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June 12, 2013 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predict ‘massive implosion’ in film industry.
posted by mazola (101 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it was Patton Oswalt who mentioned that all of the innovative work these days is done on cable, which is a complete reversal of how it was not that long ago.

When TV first started to hit big, movies struck back by doing things that only worked in movies: ever-larger screens, long stories, intricate plotting. Instead, now it's Retread 5 and Sequel 6, or 3D gimmickry.

The most amazing narrative I've seen all year was Arrested Development, which will probably be what people point to when they talk about the shift to the living room. That being said, there's a premium movie theater in town with amazing sound, excellent seating, and a projection system that probably cost more than the houses on my block. I'll totally go see Pacific Rim there and be happy as a clam there. So I'm probably part of the problem.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


From the director of Saving Private Ryan and the producer of Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Imagine Entertainment Presents a YouTube original, Mom Cat Hugs Sleepy Baby Cat.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:07 AM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


If more film theaters followed Spielberg's suggestion and copied the Alamo Drafthouse model - deeper, wider, and more comfortable chairs, on-call table service with a good, fresh menu and liquor (and because of that, no-one in the audience under 18) - I'd go see more movies, not less.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [70 favorites]


As Lucas painted it, the shift will present new opportunities both for consumers and filmmakers. Viewers will have access to a wide variety of programming, "usually more interesting than what you're going to see in the movie theater".

Whose fault is that, you fucking hack?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [72 favorites]


Fringe, Arrested Development and Community aside, I can't think of the last time I wanted to watch anything on the major television networks in the last ... I want to say 10 years. Maybe even 20, but I would be slighting some good Simpsons episodes I'm sure.
posted by chemoboy at 12:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I blame J.J. Abrams.
posted by George Lucas at 12:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [35 favorites]


"What you're going to end up with is fewer theaters," he (Lucas) said. "Bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150." It will be more in line with sporting events, with films playing in these high-end cinemas for as long as a year. "And that's going to be what we call ‘the movie business.' But everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo."

I thought it was professional sports that was heading for an unsustainable burnout, not movies. Charging people fifty bucks and up for a bad seat, where they watch millionaires play a simple game, can't be continued for long before people get fed up and stop paying... Hey, maybe the two industries do have a lot in common after all!
posted by Kevin Street at 12:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wouldn't say that Lucas' recent cinematic failures stem from a lack of imagination. Maybe a lack of taste or quality, but I wouldn't say the prequels were uninteresting. If they were, they wouldn't be so thoroughly hated.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:19 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I blame J.J. Abrams.
posted by George Lucas


Pot, it's the kettle. You're black.
posted by chemoboy at 12:19 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pot, it's the kettle. You're black.

I think you mean "POT, MESSA KETTLE. YOUSA BLACK".

[cue massive, yet oddly bloodless battle between frog people and robots where stakes = zero]
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [74 favorites]


Those are some pretty interesting predictions. I hadn't thought of movies becoming like Broadway musicals. I'm not sure I buy it, but it's a neat thought.
posted by painquale at 12:56 AM on June 13, 2013


Those are some pretty interesting predictions. I hadn't thought of movies becoming like Broadway musicals. I'm not sure I buy it, but it's a neat thought.

Broadway musicals cost that much because there are 50+ talented actors and musicians in front of me. I'm not paying 30% of the cost of a PS4 to watch a screen, even setting aside the fact that it might be showing Battleship 5.
posted by jaduncan at 1:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clearly Lucas isn't an idiot, but opinions like this make me feel like he is. There are very few films I would go to see in the cinema for more than I am currently paying. Movie going audiences currently feel massively ripped off already. If distributors started charging less then perhaps they'd manage more bums on seats. Home cinema is getting better and better, so the incentive to go the cinema and have a worse experience is reducing.

