Culture

Hollywood's Bullshit Summer in Film

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No, I'm not referring to the trilogy of terrible third-installments (Shrek 3, Spider-man 3, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3).

The LA Times has been pushing the notion that "Hollywood [is] squarely on pace for a record summer at the box office."

This is misleading in virtually every way–it contradicts the very same LA Times story, which also notes:

By the end of Hollywood's extended summer season, which by tradition runs from early May through Labor Day, industry box-office revenue is likely to reach $4.1 billion, according to research firm Media by Numbers.

Even so, ticket price inflation is one of the big reasons the summer box office will exceed $4 billion for the first time.

Attendance is the strongest in three years but running behind the 2002-2004 period.

This summer will end up with about 600 million tickets sold, Media by Numbers projects, well shy of the record 650 million from summer 2002. That year the original "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars: Episode II" led the way.

That's some record. And, as Bill Wyman of the excellent new blog Hitsville, writes:

In other words, it's not a record, just … hype. But this would be a much less interesting lede:

"It's been a decent summer for Hollywood, but attendance is still down a hefty 7 or 8 percent from the highs earlier this decade."

p.s. There's no "record 650 million from summer 2002," by the way. Movie admissions today are a third or a fourth what they were in the 1940s, when the population was half what it is today. The 650M figure may be the highest since the late 1960s and early 1970s, when movie-going in America reached its nadir.

More on that here.

Nine years ago (count 'em), reason deflated the box office champeen Titanic's "record-setting" numbers. Check it out.

Where have the moviegoers gone? Home, mostly, where we can consume more and more video, film, music, and other forms of creative expression on our schedules, not some mogul's.

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  1. Why would number of tickets sold be a valid record but revenue collected would not? Also, it’s unclear whether “ticket price inflation” means actual inflation or an increase in ticket price due to people being willing to pay more.

  2. As a sequel to two other terrible movies, Shrek 3 doesn’t count.

  3. Sorta to expand on Dan T., shouldn’t a tickets sold metric also account for population and theater seats inflation if you want to compare across eras?

  4. I haven’t been to a movie in a while, so tell me: do they have intrusive pop-up ads now and animated graphics that appear at random, touting new projects and releases, while the movie is actually running? Then it would be every bit as enjoyable as television and the internet.

  5. Where have the moviegoers gone? Home, mostly, where we can consume more and more video, film, music, and other forms of creative expression on our schedules, not some mogul’s.

    And avoid the fucking *commercials* some movie chains insist on showing before the previews, not to mention the noisy asshats who think they’re Tom Servo and that the theater is their living room.

    The Regal near me showed 7 fucking ads once before a movie. I sent them an email with one word in it: Netflix.

  6. I haven’t been to a movie in a while, so tell me: do they have intrusive pop-up ads now and animated graphics that appear at random, touting new projects and releases, while the movie is actually running?

    The Simpson’s Movie did. They were making the same joke as you, however.

  7. Wyman’s commentary does add a deflator to the question of tickets sold. He notes that ticket sales are a fraction of what they were in the 1940s, when there was a much smaller population.

    A side note: I’m not sure how best to factor in after-theater viewings, whether on TV or via DVD rentals and sales.

    But one thing I suspect we can agree on: In this instance, The LA Times, already suspect for hiring the likes of Matt Welch and Tim Cavanaugh, is more interested in hyping Hollywood than providing an interesting analysis of movie trends.

  8. The Regal near me showed 7 fucking ads once before a movie. I sent them an email with one word in it: Netflix.

    They show them before the scheduled start time. What’s the big deal? Do you miss the shitty pop “hits” soundtrack they used to pump in there?

    The talking thing is getting to be a beating though. One way to avoid that is to not see anything PG-13 or under in the theater. An R rating seems to weed out the punks. The last two movies I caught at the multiplex were The Departed and Superbad. I had a enjoyable experience at both mostly due to the lack of teens in attendance.

    Christ I’m turning into a cranky old man.

  9. Two things:

    The 2002 “surge” was likely a reaction to 9-11. People needed an escape from reality. This is probably the reason that Lord of the Rings was received so well by Main Street, U.S.A.

    The term “nadir” is being used improperly in this context. It doesn’t have the negative connotation necessary to covey what the author is trying get across.

  10. Do you miss the shitty pop “hits” soundtrack they used to pump in there?

    The trivia they used to show wasn’t bad. Almost anything is better than fucking commercials. They’ve ramped up the advertising quotient on television to ridiculous levels–after paying through the nose at the movie theater, one expects not to have to see that shit.

  11. The problem with the commercials is not that they show them before the scheduled movie time, but rather if the movie is listed as starting at 7:30 the commercials/previews actually start at that time and the actual film won’t begin untl 7:45 or so.

