By Wayne Harada
Movie-makers have been agonizing over the box office decline last year and a Christmas-New Year season that was lackluster, with the exception of the surprise performance and success of Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”
Who or what’s to blame?
Not an easy question to dissect, but a good issue to discuss as the awards season is under way.
I don’t know about you, but I attend at least one film a week, but often two and occasionally three. On the average, I believe I cough up admission for seven to nine films a month.
Luckily, I pay a senior rate now. That helps ... and softens the pain.
Frankly, admission prices are soaring, films are often redundant, and a been-there, done-that mentality prevails. So for many, economics is a major factor.
But 3-D, which is plentiful and costs a premium to partake, is turning off some viewers (cost again is an issue) because the quality level has diminished. And since theaters have designated 3-D screening space, the industry is saturating the marketplace with 3-D.
So join the discussion:
• Movies are extremely costly. Agree? A date night can be expensive, but what about a family of four going to see a first-run attraction? Prices continue to rise, not as bad as gasoline and airline add-ons, but you practically need a king’s ransom for a simple flick outing.
• Munchies are expensive, too. From bottled water to popcorn, concessions — which are what the theater operators depend on to keep their doors open — are way too pricey. As outrageous as airport food prices, with fewer choices.
• It’s been a dubious season for 3-D flicks and this feature is turning off a segment of the movie-going population. As good as a “Harry Potter” mainstream film might be, there’s every reason to question the necessity for a “Kung Fu Panda” to boast the extras of the third dimension; even Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” while laden with Indiana Jones-style chase template amid a motion-capture action format, was a modest tale that could have been told solely in 2-D. I paid the extra to see it pop; at least it won a Golden Globe as Best Animation Feature. You pay more because of the technology and the requisite glasses; the issue with 3-D is that there hasn’t been a universal blockbuster like James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which delivered a whole new world of action, adventure and artistry with a storytelling technique that justified 3-D...an Event Movie which established a model very difficult to match. Cameron, of course, is delivering an anniversary edition of his legendary “Titanic” film in a 3-D version this April; after all, nothing succeeds like success, or excess; just ask Disney, which put a 3-D imprint on its majestic “The Lion King,” to reboot the classic animated film while attracting fans who saw the original and introduce a new generation that was too young to see the original, even if a family had a DVD version on the shelf. And “Beauty and the Beast,” the animated Disney classic, is just out in its 3-D debut, too. The bottom line: you always reach a new audience each time.
• Too many numbers in a movie title, also known as a franchise, a sequel, and, yes, a prequel. While “Mission Impossible 3” has jump-started Cruise’s career and audience approval level, do we really need versions 4, 5, and 6? Think about it:
From “Twilight” to “Potter,” from “Star Wars” (which juggled the chronology) to “Superman” (which is reinventing the wheel), the big ill prevails” — sequelitis, reboots, prequels. The sequence matters little anymore. “Superboy” was a TV staple, but “Superman” flies again this year. “Batman” and “Spider-man” have had different actors interpret the iconic characters. “The Incredible Hulk” worked best on TV, but two failed feature films followed. Remaking a familiar title or reinterpreting a favored character is a Hollywood plague. Add “Police Academy” — which is destined for a comeback — to the should-not-revive-reboot-re-do list, yikes. The clutter will includes extentions of the likes of “American Pie.”
What do do? You can’t avoid the trafficking but there are some ways to pay less for a first-run flick.
It helps to be a senior citizen, since admission is discounted; if you’re a young adult or not-yet-senior status movie-goer, one consideration is the matinee screenings, which are cheaper.
Or buy those discounted coupons to Consolidated theaters and wait till after week three to see a current film; those coupons are barred from early viewing, but going later means less crowds. But the coupons are not eligible for 3-D or IMAX releases.
You could go the Netflix route if you don’t mind seeing a biggie in the first wave of the buzz, but there is an upside of the movie-going experience at the top-tier price and early viewing timetable: there’s nothing like being part of an audience responding as one soul, shrieking at frightful moments (think “Jaws”) or gasping at cliff-hanging segments (think “Mission Impossible 3”). Watching a high-tech, high-impact film, which cost an arm and two legs to make, isn’t as powerful an adventure if you’re doing a solo viewing or with your spouse/partner/family at home on your flatscreen.
The psychology and dynamics of film-going truly require that mass-crowd element. And, alas, that comes with a hefty price. It’s not the same feeling, too, if you’re mixa bag of arare into your home-made popcorn; that is a theater ritual.