Posts filed under “Film”

Revenge of the Flop? Not Quite . . .

Two somewhat differning viewpoints on whether and why movies are having a mediocre year in 2005.

This first one challenges that very notion that 2005 is appreciably worse than 03 or 04:

Screenwriter John August (brought to our attention via The Register) reduces Hollywood angst to mere handwringing.

In a screed titled "The sky is not falling," August reveals that the recent theatrics from Hollywood are just that:

The “box office slump” is basically a myth. The Los Angeles Times (This Just in: Flops Caused Box Office Slump) included a chart which ostensibly shows the crisis, but in reality disproves it. Week by week, the black line is a little below the gray line – except when it’s above it. More importantly, it tracks very closely. A more honest chart would have also included a line for 2001, which was at the time the pinnacle of box office grosses. This summer had that beat.

The chart referenced by August shows a fairly similar pattern between 2004 and ’05:

click for larger graphic

Lat_flop

Graphic courtesy of LATimes

While 2005 ticket revenues lag ’04 by 6%, there’s a good reason for that:  2004 saw box office revenues of $9.4 billion dollars, and attendance of over 1.5 billion. These numbers were primarily driven by enormous hits: "Shrek 2," "Spider-Man 2," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
Azkaban" and the surprise blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ."

What did 2004 have that 2005 does not? Mega-hits:  3 enormously successful sequels and one religous awakening. This year is off 6% not due to the number of flops, but rather, the absence of these gigantic box office mega-hits.

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UPDATE October 10, 2005 6:17am 

The Onion’s take is, as usual, very funny:

Citing Slow Summer Box Office, Hollywood Calls It Quits

"Universal Studios joined DreamWorks SKG, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Fox Monday, when CEO Ron Meyer announced that the company is shutting down operations and ceasing all film production, effective immediately.

"In their hearts, every studio chair would like to be a patron of the arts," said a candid and reflective Meyer, speaking from his New York office on the 69th floor of Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza. "But this is a business, not an artists’ charity ward.""

Sources:

This Just in: Flops Caused Box Office Slump
Studio execs who pinned problems on factors beyond their control now take responsibility
Claudia Eller and John Horn,
L.A. Times, October 1, 2005   
http://www.latimes.com/business/custom/cotown/la-fi-boxoffice1oct01,0,4092331.story?coll=la-home-headlines

The Hollywood crisis that isn’t
By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
The Register, Tuesday 4th October 2005 20:31 GMT
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/04/hollywood_crisis_no_crisis/

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Why is Movie Theatre Revenue Attendance Declining?

There’s been plenty of chatter about declining movie theatrical revenue attendance. You just know the MPAA is itching to tie this onto piracy somehow and thus get some favorable legislation.

Let’s nip this one in the bud, shall we? 5 6 7 factors are hurting theater attendance:

1) Social factors eroding theater environment (talking, cell phones, babies crying, etc.); 
2) Sacrificing long term relationships with theater-goers for the increase in short term profitability (commercials, no ushers, etc.);
3) Higher quality experience elsewhere (Home theater);
4) Declining quality of mainstream movies;
5) Easily available Long Tail content alternatives (Netflix, Amazon);
6) Price;
7) Demographics: Aging babyboomers simply go out to movies less.

While content quality has indeed worsened over the years, it shouldn’t be the main concern this Summer:  As of late, there have been a spate of movies which have been either well-reviewed (Batman Begins) or had good word-of-mouth (Wedding Crashers) or incredible special effects perfectly suited to the big screen (Revenge of the Sith or War of the Worlds).

So what else might be the source of declining theatrical fortunes?

Well, how about the movie theater-going experience itself? The adventure of heading to a cineplex is becoming a less and less pleasant form of entertainment. Many of the headaches involved have been painfully detailed by Bob Lefsetz’ readers (see their ordeals below).

Note that we are not even discussing content quality at this point.

Then there are the adverts. A recent L.A.Times article – Now playing: A glut of ads — points out that even studio executives were stunned by 15 minutes of commercials theatre goers had to endure after paying their 10 bucks:

"As head of production at New Line Cinema, Toby Emmerich is not your typical moviegoer. So when he wanted to see "War of the Worlds" the other night, his choice was between seeing the film in a theater with a tub of popcorn or watching it in a screening room at Jim Carrey’s house, with a private chef handling the culinary options. Despite this seemingly loaded deck, Emmerich opted for a real theater.

"I love seeing a movie with a big crowd," he says. "But I had no idea how many obnoxious ads I’d have to endure — it really drove me crazy. After sitting through about 15 minutes of ads, I turned to my wife and said, ‘Maybe we should’ve gone to Jim Carrey’s house after all.’ "

When DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press took her young twins to see "Robots" this year, she said, "My own children turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, there are too many commercials!’ Now, when the lights go halfway down, I’m filled with dread. The whole uniqueness of the moviegoing experience is being eroded by all the endless ads."  (emphasis added)

So while the industry laments piracy, consider if you will why going to the theatre has become so much less enjoyable than watching DVD films on your own big screen in the comfort of your home theatre.   

The theatres have adapted Radio’s disasterous Hamburger Helper approach: Short term increases in profitability in exchange for alienating your core audience, who eventually seek out a more enjoyable substitute. Quite frankly, I’m astonished the film industry has (contractually)
allowed theatre owners to degrade their copyright protected product by
diminishing the experience so dramatically.

As Radio has so painfully learned, the end result is a big fat Buh-bye!

To a large degree, this is  a zero sum game: The theatre chains losses are Best Buys’ gain; Is it any surprise that high quality home sound systems and large screen TV sales have gone through a ginormous growth spurt over the past 5 years? Even as the lowest common denominator productions falter, Netflix (and its rivals) allow home theater owners to enjoy a Long Tail orgy of DVD content. 

Yo, theatre owners, when a segment of retail electronics called HOME THEATRE explodes in sales, that is your wake up call. You seem to have been oblivous, and missed the bell ringing.

Good luck getting the toothepaste back in the tube!

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UPDATE: July 25, 2005 7:37pm
At Slate, Edward Jay Epstein explains the numbers behind decreased attendance on increased revenue. Fascinating stuff . . .

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UPDATE II: August 30, 2005 12:07pm
A weekend NYT article, titled Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle quotes an exec as blaming the quality of flicks:

"Part of this is the fact that the movies may not have lived up to the
expectations of the audience, not just in this year, but in years prior," said
Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had some flops
this summer, including the science fiction action movie "Stealth"
and the romantic comedy "Bewitched."
"Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones
from the bad ones at a distance."

 

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Sources:
Now Playing: A Glut Of Ads
The Big Picture
Patrick Goldstein
L. A. Times, July 12, 2005
http://www.latimes.com/business/custom/admark/la-et-goldstein12jul12,1,35978.story

Lefstz Letter
June 5, 2005
(complete sourcing below)

Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle
By SHARON WAXMAN
NYTimes, August 24, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/24/movies/24slum.htm

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Continue to see Lefsetz’ readers critique of the theater experience . . .

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