Fixing the Movie Industry: A Modest Proposal

(Inspired by Jim Emerson’s suggestions to Hollywood, and part of the current blog-a-thon at Lazy Eye Theatre.)

'Transformers': Screwed by 'Rescue Dawn'We’ve been producing Culture Snob for more than four years now, and I’ve come to a sad realization: I’m tired of movies.

Not all movies — Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope still reveals new facets of mythic complexity every Sunday — but the whole movie culture: a half-dozen new releases almost every week, the incessant obsession with box office and awards, the flood of contradictory reviews and fiery debate ... . It’s no wonder Owen Wilson wanted to escape.

Rather than bitch and moan — or act out in self-destructive ways — I’ll offer my suggestions on how to fix the movie industry in a few easy steps.

Reduce the supply of movies. This is a no-brainer, but movie-theater chains need to accelerate the trend of showing fewer movies on more screens.

Let’s put it in the simplest terms possible. Before it was even released, Rescue Dawn was a loser. It had no bankable stars, downer subject matter, a director who’s hardly a household name, and a marketing budget that was tiny by today’s summer-movie standards. How could it compete with Transformers?

Mightn’t the world have been a better place if theaters had refused to screen Rescue Dawn, or better yet if the movie studios had never even made it? If we eliminate these fringe movies, we’re left with a more-level playing field.

In this crowded and tilted marketplace, consumers are ill-equipped to make informed decisions about what movies they might like. They see a TV ad or two for Rescue Dawn, but not enough for the marketing to really sink in, so they think that it’s an animated movie about heroic mice during World War III, which was prompted by the Vietnamese takeover of the United States. And they think that sounds pretty cool. They’re therefore flawed consumers, because they have a much better idea of the plot and premise of Transformers, and it definitely looks cool.

By simplifying the choice from “Should we see Rescue Dawn or Transformers?” to “Should we see Transformers at 8 or 8:30?” theater proprietors create competition that’s more perfect. After all, they have access to audience-testing information that shows that nobody has a firm understanding of what Rescue Dawn is about, let alone that it’s a fucking remake of a god-damned documentary. By the same director. Get it right the first time, funny little German man!

And don’t say that somebody might actually, truly want to see Rescue Dawn, and should have the opportunity to do so. Yeah, and some people want to have sex with dogs, but we as a society shouldn’t facilitate that. It is an indisputable fact that more people wanted to see Transformers than Rescue Dawn, yet in some cities, that little “arty” movie was making Transformers a little less convenient by hogging a screen.

Eliminate home video. We all know it’s true: Nothing can match the movie-theater experience. By virtue of its cost alone, going to the movies makes your pocketbook say, “This is a special event.” It creates an inherent investment in the experience: If a night at the movies costs more than a blowjob from a disease-free hooker, you’re going to try to enjoy it at least as much. At home, with Netflix and microwave popcorn, a movie is nothing, a diversion, easily dismissed.

But it’s more than that. Movies in theaters are presented by professionals deeply invested in the audience experience, unlike amateurs such as me who giggle as they put the “male” parts of AV-equipment cords into the “female” parts of their AV equipment at home. (Apropos of nothing, it only gets funnier if you add voices [and grunting] and have the male cords claim they’re finished after 37 seconds.)

The theater experience is nearly ideal. It provides the familiar (commercials, for example) with the spectacle of Hollywood on the big screen. The seats are comfortable and the auditoriums climate-controlled, but there are also elements that force us to concentrate on the artistry being presented to us; our attention is focused like a laser on the movie so that we don’t hear the cell-phone conversation next to us.

I’ve already touched on the issue of too many choices, but the problem is taken to the nth power (where n is greater than one) at home. Like the glut of different movies in theaters, all these video formats (DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, Betamax), all these titles, and all these different versions (theatrical widescreen, theatrical full screen, unrated widescreen, unrated full screen, director’s cut, extended edition, collector’s edition, ultimate edition) confuse consumers.

It’s chaos out there, and what we really need is a gatekeeper. And that gatekeeper needs to shut the gates completely.

Think of the benefits: The specialness of seeing a movie will be reinforced; we will spend less time hiding in our homes, being depressed by The Lives of Others, and more time communing with our neighbors and laughing and cheering at Balls of Fury; and we reduce the likelihood (now very high) that a seen movie will slip from our memory because we fell asleep or were drunk or were distracted by someone knocking firmly on the apartment door, forcefully telling us to “turn that shit down!”

Oh, I have more ideas, and I haven’t even begun to talk about the movies themselves. Maybe next time. Can we make this blog-a-thon an annual event?

Here’s an additional quick thought: take one movie that everyone wants to see and combine its essential elements with those “artsy” parts of the other movies that are going to be canceled.

Let’s use your Transformers vs. Rescue Dawn scenario. Let’s say they add a scene to Transformers in which Megatron - who really had nothing to do, anyway - takes a few of the humans hostage and they have to eat bugs and compost in order to survive!

See? It takes the best part of Rescue Dawn - the “human drama” and all that crap - and puts it into an action-y, Baytastic movie! Win-Win!

And, unlike Rescue Dawn, now it’s real funny. They eat bugs. Ha.

Excellent suggestions, Snob!!

I think that, instead of showing coherent movies at all, they should just produce a two hour reel of crotch kicks an fart jokes, and play it on 10,000 screens. It would be like “Idiocracy” come gloriously to life.

God, I hate Hollywood, but I love blockbusters ... such is my curse.

Yes, fewer movies, but may I suggest more sequels? This reduces the viewer confusion even more because they are already used to the concepts and who the good guys and bad guys are. So there’s no need wasting time with further character development (boring!) and plot setup - jump right into the blowing up of stuff. Makes marketing easier too.

And what are we doing letting German films on North American screens in the first place? Geez...

Great suggestions. I might even suggest that Gus Van Sant provided the template for the future of cinema with his Psycho remake.

Familiarity with characters? Ha! Let’s give ‘em something they’ve already proved they loved. A shot-for-shot remake of Little Miss Sunshine or Silence of the Lambs or Napoleon Dynamite!

Or let’s just quit releasing new movies altogether and re-release popular flicks (perhaps with different titles?) from the past.

“It’s kinda like Anchorman. Actually, it’s a lot like Anchorman. Come to think of it, it’s identical to Anchorman. I knew it seemed familar!”

I understand your fatigue with movies. That’s why as time has gone on (and my job doesn’t require it) I’ve become very selective about what movies I choose to see. I do know how you feel about wanting fewer movies. There have been times where there has been a glut of turkeys and talk of impending strikes by actors, writers or directors that I’ve prayed for the strikes, in the hopes it would give the industry a bit of a palate cleanser. However, as the home viewing experience (even if you don’t have the bucks) gets better and better and the switch to digital projection at theaters instead of the good old-fashioned projector seems inevitable, I find myself preferring watching at home, if only because there I can control my environment. No crying babies, no yapping nitwits, no ringing cellphones. Some of the greatest moviegoing experiences of my life have come from seeing things in a dark theater on a huge screen, but as I grow older and crankier, I’ve also grown less picky about it. Of course, if I ever hit that damn Powerball, you can rest assured the house I build will have a full-blown screening room with real projectors and I’ll become an acquirer of prints.

Duh, you should just make more bigger cineplexes! More people parked at a 7 storey theater sitting right where the revival or local Indy single screen was makes for the ‘snobbish over-cultured crowd’ to be able to go to a place they remember, but being given the choice they never had at those inferior movie houses.

Of course there’s also the fact that more people have the option of going to the movies becvause there’s a higher probability that the theaters are right out front their fat lazy houses.

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