Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Case Of The Dwindling Dollars

It was hot enough in Hollywood to fry an egg on the hood of a Mercedes.  Not that anyone was actually doing that around here, the Atkins diet was out of fashion, and a car hood egg wasn't fashionably vegan.

I had the air conditioner on full, my feet on my desk, and my head in the clouds.  It was at that moment that I realized my air conditioner was on fire.

Thankfully, all I had to do was shove the burning piece of machinery out the window, and I was in the clear.

The Honda parked 6 stories under my window wasn't so clear, but I didn't have time to listen to the screaming and the yelling from below, someone was knocking at my door.

"Come in," I said, masculine machismo dripping from my every word.  "The door's open."

I wasn't ready for the circus that came in.  There was a fox dressed in a natty double breasted suit, a mouse dressed in red shorts, a guy with a globe on his head, a guy dressed like a mountain, and the two Warner Brothers, Willy and Wally.

It was the major studios, come down to see little old me.

"What's up boys?" I asked.

"Did he say 'What's up doc?'" asked Willy Warner.

"We own that phrase, we can sue you!" added Wally.

"I said 'boys,'" I replied, "now stow the jibber-jabber and tell me what's the rumpus."

"What?" asked the mouse in the red shorts.

"Why are you all here?" 

"Oh," said Hugh Niversal, the guy with the globe on his head.  "We got a report from a Morgan Stanley analyst named Benjamin Swinburne.  It says that the feature film part of our businesses is worth, and this is all of us combined, a little over $19 billion this year."

"That's not so bad."

"It was over $40.2 billion five years ago," added the 20th Century Fox as he flicked some lint from his natty suit.

"Ouch," I said.

"If it wasn't for television," said Parry Mount from the depth of his mountain shaped suit, "we'd be in deep doo-doo."

"Ticket sales are down over all," added the Warner Brothers, in that creepy-twin unison way, "there are occasional hits, but far too many misses.  Plus, profits from DVD sales and rentals are down."

"Plus our costs keep going up," added the Mouse.  "We can't go on like this."

"We need you to find out who is responsible this mess!" demanded Hugh Niversal.

"All right," I said, "it won't be cheap."

"How much?"

"I'm talking Johnny Depp doing a family movie kind of money."

They grumbled for a bit, but then they handed over the sack of cash.  I was now on the case.


The first suspect on my list were the scummy scurvy pirates of Online Bay.  

I gave the basement door a sharp rap, but it didn't respond to my rendition of the greatest hits of Kurtis Blow, so I knocked.

"What do ye want ye scurvy dog?" asked a voice from the bowels of the basement.

"It's Furious D, Private Dick," I said, "open up."

The door opened and out popped the head of big time movie pirate Leonard Snotbag.  He tried baring his teeth to intimidate me, but the retainer kind of ruined the threat.

"The big studios are down in the dumps," I said, "and they blame you for it."

"Please," lisped Leonard, "my bit torrenting is small potatoes, and don't fall for that whole 'piracy costs show biz $58 billion' nonsense, we only cost the industry $8 billion."

"That's still a lot of money."

"True," replied Leonard, "however, while you've made up a stereotypical basement dwelling computer nerd to represent movie pirates, everyone knows that most piracy comes out of Asia and Eastern Europe.  The collapse in ticket/video sales in North America far outweighs the piracy we commit."

"Hey," I said, "they pay the piper, I call their tune."

So I let Leonard off with a beating and headed off to my next suspect.


The next suspect was cheap rental services like Netflix and those little red machines that popped up in stores all over the place.

They gave me a whole load of hooey about how their pricing wasn't dictated by the studios, but by what the customers are willing to pay.  They also scolded me for being a lazy writer and not making up some sort of symbolic character to represent them.

Maybe it's all the fault of the customers.  That could be a big scoop.  So I got my surveillance gear and decided put a typical movie consuming family under my unblinking eye.


They were the typical North American family.  Herb and Judy Typical had two and a half kids, a dog, a cat, and an octopus named Inky who lived in the garage.

I had them and their their home completely wired from the ground to the roof. They couldn't fart without me smelling it.  Which was a feature I came to regret installing, because they ate a lot of beans.

Soon I had a lead.

"Let's go to the video and buy a movie," said Herb Typical, getting a cheer from his family.

It wasn't long before they were at a shelf just teeming with new releases at their local Big Box Store.

"See anything you like?" asked Judy Typical.

The family scanned the titles that lay before them, and then they let out a collective "Feh."

"Let's see what's coming to the theaters!" declared Herb, getting another cheer from his family.

Then they were standing at the entrance of the multiplex, looking over the titles that were playing.

"How about the kid's movie that's full of noise, color and catchphrases?" asked Herb.

"Feh," replied the family.

"How about the remake of the movie they made last year?"


"What about the George Clooney movie, it's won some kind of award?"


"What about the really noisy action movie with the shaky camera work?"

"Feh," replied the family.

This process repeated itself with all 376 screens playing movies at this megaplex. Finally the family just let out a sigh and said...

"Let's go home," said Herb, "we got books, TV and the internet to entertain us there."

"YEAH!" cheered the family as they left the mall.

Then it hit me.

When I regained consciousness I came to two important revelations.  The first one is that the people really shouldn't be throwing footballs around inside a mall.  The second is that the major studios have seen the enemy that costs them so much money before, many times. In fact, they saw the enemy every time they looked in the mirror.


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