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Don’t panic. Hollywood knows what to do.... doesn't it?


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This is an article I thought raised the fairly interesting subject, that of Hollywood’s perceptions on the future of cinema and where they’re no doubt eager to take it over the next decade or two.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8769622/site/newsweek/

 

Admittedly the article itself is somewhat a fluff piece, hardly as scathing or as well written as the subject matter perhaps deserves, but Romier and I were talking about it in depth over AOL and we certainly thought it enough to get the ball rolling on potentially finding out where LCVG members stand on the issue.

 

I find it interesting, and certainly a little unsettling, that technology actually seems to be Hollywood’s answer to everything these days. The fall in box office receipts they blame squarely on two things; piracy, and the rise of DVD and home theatre -since, as the article suggests, they would assume we’d all rather watch a movie at home alone given the choice.

 

Are they rushing a “digital revolution” in film distribution before its even ready to truly begin, assuming it can genuinely gain acceptance to begin? I tend to cringe when I see studios speaking on the cinema goers behalf. The Island and Stealth barely managed to take $13million dollars over their opening weekends hammering that final nail of the coffin of this summer being one of Hollywood’s most tepid on recent record. Are they right in assuming our tastes are better suited to our home theatres, or have the general masses finally started to become tired of the same old spate of loud and obnoxious summer blockbusters that’s really, in my opinion, been forced upon us for almost a decade now since the major summer successes of 1996 really kick started a new era of the level (frequently lack) of quality we received and how such films were promoted. If tastes are changing, why would The Island fail and Fantastic Four still manage to do well over an admittedly very brief period? Could people have gone over opening weekend in the hope of another X-men of X2? Was that it? I just don’t know.

 

 

The studios will be the last to admit it’s their movies turning people off going to the cinema, so they blame it on the fact we can enjoy a far more stable presentation of a film on our home theatres. Yet, as with their outcries of piracy over Oscar screeners, I personally believe that this is a problem they have actually conjured up themselves thanks to their over obsession with DVD sales and rental revenues and cropping the average theatrical to home video timeframe from six to eight months to three to five.

They then continue to do nothing to aid the quality of theatrical exhibition thanks to the rushed mass production of as many film prints for as many multiplex screens they can cram their movies into, and they back this up with an utter lack of donations given to cinemas for them to uphold a level of presentation quality in their theatres.

People blame the theatres, but their revenue is predominantly via the sale of junk food. It’s not their fault they can’t train their staff and maintain high standards. It’s daunting to think that no decision Hollywood makes, and none of these predictions they have as to the future of distribution and presentation, are actually ones that have any benefit to anyone but themselves.

 

Just last week all the Hollywood studios set out a standard for digital projection and offered to foot the bill to install it in the majority of movie theatres. I remain unsure as to whether they genuinely believe it a worthy competitor to the very best that a film print can deliver, but lets not kid ourselves that we’re going to be the ones who actually benefit the most from the implementation of this technology. It’s clearly their belief that with digital projection, as well as saving on the cost of making prints in multiple languages, they can fight a stronger battle against piracy.

 

You can read the 176-page proposal here (over half of it is about copy-protection).

 

Now, the potential of digital projection can not be discarded. It has great potential, but at the moment it is costly to install, costly for the cinemas to maintain, and what’s more, the latest digital projection technology tends to become obsolete within three years, meaning the current 2k and 4k spec they have in their mandate for D-Cinema will be yesterdays news by the time the majority of theatre’s have it installed. Even the best Sony 4k SXRD theatrical projector at its current spec is not going to be up to the job of meeting the quality of a 35mm show print, which really should be the minimum in quality they are looking to emulate across the board with the digital systems….but then again, none of this is actually being implemented with the cinemagoers benefit in mind and flaws in the specification, like lack of ability to show films of a 2.39:1 ratio at a projectors full resolution, help prove it.

 

The MSNBC/Nesweek article is interesting in showing that things are potentially moving toward a future that the actual creative talent is most fearful of. It’s not that unlike the push toward digital projection and HD cameras replacing 35mm equipment, technology that in its conception has called little upon the experts who are actually left to use it (this is just recently starting to change slightly with the cameras at long last however). Technologies like that gain bad reputation amongst seasoned cinematographers and filmmakers because it’s still not giving them better results or making their job any easier. It is at the moment technology only more pleasing to the number crunchers in the studio offices from a financial point of view, and so now these same number crunchers are dreaming of a future where films can not even be enjoyed as their makers intended, and they truly believe this is what we want?

 

Even if this potential future where a DVD or HD-DVD streets the same day as the theatrical release, or everything is beamed into our homes is not what the general film fan would prefer, is this nevertheless a future we’re going to be forced into anyway thanks to the studios’ beliefs and their lack of interest in providing us with a well funded and supported theatrical alternative to truly better that which we’ll be able to achieve at home? We’re not so tired of shared social experiences, are we?

 

Daniel

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I think three major things have contributed to the decline of movie theaters (in no particular order):

 

- The Emergence of Home Theaters: Throughout most of television's history, movies have been one step ahead. Televisions were black and white, while movies were in color. Televisions got color but movies had widescreen. Televisions got stereo sound, but movies had surround sound. Now where are we at? People now have high definition widescreen color digital televisions (and front projectors) with surround sound and access to thousands of DVDs to watch. All a home theater is missing now is the sticky floor. Hey now, I'm talking about spilt soda, you sicko.