That cynisism aside, seeing a film on the big screen can be enhanced by the audience. I went to see Clerks 2 around release, in a packed screen full of Kevin Smith fans (back when we existed, before he went a little over the cliff...), and it was honestly like watching stand up. I have it on DVD but I'm not sure I've watched it yet, because it really won't recapture the experience of watching the film with an appreciative crowd. I suppose if films went up considerably in price it miiight enhance the experience, because it might price out the idiots with their smart phones and the morons who think they're funnier than the film, but somehow I doubt it. I've experienced said morons at musicals after all.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:19 AM on June 13, 2013


In theory, musicals are more expensive because you can only fit so many paying customers in a theater at one time, and those customers are there to watch something that can't be replicated. The same movie can be shown in many different theaters, taking advantage of an economy of scale and (so far) resulting in cheaper tickets.

Movies (and professional sports, really) are supposed to be cheap, mass entertainment. Spielberg and Lucas are saying that Hollywood can't keep continuing to play for the masses, because it's getting too expensive and risky, so movies are going to become a boutique medium serving an elite. I don't know if that's likely, but if it is, that would be a massive inversion of everything cinema was created to be.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, in the future, a small number of luxury movie theaters will serve the rich people with "high-end" blockbuster fares, and the poor masses will watch on Internet niche films that will have to compete on story and performance instead of production value and special effects?

For once I'm not bitter about being poor. Let the rich have their tent-poles.

I blame J.J. Abrams.

Somewhat relevant.
posted by fatehunter at 1:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whose fault is that, you fucking hack?

Is it too difficult to read and comment on the ideas in the article, or are you unable to resist hackneyed, stale, pat-me-on-the-back Lucas snark?

Clearly Lucas isn't an idiot, but opinions like this make me feel like he is. There are very few films I would go to see in the cinema for more than I am currently paying. Movie going audiences currently feel massively ripped off already. If distributors started charging less then perhaps they'd manage more bums on seats. Home cinema is getting better and better, so the incentive to go the cinema and have a worse experience is reducing.

Isn't that the point he is making? In the future (and even today) what incentive will we have to go pay ten bucks for something we can just as well enjoy in our living room for a low monthly fee? I never go to the movies anymore. I have Netflix and on-demand... a theater offers me nothing, other than a sense of nostalgia.

What he's saying is that moviegoing will have to become an event. Insanely high-tech presentation. Incredible audio and 3D. Smell-o-vision. Fancy seats and fancy booze and fancy food. The kind of stuff you couldn't swing in your home theater with your vanilla LED TV and Bose sound system... that's what might draw people in and put butts in seats, because people will already have great content at home for a low price.

It's almost a return to vertical integration and the great movie palaces of the 30s, in a sense.
posted by Old Man McKay at 1:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Back in the day they used to have an "A" movie, a cartoon short, and a "B" movie. Maybe theaters could go back to that somewhat, with a short film or two before the main event. Make it a package deal for your 50 bucks.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I blame J.J. Abrams.

Obi-Wan once thought as you do.
posted by Darth George Lucas at 1:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


What he's saying is that moviegoing will have to become an event. Insanely high-tech presentation. Incredible audio and 3D. Smell-o-vision. Fancy seats and fancy booze and fancy food. The kind of stuff you couldn't swing in your home theater with your vanilla LED TV and Bose sound system... that's what might draw people in and put butts in seats, because people will already have great content at home for a low price.



Yeah but I don't see how cinema will ever manage to justify musical level costs. I guess my idea for the new model, if the multiplex model utterly fails, is for cinemas to be the equivalent of one's local theatre, playing classic films and maybe some select new releases. That said I think multiplexes can attract more people to the cinema by charging less, which I'm aware is a function of how much distributors charge for a film.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:10 AM on June 13, 2013


The variable pricing point is something that I've wondered about for a long time. Not all movies are equal in cost, or in entertainment value, so why is there a fixed price to see them?

When I look at something like Lord of the Rings, or Prometheus, indeed I will pay more to see those films. Also, great films like Populaire, for which I would pay a premium on top of first run Hollywood films.

