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article imageOp-Ed: Why summer attendance was down at the movie theatres this year

By Andrew Moran     Sep 9, 2012 in Entertainment
Los Angeles - A lot of film buffs like to complain that modern era motion pictures are not like what they used to be back in the Golden Age of cinema. They have a point, which could explain as to why summer attendance was the lowest since 1993.
Earlier this week, I reported on estimated figures of this year’s summer box office. Although there were two films that each captured more than $1 billion in the global box office, the number of tickets sold was down four percent, box office revenues dropped more than $100 million and overall summer attendance was on the decline.
Why was this? The summer produced some decent blockbuster pictures, such as “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Prometheus” – not so much a fan of other comic book movies, like “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.” But for those seeking a respite from $250 million movies, there wasn’t much of a selection.
First, let’s compare 1993 to 2012:
Summer of 1993: “Hot Shots: Part Deux,” “The Firm,” “Jurassic Park,” “In the Line of Fire,” “The Fugitive,” “The Man Without a Face,” “Cliffhanger” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Summer of 2012: “Men in Black III,” “Snow White and the Huntsmen,” “Rock of Ages,” “Magic Mike,” “Ted,” “The Watch,” “Total Recall” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.”
Comparing these two years, which one do you think was the superior summer? I’d have to go with option one.
Here are two reasons as to why movie studios are having a difficult time filling the seats not just in the summer but all year around: cost and quality.
Of course, youth like to spend $12 of their parents’ money at the movie theatres to see anything. However, is the average individual in the 18-64 demographic willing to throw their hard earned money at something as mundane as the films produced today? Even if a film is slightly interesting to me, I do not feel like spending $15 on a 3D movie if I’m not expecting excellent escapism or superb filmmaking.
In Toronto, the cheapest cinemas to head to are the ones operated by Rainbow Cinemas. A Tuesday picture costs $5 (up from $2 a decade ago) and the weeknight showing is about $8. At most picture-houses, though, it’s upwards of $13!
It can be understood that movie chains keep close to half of the ticket sales, but lowering the ticket prices wouldn’t hurt, especially if Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox or Universal Studios want more eyeballs on their product.
Unfortunately, since the Hollywood studios like to produce safe motion pictures that are rather banal and prosaic, a moviebuff, like myself, doesn’t expect an Alfred Hitchcock level of filmmaking during the year. As of late, I’ve realized if you have seen at least a dozen films since 2000 then you have seen them all.
Indeed, there are exceptions to this thought, such as the films of Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson, but overall, they are pretty much the same. With all due respect to Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, how many times do I need to see them portray an iconic figure? I want some originality, please.
“Prometheus” was a picture that was excellent, but did it meet the excellence of “Alien”? “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was a solid picture that came out earlier this year, but was it on par with “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”? Many consider “The Campaign” to be a funny picture, but is it as funny as a Leslie Nielsen, Groucho Marx or even Rodney Dangerfield movie?
The paucity of ideas from the major studios in the United States doesn’t help either. How many reboots, remakes and reimaginings do we need? There have been some minds in the neoteric age that have given us original material, (again) including Nolan and Anderson.
Even foreign films aren’t producing high-quality pictures like they used to. Remember back in the day when those in Canada and the U.S. were given gems on a regular basis? “The Seventh Seal,” “The Bicycle Thief,” “Diabolique” and “M” just to name a few.
In conclusion, there are many causes for a bleak summer 2012: a weak economy, piracy and talentless people (heck, Burt Lancaster wasn’t talented but he was in some decent films). At least we do have a handful of saviors who can deliver us from the trenches of all of the Michael Bays, Judd Apatows and Tyler Perrys.
When it comes to cinema, all I have to say is a Howard Beale (Peter Finch) quote from the 1976 Sidney Lumet movie “Network,” “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
When I need my entertainment needs, my fiancée and I will just head on down to Bay Street Video and watch the stuff from the 1920s all the way to the 1960s. Upon inserting the disc and the picture begins, I quote Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale in the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz,” “There’s no place like home.”
Note to Hollywood: I do not want to see a film based on an inspiring true story from the makers of “Pride and Prejudice” starring the nauseating Channing Tatum, Keira Knightley, Nicolas Cage and Zac Efron.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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