 

- The High Price of Going to the Movies: Let's see, $10 per ticket for adults and $7 for kids, $5 for one popcorn, and $3 for a drink. For a family of 4, that's $51 to go see a movie (assuming they each get a drink and share 1 popcorn). New releases on DVD are usually in the $15-17 range, a microwave popcorn pack and a 2-liter bottle of soda costs about $3. So for that same family of 4, they're spending about $20 to watch a movie at home. And they get to keep a copy of the movie to watch again at their leisure (and it usually includes special features like featurettes, director commentaries, etc.) and can pause it for bathroom breaks, etc. If they were renting DVDs through something like Netflix, it would be even cheaper (although they wouldn't get to keep it obviously).

 

- The Window of Exclusivity: The exclusive window that theaters had for new movies has shrunk to absurd levels. What once was 6 months to a year or more has now become 3 months. Sure, from a marketing perspective, you'd want to put the DVD out while the movie still has buzz and is on the consumer's mind. However, the phrase "Let's go to the movies!" has now been replaced by "Let's wait for the DVD!" Hardcore movie fans that have to see a movie when it's first released won't wait, but the more casual moviegoer is more likely to wait if the wait is only a matter of 3-6 months.

 

If you'll notice, none of these are even related to the quality of the movies that appear in the movie theaters. I really don't think it's an issue of movies being any worse than they have been in the past. The digital age is here but I highly doubt simply switching movie theaters from film to digital is the panacea to the decline of movie theaters. I think from here on out, movie ticket sales will decline every year and eventually, that industry will be completely gone, replaced by some kind of pay-per-view movies-on-demand industry and the home video industry (DVDs, HD-DVD, Blu-ray, etc.).

 

Edit: added this part in below

 

Even if this potential future where a DVD or HD-DVD streets the same day as the theatrical release, or everything is beamed into our homes is not what the general film fan would prefer, is this nevertheless a future we?re going to be forced into anyway thanks to the studios? beliefs and their lack of interest in providing us with a well funded and supported theatrical alternative to truly better that which we?ll be able to achieve at home? We?re not so tired of shared social experiences, are we?

 

To me, it's all about the content, not the delivery mechanism. Star Wars is still a great movie whether I watch it in a movie theater or at home. I think in many ways, the shared social experience of going to the movies has become a negative aspect for many people as well (the cellphones, the talking, the baby crying, people kicking your chair or blocking your view, etc.). To fill people's need for shared social experiences, there's always sporting events where crowds can feel like they can have an impact on the outcome by cheering on their team.

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Hollywood needs to quit worrying so much about piracy and focus on puting out quality movies. The quality of movies these days is horrible. Summer blockbusters are nothing more than an overose of CGI, tons of explosions, bad dialogue, horrible acting, and pretty faces. I can count the # of movies I've bought on one hand that were released on dvd from the year 2000 until now. Most of the dvd's I own are movies released in the 80's or 90's. Anyway I'm so sick of Hollywood blaming things like piracy when the quality of movies is consistantly so shitty. Same thing goes for the music/video game industry. Quality products almost always sell well.

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Don't forget the absolute lack of courtesy by other movie goers. I love to see films theatrically. I also love my home theater, but going to the movies is more than just seeing the film. It's the experience of seeing that movie that stays with me. Going out of the house with my wife and some friends and having a good discussion about the film afterwards etc. I love that. Why must it be disturbed by rude assholes that need to have thier cellphones on? (and have full conversations in the middle of a movie) Or people that just *HAVE* to prop thier feet up on a chair and kick the back of your seat all night (I've almost gotten into physical confrontations over that)?

 

I remember a time when an Usher would routinely walk about the theater during a movie and ask people to put thier feet down (I've seen people kicked out of theaters for that way back in the day). Ushers would ask people to quiet down or take the conversation outside. I wish we could go back to that type of atmosphere. The local Regal cinema here actually had metal detectors to check for cell phones before people entered the theater (this was recent too). I wish they would continue to do that, but alas as Daniel mentioned they have barely the money to keep up with the technological curve much less pay for extra employees to enforce these type of rules.

 

I do believe that the theatrical experience has, in some cases, become more trouble than it's worth for people. Why go out and be aggrivated by Bob the dickhead who can't shut off his damned cell phone for 2 hours when you can just watch the film on DVD (on a great HT) in the comfort of your own home?

 

EDIT: Just saw your edit your Masta. ;)

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I rarely go to the movie theater. Unless its Wars, Trek, LOTR , Spidey or some other major movie I am looking forward to I do not go to. I'd rather watch it in my home theater in my comfortable recliner, with my $13 dvd, 50 cent bottle of water/soda and snack. I dont have people kicking the chair, talking, sneezing, cell phone ringing or babies crying. I do agree that a problem for the theaters is the sudden surge in home theaters , and the lower prices of buying movies right when the new releases come out.

 

capt

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To fill people's need for shared social experiences, there's always sporting events where crowds can feel like they can have an impact on the outcome by cheering on their team.

 

This is a very salient point, but interestingly I’m not sure if you were aware at the time of writing how relevant such examples are to a whole other potential aspect I didn’t even bring up before. I didn’t actually mean to focus on the advent of digital projection in a major way to influence this discussion - as I say I think it is great technology, but is unlikely to be able to deliver standards of the best film prints and projection until we have laser projectors, already on demo in Japan, in about ten to fifteen years.

However, there is an interesting future whereby digital projection in theatres could blur the line between the home and the silver screen even further where potentially the screening of sporting events and concerts at your local multiplex could become a regular occurrence.