Then there's second and third tier movies, which I would go see but not for £15 a ticket. I might pay £5 to see any of the Hangovers. I'd probably pay £7 to see a Apatow film. But £15? They must be dreaming. For £30 (2 tickets), we can buy two beautiful steaks, a nice bottle of wine, purchase Casablanca on the iTunes store, and make all the popcorn we want. To say the least, there is an extreme disconnect between supply and demand here.

And I've thought about this quite a lot, as I love cinema, used to work in Hollywood, and am quite a student of price discovery. And the question that I've been constantly stuck with has been why haven't we had variable pricing in theatres to date?

The best answer I've come up with is three-fold. The first is that Hollywood considers itself to be a supply-driven marketplace. That is, in their equation, actors (supply) is the scarce resource, and demand is nearly unlimited. That may have worked previous to the digital explosion, when there were fewer entertainment options, but now there are so many substitutes just in film alone – not to mention amazing TV series from HBO and the like – that they've lost the majority of their power. With 100 years of films in libraries around the world, there's a lot of competition for film. Not to mention everything else on the internet. We'll chalk this one up to a defunct business model and the protectionist racket of people who sit on the West Coast of California, in ivory towers, and live in a fantasy of consumer engagement that is increasingly divorced from reality.

The second answer goes to the actors themselves. Film is oddly a democratic popularity contest at the moment. If ticket prices are largely fixed, a ticket is a vote, in essence. If 1,000,000 people pay £15 to go see a Tom Cruise vehicle, and 100,000 pay £15 to see a Cameron Diaz vehicle, there is a very obvious reflection of their popularity, for ticket prices are the same. It results in a strange race, where celebrity is not priced variably, but in volume. If we did institute variable pricing, I expect there would be a much faster shift in the popularity of actors and actresses. If your last movie commanded £15 a ticket, and your current movie commanded £5 a ticket, your popularity is no longer based on volume, but total revenue. I think actors would not like this, for all of a sudden, their talents are being priced truly on a market basis. For an industry already largely driven by ego as much as metrics, I expect this would be a very hard pill to swallow. For everyone else in the value chain as well. Right now, there isn't a perception of how well as movie is going to do based on price, just volume. So it's very ambiguous as to the value of the skills of the people involved in the production. If we move to a variable ticket price approach, it becomes very transparent, and an industry that is already very staid may have a really hard time with that.

The third answer is it would be a further erosion of the mystique of Hollywood, and a movement toward a commoditised product. This is inevitable, but it's very dangerous for the industry itself. Hollywood is predicated on belief, and the awe of the power of film. We want our Harry Potters and our epic adventures. In a way, we almost need them. Hollywood is very important to society, despite what detractors might think. Much of our social currency involves stories, and Hollywood has cultivated some of the best storytellers in the history of the world. That mystique has been protected by the fixed price ticket, as mentioned in number two. As if all films are created equal, and it is up to the viewers to determine their real value. It's very easy to compare, when all ticket prices are equal. Some become instant and modern classics, others are immediately forgotten.

It's this last point that is most similar to the music industry and fixed prices for CDs and other physical media. But again, those are supply-driven markets, where the democracy of the Internet and digital media have given us demand-driven markets.

Overall, variable pricing is coming. It has to. There are very few fixed priced industries left – if there are any at all, outside of commodities that are regulated and traded on global markets. So this has been coming for a while. And honestly, Hollywood hasn't helped itself by rehashing old stories, and delivering such low-brow content that it can nearly be insulting.

It's not an accident that movies, rather than being released in the US first, are starting to be released in the US last. It's not a huge trend at the moment, but it's growing. They say it's for research purposes, so that if a movie does poorly internationally, they can skip the valuable US release and all the marketing associated. That may be true and rational, however it's also that Hollywood is an anachronistic relic that is now ripe for disruption, the same way the music industry was ten years ago.

And if the result is anything like what happened to the music industry, we'll get less HUGE ARTISTS AND HUGE TOURS AND PROMOTION, and an explosion of niches. Music has gone through an amazing rebirth as it has gone digital, and music today is amazing. It's vibrant, it's inclusive, it's international, it's experimental, it's everything it wasn't when Grunge hit the airwaves – the morose dying gasp of an industry that had literally run out of promises and things to say.

