Friday, 23 November 2007

Hollywood Babble On & On... #8: An Act of God...

I'd like to take a moment to talk about numbers.

Specifically, the numbers around the new Dimension Films/MGM release The Mist. The estimates of the films budget, including prints, advertising, etc., is around $65,000,000. In order for that film to be considered profitable it has to make about double that in the theaters and to do that it needs momentum, and to get that momentum it needs a killer opening weekend.

Well, as of this writing it's made approximately $4,065,000 in North American theatres, putting it in 6th place behind Hitman, Fred Claus, and Bee Movie. It also has a per-screen take of about $832, well behind the usual per-screen average of the critically panned Hitman which hit $1,485.

The estimate experts are predicting a relatively dismal intake of $15,000,000 at most, which will not help the film become profitable.

That is not good.

For a horror film to succeed it needs to lure in the gore-hounds on the opening weekend, and then let their gushing word of mouth spread to the wider public.

But that's not happening.


Was the film getting bad reviews?

No, the reviews were as good as any horror film can get from most critics.

Then why?

Well, we can call it an act of stupid marketing turning a box-office disaster into an act of God.

You see the film is supposed to be about a strange thick mist that envelopes a group of people, and the mist is crawling with all kinds of nasty beasties.

But you really don't get that impression from the ad campaign.

Instead of the mystery monsters of the Mist the ad campaign decided to center on a supporting character named Mrs. Carmody played by the normally talented Marcia Gay Harden.

Mrs. Carmody is presented as the real villain of the film, because she's a Christian fundamentalist who speaks with a cartoonish hick accent and demands that innocent children be brutally sacrificed to appease a bloodthirsty deity angry about gay marriage. Naturally she gets people to follow her rather insane logic because they're Christians too and in the universe the writers live in, Christians regularly sacrifice children.

Of course the universe the film's writer lives in is not the universe Mr. and Mrs. Average Moviegoer lives in.

In the universe of Mr. & Mrs. Average Moviegoer Christians are the people who hold bake sales to raise money for the local homeless shelter, or run disaster relief programs that out-performed the government ones in Louisiana after Katrina.

They don't start slitting the throats of children the moment something weird and/or scary happens.

You see the basis of Christianity, is that God sacrificed his only son, part of, or an avatar of himself really, in order to create a new covenant where blood sacrifice would be banished evermore into the outer darkness.

And the Average American Christian, even the lapsed ones, aren't going to pay money to watch a movie that accuses them of being bloodthirsty, cruel, judgmental, ignorant, sadistic psychopaths who speak with thick yokel accents.

It all goes to the first rule of cinematic success that I discussed in my last post.


Audiences are forgiving creatures. They are willing to forgive the occasional insult to logic and their intelligence as long as it's packaged in an exciting and interesting story.

But they are not going to sit back and watch themselves being insulted for being themselves.

It's the main reason why Hollywood's recent crop of 'political' films have all failed. The main thesis of those films is that America is basically and inherently wrong, no matter what it does, and that it's intentions are always evil, and they allow no chance for debate on the issue. Those on the 'other side' are always portrayed as Snidely Whiplash style villains or corrupt hypocrites with all the depth of a postage stamp, and that sure fire sign of sinister stupidity: A Southern or Rural Accent!

That's not how you win over an audience.

The audience is voting with its feet avoiding films that it believes will offend or insult them.

Yet Hollywood keeps pumping them out.

Next on the list to come out is The Golden Compass, based on a series of children's books by author Phillip Pullman.

The books were written as an atheist's answer to the pro-religious Lord of the Rings and Narnia books and are reportedly about a young girl on a sacred mission to kill God in order to save the universe from a sinister alternate Vatican called The Magisterium.

The buzz around The Golden Compass is pretty much all negative and is expected to be one of the major bombs of the coming Xmas movie season. Recent anti-religious, anti-Christian statements by Pullman have helped create this wave of negativity, even leading to the books being pulled from Catholic school libraries.

Now while I disagree with censorship, I do acknowledge that a basically religious institution can't be forced to have something that brands it as evil on the shelves. No one's going to demand that Jewish schools put Mein Kampf in their libraries.

Now one must ask why Hollywood seems to be on a crusade against the religion of the majority of Americans.

Well, Hollywood is a very isolated, insular, nay, incestuous community. It possesses a sort of group-think that is almost Orwellian in its intensity.

Part of that is an almost religious adherence to political correctness. Political correctness dictates that you can't do anything that might offend anyone at any time.

But there's an exception to that rule.


You see Political Correctness is part of an old cultural Marxist belief system born in the 1960s. And since Christians are the majority of the richest, most powerful nation state in the history of the Earth it's okay to mock, deride, or offend those people and their beliefs. But don't you dare challenge anything held dear by any other culture, that would make you a nasty racist, and could possibly get you killed.

Hating Christians is the only prejudice Hollywood folks are allowed to hold anymore.

So this mindset severely limits what writers and filmmakers can do and who they can do it too. And limits create bad stories with crude cardboard cut-outs for villains who do nothing but insult the audience.

An audience that is the most important part of the business of film-making.

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