 

 

I actually want to bring IMAX into the mix here. Ever since they started doing these IMAX DMR presentations of films sourced on 35mm, studios have been looking toward large-format again. I had initially hoped this would see them resurrect shooting some features on 65mm film again, and although about 30% of Terrence Mallick’s The New World was shot on 65mm, Peter Jackson’s dream to shoot Lord of the Rings in 65mm, and Bryan Singer’s dream to shoot Superman Returns on 65mm were shattered early in production. Singer got as far as shooting his screen tests on 65mm, but ironically they’ve been shooting HD on Superman with a few things having to be done on 35mm. I’d still argue if Kenneth Branagh could shoot Hamlet in 65mm, with that cast, and those kind of production values all for a budget of $18million then nothing could stop films being shot large format today, but in the past ten years Hollywood has allowed film crews to grow to needless sizes, actors to receive obscene salaries and so on. That’s a whole other rant from me however.

 

Still, whilst Hollywood may foolishly never allow major feature films to be shot in 65mm again, or even allow big features to be shot on IMAX negative due to the expense, these 35mm to IMAX conversions seem to be gaining more and more interest amongst studios and filmmakers (ironically the cost of conversion on top of a film’s existing budget ends up being close to that of something sourced on 65mm).

If there’s any future in cinema offering an experience over the home it could well be the mainstream implementation of the IMAX system, or a version of it. I’ve often found IMAX to be an engrossing enough experience to keep an audience respectful, although I have to say audiences in the West End of London are almost inherently well mannered so I may be speaking for myself here.

 

 

Responses so far are starting to move in the direction I expected, and hoped for, that at the end of the day we’d all rather go to the cinema to see a movie for the first time if we felt it was going to be a worthy experience. Would anyone disagree? Is anyone literally longing for the day the latest films are beamed into your living room, where you never have to step foot in a cinema again even if they managed to make the cinema going experience a rewarding and worthwhile one again?

 

Daniel

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Like most of you, I've loved movies, and going to the movies, for as long back as I can remember. My earliest movie memory...I think...is the first run of The Aristocats.

 

Considering the company I keep here at LCVG, there are probably many of you that have been into home theater since it was a dolby pro-logic tape of Top Gun, so you could hear the jets fly over your head. That's about where I jumped in.

 

I have to admit that the advent of kick ass home theater equipment...AFFORDABLE kick ass home theater equipment, has made it possible for me to have a better theater experience at home, than at the theater itself. Hell, there is now home theater specialty seating!

 

And that's purely from a technical point of view. Don't even get me started on the cellphone, jackasses, talkers, farters, and seatback bumpers... :mad:

 

As for the movies themselves, I'd have to say...honestly...that I'm less and less enthused about much that comes out anymore. This year I've seen Batman, Star Wars (duh), Wedding Crashers, annnnnnnnnnnnd...I think that's it. The rest of the titles haven't made me want to get up and see them.

 

Pretty much, only the really big titles, really anticipated ones, will I bother with the movie experience. But I do admit, it's alot of fun being in a room full of fans of the movie you're seeing. The Star Wars experience, on opening week, was something that would never be copied in a home.

 

Other than Spiderman 3, X-man 3....another Batman....DEFINITELY The Hobbit (come on Pete Jackson!), there isn't anything that I can think of, on the horizon or further, that I'm even mildly interested in.

 

....maybe The DaVinci Code, due out next year. Oh yeah, King Kong. :)

 

In a small way, maybe even the "stars" themselves are part of the downturn in Hollywood-dom. Once upon a time, they were bigger than life, glamourous, high class. Probably thinking back further than my time but, over the decades, we seem to have "stars" that get arrested alot for being drunks, drug addicts, wife beaters, murderers, amateur porn stars, ect. They've shown us, and really drive home the point, that they aren't glamourous in the least. In fact, they're just really REALLY overpaid trailer trash.

 

Some of these people might be able to buy a small state but, it certainly doesn't seem to be enough to buy some class.

 

Not all, mind you. In fact, it's probably the least but, with the way infotainment is today, all you hear about is the skanks like Paris Hilton, pieces of shit like OJ, freaks like Jackson...you get the picture.

 

As for the tech side of the coin, again, the theaters can spruce up their technical offering all they want. Doesn't affect me much since my stuff at home sounds good enough for me. All I need is a new high def TV, and I'm all set...and an Xbox 360. ;)

 

Theater will either have to do some astounding technical advancement to really make me excited again to go to the theater, beyond the "big" titles, or make more titles you really want to see. How much better is the screen going to look with the next generation? How much better is the sound going to sound with the next round of improvements? And is it going to be enough to entice Joe Sixpack and his family, to drop 50 or 60 bucks to see some typical, lame ass movie?

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The two biggest factors I see at the moment are the DVD window and the number of films out there, really.

 

I predict that we'll go another decade at least to see something beat 'Titanic'. Return Of The King came the closest so far, but even with much-increased ticket prices over those few years only got a bit over halfway there. This summer we're desperately short on weekends where there isn't a new $100M+ (and often quite a lot plus) film out, and most of them will be out on DVD within 4 months anyway. These films would once make their money back and a healthy profit on repeat sales, lording it over the summer as that year's breakout hit, and so cover the one or two other big-budget films that studio had released to flop as well.

 

Nowadays, unless you're an absolute film addict, you've probably not got a chance to see half the films you'd like to once before they're gone and replaced by something else, let alone the 5 times I saw The Matrix, the 3 times I saw Titanic and so on. And then the short wait for the disc means you probably wouldn't want to, even if you did have the time.

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In a small way, maybe even the "stars" themselves are part of the downturn in Hollywood-dom. Once upon a time, they were bigger than life, glamourous, high class. Probably thinking back further than my time but, over the decades, we seem to have "stars" that get arrested alot for being drunks, drug addicts, wife beaters, murderers, amateur porn stars, ect. They've shown us, and really drive home the point, that they aren't glamourous in the least. In fact, they're just really REALLY overpaid trailer trash.