So whilst the coming disruption may be very hard for Hollywood, Los Angeles, and all the people that depend on the industry to put food on the table – which is very difficult to accept – it will be good for the medium itself, and all of the other people currently locked out by supply-side pricing and fixed ticket prices.
posted by nickrussell at 2:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


Overall, variable pricing is coming. It has to. There are very few fixed priced industries left – if there are any at all, outside of commodities that are regulated and traded on global markets.

I'll take 'clear sign of a cartel-driven marketplace' for $500.
posted by jaduncan at 2:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predict ‘massive implosion’ in film industry.

Well, clearly the best solution is more massive explosions!
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 2:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I dunno - even though I have a really great movie watching setup at home (projector, 10' wide screen) it still doesn't compare to the immersive quality that a big screen in a theater has. Having the image fill that much of your field of vision does make a difference in how involved you feel in the film. I know that this doesn't hold true for everyone, but I think there a lot of us out there that still want to enjoy movies this way. It almost sounds like the crash that they are predicting is the failure of some huge massive-budget films, and the hit that the big studios will take as a result of that. There are, however lots of smaller studios making really interesting films - perhaps they would benefit from a shift in the way films are made?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are already a few high price experiential film things happening in London, all of which sell out very quickly.

For example...

Secret Cinema, in a secret location, where you don't even know what the film is going to be - about £50 a head

Edible Cinema, where you get a movie with 8 packages of food linked to the film, to open and each at specific times - about £30 a head. (I've been to two - Some Like It Hot, and Spinal Tap - both excellent!)

Hot Tub Cinema, in a hot tub, on a rooftop - about £30 a head

& cheaper, but still a great experience, is Rooftop Cinema which has a 'concert style' screening of Queen Live at Wembley coming up.

It is being done, but I think that there's a finite niche market for it, and I don't think it could be done for all films.
posted by DanCall at 2:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, my take on this is that when Spielberg and Lucas say "film industry" they are talking about something different from what I think of when I hear "film industry." These two dudes are so far entrenched in big studio projects that they can't imagine a world without it. The industry they're talking about is basically dead already.

The example I can give is that someone like Shane Carruth is gonna get Upstream Color in front of the same amount of eyeballs regardless of what these two knuckleheads have to say, possibly more of he doesn't have to compete with Star Trek 2.
posted by dogwalker at 3:00 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Additonally, with digital distribution and restoration, the studios really need to get the ball rolling on releasing more of the classics like they did with Lawrence of Arabia a few months back.

not that it will really solve any problems, I just want to see those movies in theaters again.
posted by dogwalker at 3:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe the reason why people aren't going to see modestly-budgeted movies for adults is because Hollywood isn't making many of those movies these days, and many of the movies that are aimed at grown-ups just aren't very good. For example, at this point the date movie is in really sorry shape. Good luck finding anything genuinely romantic outside the art house... if your local art house is still in business.

If the blockbuster model collapses, and Hollywood is forced to rethink how it does things, it's possible they'll actually have to start making smaller movies as good as the best stuff on TV. Not so long ago Lucas himself was touting that idea, that Hollywood would be forced to make lots of cheaper movies instead of focusing on mega-budget sequels.

I think that may be more likely than movies becoming a big expensive Broadway-style outing. The only way I can see that model working would be if the theaters are showing live footage of a one-off event, the sort of thing that the This American Life and Rifftrax people have experimented with.

I don't know what movies will evolve into, but I have a feeling that they'll remain mainstream entertainment, one way or another. So many people have grown up with movies, and we're so conditioned to keep going that we've put up with a lot of crap. I think the clock is likely ticking for the big stupid blockbuster franchise model, but movies themselves will stick around.

(I couldn't finish reading the article, because it was really making my browser freak out. So, maybe Lucas or Spielberg addressed some of this stuff later on.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Agree with what was said immediately upthread about date movies. Having a choice of good, compelling, or at least not embarrassing, date movies would facilitate ... dating. Maybe it's a small section of the audience that is dating someone so new as to actually prefer meeting at a movie theater rather than one's own sofa, but those people exist. And for them, having this option is kind of crucial. (Iron Man 3 in not IMO a date movie. YMMV.)