  12. The problem with the commercials is not that they show them before the scheduled movie time, but rather if the movie is listed as starting at 7:30 the commercials/previews actually start at that time and the actual film won’t begin untl 7:45 or so.

    That’s why I make it a habit of showing up to the theater about 20 minutes after start time(the few times I actually go to a movies).

    It’s perfect, buy the tickets, go smoke a doober, and get back at the end of the previews.

  13. The previews roll at the scheduled start time, just like they always have. The commercials are packaged before the scheduled start time along with some other packaged content like features on upcoming TV shows and behind the scene movie stuff. Besides trailers, the only ad message you see after the start time is for the snack bar, as it has always been.

    My buddy and I had the same argument. We’ve kept track. Ads don’t change when the movie starts.

    Using dead time to run some ad content doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me. Some of the ads are actually entertaining. If they weren’t running ads I’d be listening to the latest release from Taylor Dane while answering the same three trivia questions over and over.

  14. Dan T- Yes. I timed 20 minutes of commercials before the last movie I saw. They started about 5 minutes before the scheduled movie time. After the commercials came 7 minutes (I was still timing) of previews.

  15. Matt, I think that’s an over-broad statement. Our Century theater shows ads up to fifteen minutes after the scheduled “start time” of a movie. Worse, the crowds are so bad that if you’re not in there, you get to sit up front. One opening night movie was delayed more than twenty minutes for commercials, followed by a RECAP of the commercials.

  16. Matt- I can’t speak for your theatre. Perhaps you should avoid making generalizations about all movie houses based on your experience.
    That being said, the difference is the intrusiveness of the commercials. At every theatre I have been to, they are LOUD and inhibit conversation. Some folks want to talk to the person they came with, not watch commercials at eardrum-shattering volume.
    It’s also indicative of a lack of respect for the audience.

  17. Hey Nick, I don’t mean to denigrate reason in any way, but I don’t know why you’d wanna bring up the piece on Titanic now. Anyone who reads a movie column once in a while has known for years what Holland points out in his rant.

  18. It’s also indicative of a lack of respect for the audience.

    Indeed. The next question would be: has our so-called culture decayed so badly that we deserve such disrespect? I know the answer, and it makes me binge drink.

  19. No, I’m not referring to the trilogy of terrible third-installments (Shrek 3, Spider-man 3, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3).

    Glad to see Bourne Ultimatum, one of the best films of the year, not mentioned among those.

    I like movie previews, and the pre-film commercials don’t really bother me. But chattering and cell phone ringing/playing/text messaging are another story.

  20. They show them before the scheduled start time. What’s the big deal? Do you miss the shitty pop “hits” soundtrack they used to pump in there?

    Oh, how I wish they did. That would make them easier to miss. Nope. They showed them right on time.

  21. Here’s a general question – why doesn’t anybody start a chain of “high end” movie theaters, where they price tickets high enough to keep out the riff-raff and kids and also pledge no commercials? I imagine some people would be willing to pay $25 per ticket to guarantee a good moviegoing experience.

  22. I’d settle for a theater that had actual ushers armed with tasers and a zero-tolerance policy.

  23. Dan T.,

    The Arclight CineramaDome in LA offers assigned seating, a full bar, actual ushers, previews only (no commercials), and is, I believe, grownups only. It’s a little more expensive than other movie theaters, and worth every dime.

    It’s pretty crowded every time I’ve been. But I haven’t seen any other theaters picking up their lead. I’d go to more movies if I knew some little kid was not going to start crying in the middle….my pet peeve.

  24. >I’d go to more movies if I knew some little kid was not going to start crying
    >chattering and cell phone ringing/playing/text messaging are another story
    >The talking thing is getting to be a beating though…

    Our society would be great if not for all the people in it.

  25. Hollywood will always be both losing record amounts of money and earning unprecedented profits. That’s why politicians listen to the MPAA, they understand that malarkey bullshit.

  26. Props to Dan T for 1:59 pm!

    Cool, B! (cell phone discussions, too!)

  27. Attendance will continue on a downward spiral as long as theaters charge outrageous prices for tickets and concessions.
    I went to the movies with my wife the other day and we considered purchasing something from the “Nathan’s Famous” (or whatever it’s called)hotdog and hamburger concession within the theater. A medium drink, cheeseburger and fries combo was $26. I kid you not.

  28. “I haven’t been to a movie in a while, so tell me: do they have intrusive pop-up ads now and animated graphics that appear at random, touting new projects and releases, while the movie is actually running? Then it would be every bit as enjoyable as television and the internet”

    I am also surprised we have not seen a logo in the bottom corner of the screen, similar to the ones present during every TV show.

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