 

I'd go as far as to credit this as having an impact in a big way to be honest with you, at least as far as values of actual film production costs are concerned. Consider that an actor is one who certainly contributes a lot of hard work on a film (the good ones at least), but still is one who puts in the least amount of time on a movie but will more often than not take home the most money on your typical budget-big budget feature. So many receive obscene pay checks with the biggest demanding anything from $15-25million per movie, and they often do two pictures a year…. This eats into production costs, but it doesn’t end with actors fees.

 

Producers are just as bad, with more than three frequently bound to any single movie, and in general, the size of production crews has just spiralled needlessly out of control over the past decade.

 

More of a movie’s budget goes into paying everyone off now than it does into actually funding what you’re going to end up seeing on screen. People knock Kubrick for often going over schedule on his shoots. He did, but what many don’t realise is that he rarely went over budget. His crews were small and efficient and as such, on top of his supreme talent, Warner let the man do anything. Spielberg keeps his crew small and is often making films of high production standards quickly and for decent sub 90million dollar budgets, although the War of the Worlds budget baffles me as to where a lot of it went. Cruise doesn’t take an up front fee anymore to the best of my knowledge. Instead he just takes box office gross. Let’s also not forget actors who demand tens of millions per movie also take box office and DVD gross percentages on top of their fees too via their union contracts.

 

Robert Rodriguez is a very efficient filmmaker. I don’t particularly like his movies, but his attempt to do practically every job himself fascinates me. I think he goes too far in trying to do everything, and certainly his lack of experience in some aspects of film production that he’s attempted to take on himself in recent films shows a lot of the time, but again he is someone who keeps his crews small, he’s thusly allowed to do whatever he wishes and each of his films will always go into profit theatrically. It really only takes fix or six key crew members, including the director, to make a movie. In Hollywood though? Add your assistants, your assistants to your assistances, your first AD, your second AD, your third AD and so on and so on, and it just snowballs out of control.

 

I can’t see it ever changing unless Hollywood could respect the fact that the majority of film goers are not actually that dumb, that they will embrace a good film even if it doesn't sport huge names (I think the continuing success of more foreign films is proving this).

 

Was it Julia Roberts who really helped kick off these obscene fees in the 90s? Once one gets a deal, they all want it, and who are their agents to argue? The more money the agent gets for their client, the bigger their 10-15% return from their actor’s fee is going to be. Without big names, studios don’t believe they have a movie, so they can’t refuse. It’s frustrating because you see these people in the public eye with so much money and so little class as you rightly say, and this rubs off on the kids today who revere them which in turn fuels generations of youngsters who are shockingly fame and money hungry.

 

Daniel

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As others mentioned, HT certainly has hit the bottom line of movie theaters. I think it's much like video games and arcades. Back in the day, you had to go to an arcade to play the newest games with the best graphics and sound. Now we go far beyond that on home consoles.

 

With HT's, we now have the movie expeirence at home, and in many cases, a better overall viewing expeirence. In addition to having good equipement, you get the best seat, you can talyor the sound level to your tastes, and you can pause while you take a leak or grab a snack. Missed a key peice of dialog because your friend just sneezed? Replay it. Personally, I'm all for same day releases. I usually wait for the DVD anyway unless it's a huge blockbuster like Joey pointed out.

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The truth though (IMHO) is that Hollywood really isn't in any trouble at all, they are just greedy as hell. No big film released this summer will be in the red after it is released on DVD, not even the real bombs like Stealth. DVD sales virtually guarantee a movie will make back it's cost over a reasonable amount of time. For a bigger movie like The Incredibles or Shrek, the amount of profit after DVD sales is staggering.

 

Just like any other industry, the studios have become so greedy that nothing but soaring profits and dizzying increased year on year sales will do. Like the stock market and land sales of the late 1920s in America, there is only so far you can take that sort of plan before it crashes. The stock market wasn't insoluable, real estate wasn't a bad deal, it was the greed of all that was out of control. And ironically during the depression (1930-1941) is when the movies really took off as a main form of entertainment. Why? Because it was a cheap night out to see a film for 25c and get a popcorn/soda for 10c extra! In other words, it was an affordable social entertainment for people to enjoy. And I believe the studios and theaters split the money fairly equally, so owning a theater was a profitable investment.

 

Fast forward to today. Tickets cost around $10 if you are lucky and forget about popcorn or soda if you have any sense of economy. Of that $10, I'd guess $8 proably goes back to the studio, the theater keeps just enough to scrape by. So how can they afford extra ushers, uniforms, or new projectors and sound improvements? They really can't.

 

 

So what is the social entertainment of choice today? Home theaters, probably. Over time the investment is only as expensive as you allow it to be and a good time can be had with a 30" TV and a $60 DVD player (obviously, it can scale up from there ;) .) But really when our family wants to do something we typically take a walk or drive out to a local park. Denver might be exceptionally family friendly, but in any town around here there are some seriously nice public parks and rec centers. Total cost to us? Maybe $10-20 if we decide to bring a picnic dinner or something similar.

 

It's not that we never take our kids to the movies, but at $45 for the whole crew versus $0-20 for a park visit (and exercise for all), the weight of economy falls away from seeing a show.

 

Now this part is IMHO, but I think it would be great if Hollywood ran into a great big money pit. The bloated studios could collapse, smaller theaters could get a breather, ticket prices would plummet, and the indie devs might well take up some of the slack. People will never stop wanting to go see movies, but the allure of high budget, low thinking flicks is overrated. Especially if something like, oh I don't know, oil prices were to sap the US economy, housing prices dropped back to sane levels, and send the the country into some sort of protracted recession.

