else because of its run time. Of course, the McDonald’s cinema paradigm means every film theatre has thirty-seven screens, each the size of a 1971 Philco television set, so there’s no real shortage of other (mainstream Hollywood) things to see. So, honestly, that argument seems to hold little water in most places. It’s not like the days of my youth, when the Southend Odeon was considered a marvel of modern technology for having three whole screens. And, frankly, summer movies have always been shit, so there’s not an incredibly compelling argument to make for The Creative Death Of Hollywood. No more compelling than usual, anyway. It’d be easy, probably too easy, to make the case for Hollywood having forgotten how to make movies. FUN WITH DICK AND JANE is not a $100 million dollar movie. I mean, come on. STEALTH should have been direct to DVD, as should DOOM. The creative and financial crisis is obvious.

But what happened to the time when the marketing of a movie made it clear that if you didn’t see it you would die alone and unloved? With 200 films released per year, of course it’s hard to sell one well. But it’s kind of supposed to be, isn’t it? I’ve seen so many trailers this year that appeared just kind of desultorily slapped together. If you’re spending the sort of money on making a film that could cover the cost of sending a probe to Mars, it’s just not right to look down at the ground, kick your heels and mutter that you’ve got this little movie that I might like to see. I mean, jesus, if you’re going to be capitalist running dogs, act like it. Bark and bare your teeth and jump up in people’s faces. When’s the last time you saw a trailer, or even a poster, that made you feel that if you didn’t see the movie an essential part of you would wither and die?

We’re all children when we go into the cinema. The actors stand four times our height and speak louder than we can. We hand over our cash to be told terrible and wonderful things, and to see all kinds of magic.

Is it just possible that some of us skip the cinema and buy films on DVD not only for the convenience and replay, but also because the films of today seem not to deserve to be bigger than us?

Mind you, my favourite part of going to the cinema was always the previews reels, so I’m probably full of shit anyway…

Back to laying slumped on the sofa drinking water and eating strange medications for me.


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis