Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #707: Things I Shouldn't Have To Explain!

You know, the world is full of things, events, happenstances, if you will, that have roots that should be pretty damn obvious to all and sundry involved. Yet here I am compelled, nay, forced, to explain those roots because some folks just don't get it.


Total box office revenues are down 20.3 % from last year, and overall movie attendance is down 21.5%. Even big family films, usually guaranteed money machines aren't raking in what comparable films did in times past.

Now right this minute studio executives are sitting in their offices scratching the heads and furrowing their brows in a feeble attempt to understand why this is happening. They gave the audience lots of remakes, lots of 3D movies, and lots of overwrought, overpriced, over the top extravaganzas, so why aren't people going to movies?*

None of them seem to realize a very simple truth.

Too many of their movies suck.

The major studios are paying too much attention and money on superficial nonsense and forgetting why people go to the movies in the first place.

They don't go to see product placements.

They don't go to see special effects.

They don't go to wear bacteria addled 3D glass that give them a headache.

They don't even go to see stars anymore.

What audiences want are stories. Fun stories, scary stories, silly stories, sad stories, happy stories, and exciting stories.

This is exactly what happened to the major studios in the 1960s. With the coming of television the studios went into a long period of decline desperately hoping to find a magic bullet in technicolor, widescreen, overwrought epics, and the exploitation of fads long after they were done and dusted. It wasn't until the baby-boom generation of the 1970s that stories people wanted to see came back to the forefront. This sparked a second golden age of cinema, both critically and commercially that well into the time when those baby boomer filmmakers started repeating the mistakes of their elders that eventually led us to the period, and trouble that we're in now.

I really shouldn't have to explain this.

*I'd add that they'd be worried about their jobs, but in this age of the platinum handshake that's really not much of a worry for them.


Tina Fey made an interesting comment
where she blamed the consistently dismal ratings of her NBC sitcom 30 Rock on the polarizing effect of her impersonation of former Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin. You see, despite the critical praise, the awards, and honors, the show's highest ranking in the ratings was #69 (Season 3), with a second highest ranking #86 (Season 4) and an all time low of #102 (Season 1).

While I'm sure that a small group of people may have tuned out because Fey's Palin impression, it's not the real reason why the show has struggled to connect with the audience. Come on Ed Asner is politically nuttier than a squirrel turd, but that didn't keep people from paying money to hear him grumble in Disney/Pixar's

The real reason why
30 Rock has failed to connect with the audience is that 30 Rock wasn't made for the audience.

30 Rock is made by Hollywood, for Hollywood.

I know the show is set and filmed in New York, but I'm referring to Hollywood more as an entertainment based community rather than a single location.

Now that we got that piddly nit-picking out of the way I can finish explaining.

30 Rock is all one big in-joke for the in-crowd, and those who want to be among the in-crowd. I tried to watch it when it first came on, but found it kind of smug in a "look at me and how clever I am" kind of way. And I'm pretty sure that's what a lot of other people who don't watch the show, and apparently they are legion, thought too.

Need proof? Look at its lists of guest stars. Hardly an episode goes by, at least since Season 4, without some cameo or guest spot by a movie star or celebrity eager to prove their wit and ability to "laugh at themselves" in a peer approved venue where there's no risk of them looking bad. I mean when I heard that Tom Hanks was going to appear in the upcoming Season 6, my first thought was: "You mean he hasn't done it already."

This insider nature is one of the key reasons the show has stayed on the air despite its poor ratings. It's a great entree into the Hollywood smart set to be the guy who green-lit another season of the show, and allows its fans to sit around and tut-tut about how simple minded the great unwashed masses are for not worshiping the show in the way they do.

It's really not that hard to figure out.


  1. jepressman6/4/11 12:15 am

    Furious D is right about Hollywood and its lost audience and lost revenue.I just watched Morning Glory,at home and thought that the talent was wasted, money was wasted and Hollywood lost a bit more of my goodwill.You know that years of watching many many films that are missing key elements can wear out the movie watcher. The film business has made billions selling any old derivative, amusement park,raunch humor stuff stuff and hasn't given a damn about an accumulation of dissatisfaction generated by all of these lemons.There were plenty of people who watched this stuff and didn't complain. So this decline in attendance ,which has been growing for years is now a big problem. Hollywood open some doors and windows and let some fresh air inside because it is overdue.

  2. It's almost uncanny. I read this post yesterday afternoon, and then in the evening I went to "Source Code," which managed to illustrate both points.

  3. I learned in my 100 level theater class that PLOT is king. The idea seems to be lost in Hollywood these days.

    Star Power: The only stars I see that have real draw are the Disney Channel Stars, but they are TV and music stars not movie stars. Except for Hannah Montana, none of them have any real BO draw. HM only made 79 million total, it was not a huge record breaking opening weekend film, which Disney thought they get after seeing the insanity over HM concerts.

    Even Selena Gomez' Ramona and Beezus, made 26 mil but cost only 15 and probably barely made even when you add in advertising costs.

    Risks: No studio wants to take risks as films just cost too much to make. So they make films that will get some sort of prepackaged audience, so we get the remakes, comic book movies and book adaptations.

  4. Some of this happens because going to the theater is a pain int eh ass and wallet. Going to a mall-cineplex is a logistical nightmare. Then you have to pay out the rear for one ticket to some 3D debacle. Want concessions? Pay more for substandard food served by a understaffed stand run by a under-trained High Schooler who is overworked because the management cut labor costs on a busy weekend just so they can barely get by because they spend thousands if not millions to upgrade for the 3D gimmick.

    Once person will probably end up paying 60 USD, and then think frak it just buy a new Xbox game or wait until it is on netflix or "rent" it from bittorrent.

  5. Blast Hardcheese6/4/11 5:55 pm

    Following up on Gary T's comment, Pixar has the mantra that "Story is King," and they are in the process of having to hire interns to keep their giant pile of money from falling over.

    Why OH WHY don't the major studios notice this? Instead it's remake after retread after reboot after sequel...Bah!

    Hey, it's fun being a curmudgeon! Think I'll go find some kids and yell at them to get off my lawn. Right after I get a lawn...

  6. Cost of going to the theatre is I think a lead why when it comes to entertainment MOVIES are no longer king.

    Call of Duty: Black Ops made $400 million in ONE DAY. Even the best block buster is lucky to make 100 million in one weekend and then break even financially. BO probably did not cost nearly as much to make as most movies.

    Pay 60 per person for 120 minutes in a darken theater or 60 for a game that you will be playing for months on end?

  7. People aren't interested in movie stars these days because there aren't any movie stars. Instead, there are talentless, ill-trained, self-absorbed, overpaid jerks.