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Responses so far are starting to move in the direction I expected, and hoped for, that at the end of the day we?d all rather go to the cinema to see a movie for the first time if we felt it was going to be a worthy experience. Would anyone disagree? Is anyone literally longing for the day the latest films are beamed into your living room, where you never have to step foot in a cinema again even if they managed to make the cinema going experience a rewarding and worthwhile one again?

 

You can count me in the camp that would probably never set foot in a movie theater again if DVDs (or whatever home video format) came out the same day as it did in the movie theaters. Maybe I'd go to see something in Imax but the cheap price and special features of DVDs and the quality and convenience of home theaters would make it my first choice.

 

In a small way, maybe even the "stars" themselves are part of the downturn in Hollywood-dom. Once upon a time, they were bigger than life, glamourous, high class. Probably thinking back further than my time but, over the decades, we seem to have "stars" that get arrested alot for being drunks, drug addicts, wife beaters, murderers, amateur porn stars, ect. They've shown us, and really drive home the point, that they aren't glamourous in the least. In fact, they're just really REALLY overpaid trailer trash.

 

I feel what passes for "journalism" and "news" today is part of the problem. Whether society's thirst for "gossip" and "dirt" has changed what constitutes news or vice versa, there is no doubt the amount of reporting of celebrity non-news as news has reached an all-time high (Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, etc.). It seems the general public wants to learn EVERYTHING about their favorite celebrities. If you shine that kind of light on any group of people, they're not going to look "bigger than life, glamorous, high class". However, I will agree that stars/celebrities have become more trashy as well. Perhaps this is just a reflection of society, what is acceptable, what sells nowadays.

 

Was it Julia Roberts who really helped kick off these obscene fees in the 90s? Once one gets a deal, they all want it, and who are their agents to argue? The more money the agent gets for their client, the bigger their 10-15% return from their actor?s fee is going to be. Without big names, studios don?t believe they have a movie, so they can?t refuse. It?s frustrating because you see these people in the public eye with so much money and so little class as you rightly say, and this rubs off on the kids today who revere them which in turn fuels generations of youngsters who are shockingly fame and money hungry.

 

I always look back on Marlon Brando's multi-million dollar salary for two weeks of work for 1978's Superman the Movie (and Superman II footage that never made it into the theatrical release) as the start of the madness. Action stars like Governor Arnold took it to new heights-- $30 million dollar salaries, multi-million dollar jets, etc. It's become like modern day sports where star players' salaries are crazy high, the owners complain they're losing money but can't help but sign players to stupidly high contracts, etc. Maybe the movie industry needs to institute a salary cap to save itself from itself? :D

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I feel what passes for "journalism" and "news" today is part of the problem. Whether society's thirst for "gossip" and "dirt" has changed what constitutes news or vice versa, there is no doubt the amount of reporting of celebrity non-news as news has reached an all-time high (Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, etc.). It seems the general public wants to learn EVERYTHING about their favorite celebrities. If you shine that kind of light on any group of people, they're not going to look "bigger than life, glamorous, high class". However, I will agree that stars/celebrities have become more trashy as well. Perhaps this is just a reflection of society, what is acceptable, what sells nowadays.

 

I don't think the stars have really changed that much. The ones in the past were a pretty screwed up bunch, too, but the level of media scrutiny has increased exponentially and it doesn't really help the marketing of the films. As an example, my fiancee was a huge Angelina Jolie fan when I first met her but she can barely stand to look at her nowadays.

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I don't think the stars have really changed that much. The ones in the past were a pretty screwed up bunch, too, but the level of media scrutiny has increased exponentially and it doesn't really help the marketing of the films. As an example, my fiancee was a huge Angelina Jolie fan when I first met her but she can barely stand to look at her nowadays.

 

I completely agree that movie stars of old weren't scandal-free boy scouts and virgin nuns. The studio system back then was much more protective of the actors and actresses in its stable of talent (and with good reason as stars were contracted for multiple movies with studios instead of one-and-out type deals that are the norm now). They groomed them to be stars in essence and tightly controlled their image.

 

But the stars, studios, and society are much different now. Good buzz, bad buzz... it's just buzz now. The line between fame and notoriety has virtually been erased (up to a point obviously as certain things are still too taboo, unacceptable, etc.). I think many of today's stars are savvy enough to embrace and exploit that.

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For a bigger movie like The Incredibles or Shrek, the amount of profit after DVD sales is staggering.

 

It’s actually amusing to see Hollywood's reaction to The Incredibles and Shrek 2 DVD sales, reactions that absolutely show up their greed. Both Disney and Dreamworks respectively overestimated each films DVD sales to shareholders by some margin, though not nearly enough to deem either release a failure. DVD sales are settling down as buying habits of consumers appear to be becoming that little bit less impulsive. Sales are still through the roof, but the slightest dip has them quaking in their boots now and desperate to churn out new re-issues on DVD, and of course an entirely new format so they can sell us all the same movies again.

 

Fast forward to today. Tickets cost around $10 if you are lucky and forget about popcorn or soda if you have any sense of economy. Of that $10, I'd guess $8 proably goes back to the studio, the theater keeps just enough to scrape by. So how can they afford extra ushers, uniforms, or new projectors and sound improvements? They really can't.

 

That’s exactly right, and it’s going to be harder for them for a good while as digital projection is forced upon them. Hollywood has been reluctant for years to foot the bill. Cinemas certainly couldn’t afford too, so it’s interesting to see this new turn of events – although it is fuelled by the studios want for greater control and copy protection for theatrical exhibition. 35mm projectors are actually very stable and reliable, and the studios simply won’t be funding the chains to help maintain the new equipment they’re being handed. Little in the eyes of the consumer is going to improve.

 

 

Now this part is IMHO, but I think it would be great if Hollywood ran into a great big money pit. The bloated studios could collapse, smaller theaters could get a breather, ticket prices would plummet, and the indie devs might well take up some of the slack. People will never stop wanting to go see movies, but the allure of high budget, low thinking flicks is overrated. Especially if something like, oh I don't know, oil prices were to sap the US economy, housing prices dropped back to sane levels, and send the the country into some sort of protracted recession.

 

I’m longing for another 70s where fresh and unique filmmakers came to inherit the failing industry, but it’s just never going to happen. Of course, it wasn’t long after that phase of ‘new Hollywood; that multi-billion dollar conglomerates took over each and every studio in the 80s and early 90s. We’re now left with Disney as the only independently run studio (who of course narrowly avoided the Comcast takeover), and Dreamworks, although it is now looking increasingly likely they will become part of NBC/Universal before the year is out.

 

When Dreamworks was formed in 1994 I thought there could finally be a studio that leads the way for a new era. It actually had some creative talent involved at the top! Instead, they followed every other studio like lemmings. Spielberg’s directorial outings under the studio aside, American Beauty, The Contender (the latter which they bought, but not funded), and to a lesser degree Road to Perdition are the only films in their catalogue that I feel stand out as being something interesting. I also think Mousehunt was one of the most enjoyable family films I’ve seen in the past ten years. For every one of those is a Eurotrip and a Road trip, a Ring, a Ring Two, a BikerBoyz and so on. Often I found it hard to tell Dreamworks releases apart from some of the appalling stuff Universal has been releasing.

 

I do wonder, was Dreamworks doomed from the start or have they brought their failure upon themselves by doing as the others do? Is it by doing as the others have done that has resulted in their being no place or purpose for another major studio in Hollywood?

 

 

I always look back on Marlon Brando's multi-million dollar salary for two weeks of work for 1978's Superman the Movie (and Superman II footage that never made it into the theatrical release) as the start of the madness. Action stars like Governor Arnold took it to new heights-- $30 million dollar salaries, multi-million dollar jets, etc. It's become like modern day sports where star players' salaries are crazy high, the owners complain they're losing money but can't help but sign players to stupidly high contracts, etc.

 

But the stars, studios, and society are much different now. Good buzz, bad buzz... it's just buzz now. The line between fame and notoriety has virtually been erased (up to a point obviously as certain things are still too taboo, unacceptable, etc.). I think many of today's stars are savvy enough to embrace and exploit that.

 

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think we’d dare to assume it was never like this even back in the Golden Age of course, but people within the entertainment industry seemed to know their place that little bit better back then. It was harder to have a sustainable career and truly be branded a star; it was harder to earn your fame. As such it was easier to have genuine respect for stars of the past.

 

Now days it is so incredibly easy to obtain some level of fame, and it’s more often than not a very arrogant and self obsessed level of fame. As you rightly point out, this all goes hand in hand with the excuses for journalism that chose to parade these peoples’ lives and spending habits as stories worthy of anyone’s attention.

 

Daniel

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I'd go as far as to credit this as having an impact in a big way[/i'] to be honest with you, at least as far as values of actual film production costs are concerned.

 

I'd definitely agree, but not quite at the Tom Cruise level. Cruise can command that level of Gross points because the producers (rightly or wrongly, but I suspect they're not too far off) think that adding him to the picture will, between the 'star factor' and the fact that he's a good actor, increase the amount of money that they take by that much over getting someone cheaper.

 

The BIG problem I see is that while there are a few stars at the top end where that's true, the ones on the second, third and fourth tiers are getting millions too. Does sticking, say, Ioan Grufford in a picture really justify paying him several million? Sarah Michelle Gellar? I could go on, for quite some time.

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I'd definitely agree, but not quite at the Tom Cruise level. Cruise can command that level of Gross points because the producers (rightly or wrongly, but I suspect they're not too far off) think that adding him to the picture will, between the 'star factor' and the fact that he's a good actor, increase the amount of money that they take by that much over getting someone cheaper.

 

Oh absolutely. Cruise knows his audience attraction level just as well, which is why as I say he no longer actually takes an up front salary for his movies. He just takes box office gross which usually ends up being more than any single star's large salary. Of course, there are those - the majority of big names in fact- who take the salary and the percentage of grosses from theatrical and home video sales, and few of those same stars will budge on lowering their fee. The news of Ben Affleck’s agreement to “lower” his fee to something like $14million for a production recently made me laugh out loud. I forget the film in question. It may have been the George Reeves biopic.

 

Some big names like Clooney and Depp are not unwilling to drastically lower, even wave their fees for work they genuinely consider a worthwhile challenge, and for that they get my respect.

 

The BIG problem I see is that while there are a few stars at the top end where that's true, the ones on the second, third and fourth tiers are getting millions too. Does sticking, say, Ioan Grufford in a picture really justify paying him several million? Sarah Michelle Gellar? I could go on, for quite some time.

 

Truly. I don't even what to think what that utter twat Asthon whatshisface makes.

 

Daniel

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Daniel;

 

Let me ask you something. If you could see a movie the day it is released in your home, with a perfect High Definition image, crystal clear Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound, without the hassle of buying a ticket, going to the theater, dealing with disruptive crowds, sticky floors, cell phones, outrageous concession stand prices and do it all for a price significantly less than the average price of one adult ticket, why in God's name would you want to continue going to the theater?

 

And I am completely serious in asking this.

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Costs are up because of paying big-name stars. But it works. People don't say "what was the name of that movie about....xxx..." they say "what was that new Morgan Freeman movie?" (No bash on Freeman, he rocks)

 

Costs trickle down to theaters. Theaters make barely any many on movie tickets which are forced to me more and more expensive. They charge us like $3.75 for a small popcorn that costs about $.10. People start getting grouchy about this. No one seems to realize, hey, maybe we should cut costs somewhere instead of raising prices. Did these people ever take economics classes?

 

My wife loves the movies, she has a corkboard of movie tickets she has pinned up - trying to make some use out of the old tickets. She used to go to the movies (and drag me with her) every single Friday (and boy did we see some crappy movies).

 

We still go to see independent movies (about 1.5-2 hour drive to Ann Arbor for the day - at least $15 in gas). But we go to visit Wizzywig's anime store, grab chinese, go to Pinball Pete's, etc. But geez, Chinese @ TK Wu's before the movie costs about the same as a popcorn and a pop at the theater! :lmfao

 

At least at the indy theater they use real butter :drool instead of that super-hydrogonated death-oil they put on it at the normal theaters.

 

Cause the Hollywood attitude these days is blow-shit-up-hey-look-its-Tom-Cruise-OMG. I don't even watch sci-fi anymore in recent years, for example, it has to be the worst genre example of the blow-shit-up mentality. Pretty much only the Matrix sequels, Star Wars ep 3, and comic book movies.

 

I've got about 100" of DLP projected screen. Ever since the upgrade from the tiny 27", I pass up movies that normally I would have seen. Cause I know they aren't that great, and probably wouldn't hold a candle to, say, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine, etc (all saw in the theaters). Rather than chancing $11-$15 on it at the movies in our local town, I wait, and will buy the DVD blind instead for the same price. At least if the movie isn't that great I can sell the DVD. Or maybe I will just rent it. I mean, 35mm is awesome, and a theater is awesome, but not for most movies, not for $15. Movies should cost like $4 a pop or something, like not much more than a DVD rental. You'd get a lot more takers.

 

I'm not a HUGE movie snob. I mean, I have my niches were I'm a sucker. Post Apocolyptic (or Apocolyptic) movies, historical movies, some comic books movies (pending decent reviews)etc.

Recent movies that come to mind: Constantine. Batman Begins. Alexander. Troy. Why chance $15 on a movie in the theater when the DVD will be out in 3 months? And at home I can make a $5 frozen pizza and a $1 pop to munch on if so desired.

 

 

Let me ask you something. If you could see a movie the day it is released in your home, with a perfect High Definition image, crystal clear Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound, without the hassle of buying a ticket, going to the theater, dealing with disruptive crowds, sticky floors, cell phones, outrageous concession stand prices and do it all for a price significantly less than the average price of one adult ticket, why in God's name would you want to continue going to the theater?

 

I'll answer this too. The list of hassles you have are overblown. Buying tickets is easy, crowds are rarely a problem (at least at midnight movies, we rarely see matinees), I've only heard 1-2 cellphones go off during a movie, we eat Taco Bell or chinese before the movie instead of buying munchies. The big screen 35mm and awesome sound in a movie is worth a little hassle. Just not the prices they charge these days. I've rarely encountered annoying people...except for movies that you know you will get it in...Scary Movie 2 comes to mind...

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If you could see a movie the day it is released in your home, with a perfect High Definition image, crystal clear Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound

 

I'll answer that one, too. I don't see me affording a 20-foot tall screen and soundproofing good enough to crank up to reference volume any time soon. When I do, then maybe the "hassle" of a minute spent with an online booking service followed by giving the grandparents the enjoyment of an evening of babysitting while we go and have some 'us' time then the ritual of going to a cinema to see a film properly might not have quite as much appeal. Even then I'm not sure.

 

The cost of drinks doesn't bother me. My rubbish bladder means I'd rather not increase my chances of missing part of the film for a loo break.

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Let me ask you something. If you could see a movie the day it is released in your home, with a perfect High Definition image, crystal clear Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound, without the hassle of buying a ticket, going to the theater, dealing with disruptive crowds, sticky floors, cell phones, outrageous concession stand prices and do it all for a price significantly less than the average price of one adult ticket, why in God's name would you want to continue going to the theater?

 

I'll start by saying that I certainly feel very fortunate to have easy access into London to get to the cinemas in Leicester Square. They’re immaculate, rarely show anything other than show prints (and even if they have to use a regular 35mm print it is in prime condition), the staff are good, the projectionists are trained and the audiences usually well mannered. These are cinemas where the cheaper daytime tickets are the equivalent of $17us per head during the day, and closer to $25 per head in the evening after 5pm. Why so high? It’s really the only way they can maintain their standards and gain revenue of ticket sales which few theatres can do. These are flagship establishments and they can just about get away with their prices. As such I am usually forgiving of the cost, at least during the daytime.

 

 

I've honestly never felt the need to eat in any cinema, and if I drink in there it's a bottle of water I bought elsewhere, so concession prices are of no consequence to me personally, though I agree they are high, but I also accept that in the case of a typical movie theatre it is their only source of real income.

 

 

Now my usual multiplex haunt, which is closer to home, is a somewhat different story. (UCI in Wycombe if you're reading, Iain. Don't know if you feel the same about the place). The staff are nice enough, but I do often get bad audiences there - and I'm curious as to what kind of crowd I will get with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this weekend. Prints of course come off the rush produced line from studios that go out to all general theatre chains, and having re-designed their auditoriums a couple of years ago, their screens are now too big and to close to the seating area which really shows up some of the inherent flaws in the average 35mm print. Tickets here are of course cheaper however, close to the equivalent of $5-$11.

 

Weighing up the two options I have to go and see movies makes me wonder whether a well kept auditorium, superb sound and exemplary projection manages to maintain an audiences respect and attention, and that just the opposite, poor staff, poor presentation and badly maintained auditoriums leads to crowds taking the experience for granted. If truth be told, a multiplex isn’t an experience. They’re cloned throughout the chains, stripping an auditorium of any unique features. Seen one, seen em all.

 

When you think of the theatre, and I am talking stage here, every theatre you go to is unique, and this is the way it was with classic single screen movie auditoriums of days gone by, and I’m grateful to still have access to the couple that remain in London because they do feel like an experience. Had the Star Wars marathon been in a multiplex and not a venue like the Empire in Leicester square the event wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable.

 

In the UK, buying a ticket whether it’s for those top cinemas in London or your typical multiplex is no hassle at all. You phone up, or you go online, and you book. Seating here is pre-assigned, and if you know the auditorium layout well you can use the option to speak to a real person and get the specific seat you want. One multiplex chain here even offers an online map of their auditoriums where you mouse over the seats you want and see precisely where you are in relation to the screen. Generally even the automatic booking over the phone or online look to giving you the best available seats.

 

I've only heard phones go off on occasion, and half the time people rush to switch them off immediately (the other half of course, answer them). It is rather rare though, even in the standard multiplexes I sometimes go to. Nevertheless, it is high time blockers were implemented as standard to stop cell-phones receiving a signal.

 

Now if I hypothetically deprive myself of having access to those classy cinemas in town, and answer your question, then of course even I side with home viewing, and there’s no question that Hi-definition will make our homes an even more popular choice, which is really why something must change theatrically. Given the choice of a good movie theatre and my home, even if I could project an HD DVD or Blu Ray disc at 1080p onto a 15ft screen under my own roof (and if you’ve the space and money, HD will allow us to do such things!), I’ll always go for the good movie theatres, but they are in short supply as I say, and unless going to the cinema is unique again this won’t change.

 

I’d say I am not at the stage yet where I’d embrace films piped into my home on opening day, but I’ve seen many films for the first time at home on DVD via my home theatre and there’s hardly any difference between one or the other. If there’s a down side to the classic well maintained single screen auditoriums it’s that because they only have one big screen, they’re not always going to be showing the films one might specifically want to see, and as such I am not able to see a lot of what I’d much rather see for the first time on the big screen.

 

Of course I write about all this stuff as someone who’s longed to write and make films since the age of eight. Back then it was a specific desire to explore animation, and it snowballed from there, so I kind of speak as someone concerned about the principal of the matter as it would affect a filmmaker. I’ve studied and worked to explore various aspects of the industry, but it’s certainly changed over the years enough to make me feel as if the way I grew up wanting to make certain types of films in a certain type of way is no longer available to any aspiring filmmaker. I’d like my work being on the big screen before a large and captive audience. I still can’t grasp the idea of a filmmaker who wouldn’t, but there’s going to be one last generation of hopefuls who think as I do, and then all these kids playing with DV cameras, growing up with the internet and HDTV are going to embrace shooting digitally and will no doubt embrace the idea of immediate home distribution because film distribution over HDTV, online downloads and DVD will be all they know. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they to will want their work in cinemas, but for the time being I’m concerned that the future may not give them the choice.

 

Daniel

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Being over here in Chesham, it's faster for me to get to Hemel Odeon, rather than Wycombe's UCI. It's better (though not Leicester Square better) too. But Finn means I've been seeing films recently in the UCI in Brighton. It's not ideal, and we do sometimes get idiots, but then they were kicked out 10 minutes into Batman Begins, so it's not all bad.

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I didn't see a film in the UK when I was over there, but I definitely get the feeling that they (the theater) would be much more likely to kick out the asshats than in the US. The brits are real sensitive about such things, ie - I never knew how much there was to being in a queue before I was in the UK. And they let you know it, hehe :D

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I?m longing for another 70s where fresh and unique filmmakers came to inherit the failing industry, but it?s just never going to happen.

Taking an alternate viewpoint, perhaps digital distribution to the home would allow something like this to happen, but not in a readily apparent manner.

 

The way film distribution is handled now works okay for mainstream, large-budget movies, but in my opinion it's pretty horribly suited to independent and alternative films. Not only for producers but for consumers as well. For your normal mainstream movie, you can just get together with friends, go to any of your local cinemas, find the playing time, and have a fun night out. For an independent movie, you have to convince anyone you're going with not only what the movie is about (since there's usually not much advertising) but that it's worth taking a risk on. Then, for most people, there's only one theater relatively nearby playing it, sometimes a long drive away, usually in a downtown area with bad/expensive parking, and they only have a limited number of engagements so there aren't nearly as many showtimes to choose from. From the producer/distributor point of view, independent movies probably don't look too attractive either. Even if the movie is already made and done, you're still looking at the non-trivial expense of transferring to film (for DV or non-35mm) and duplicating. Compared with the relative sure thing of a mainstream movie where they can dump $X in and get 2*$X back for the latest Tom Cruise vehicle (hey, I saw it, and thought it was pretty good), independent films are pretty risky. Digital distribution directly to the consumer would eliminate a lot of the risk for both sides. For things like foreign films, the traditional distribution process is just as bad as it is for indie movies - you have the cost of making more film (possibly with subs, and re-editing if you're Miramax :P), generating publicity and so on, for a film a lot of movie goers might not take the risk to see. Then by the time all that's done, 50% of the original nerds who wanted to see it have already imported the native-region DVD.

 

So would digital home distribution revolutionize the movie industry and destroy the mindless mainstream movie? Probably not. Would it allow more people to experiment with and support independent movies better? I say yes. With the majority of the distribution costs reduced or eliminated, and with more consumers purchasing a viewing of the movie at reduced risk from the comfort of their own home (after all, if it turns out to be a movie about gay cowboys eating pudding, they can just turn it off), independent, alternative, and foreign films would become a much more attractive investment for distributors.

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