One thing Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas seemed to overlook entirely is kids films and particularly animation. That sector of the industry isn't going away, the upfront costs for making those films are high, and no real market exists to show them at $100 a seat.
posted by newdaddy at 4:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


... a complete reversal of how it was not that long ago.

When TV first started to hit big, movies struck back by doing things that only worked in movies: ever-larger screens, long stories, intricate plotting. Instead, now it's Retread 5 and Sequel 6, or 3D gimmickry.


This actually sounds like the same thing to me.

TV was limited to 22-42 minutes, so movies made 90-180 minute epics.
Movies are limited to 90-180 minute epics, so TV expands to season-long mega-epics.

This is why a lot of the books I've liked in the past few years (Harry Potter and Anathem come to mind) I really don't want to see as movies. I want to see them as mini-series.
posted by DU at 4:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a certain amount of variable pricing in movie tickets: there are matinee tickets, weekend vs. weeknight tickets, and new release vs. dollar theatre tickets. No one is saying that video game prices are fixed even though almost every AAA release is $60 when it goes on sale, but people are willing to pay that price to play it sooner than everyone else. It's like the silver screen version of buying it in hardback vs. paperback vs. trade paperback vs. $1 in an ebook sale.

It's a question of whether people are willing to pay more to have a more convenient/popular showtime and if they're willing to pay for perks, and there's plenty of room for people who want to pay more than theatres are charging to do so: that's the entire part of concessions. It costs a few cents to make the soda and the popcorn and it's only people who want to spend more money that buy them. People will pay extra for the "deluxe" theatre with cushier seats. They'll pay extra for 3D glasses. They'll pay extra surcharges to print their tickets at home and have their seats guaranteed. So there's plenty of ways to tack ON money, but not a lot of ways to take money off.

I'm betting if we end up seeing something that puts more butts in all those unused seats in theatres it's gonna be promotional deals-- coupons Groupons and the like-- that give discounts to people who are not willing to pay full price. These operate like child and senior discounts by targeting demographics who usually aren't willing to pay the usual price for tickets.

I would bet that if we're gonna be seeing variable pricing for individual films, it's not gonna be people spending $25 for a big budget film vs. $7 for an indie; it's gonna be people spending whatever the "full price" is for opening weekend and then a drop over time depending on popularity. Films that theatres have already paid for but that aren't getting a lot of demand-- the film version of SimCity-- will be cheaper faster than films that are doing well. It'll be a slower, more graduated version of the full price ---> dollar movie process that's already happening.
posted by NoraReed at 4:06 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


A mate just suggested that movie theatres adopt a budget airline carrier methodology for ticket sales. Tickets start at £1 and rise from there, based on demand.
posted by nickrussell at 4:15 AM on June 13, 2013


Lucas jumped in. "I think eventually the Lincolns are going to go away and they're going to be on television."

Spielberg smiled. "And mine almost was! This close. Ask HBO — this close!"


I just saw Lincoln. I really liked Lincoln as a movie. A 6 episode miniseries, and I would have loved Lincoln. They could have had a whole episode devoted to Tommy Lee Jones calling his enemies bad names to their face, and I would have watched it twice in one sitting.

I feel kind of cheated, to tell the truth...

And movies houses are going to be more ubiquitous as distribution gets cheaper and easier... a lot of places are feeling the pinch switching over to digital at the moment, but Moore's Law is now in play. In a few years, it will be very inexpensive to show 4k or even 8k movies, and people are always going to want a good Date Night activity. Dinner and a show is hard to beat, but no-one is going to pay $100 in today's money for a movie night.

Cinema releases are basically marketing for DVD sales and on-demand rentals, anyhow. Even cinematic busts like "Avatar the Last Airbender" make money from the long-tail these days.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The 'budget airline' idea has been thought of - easyCinema in Milton Keynes.

In that case it didn't work, because distributors wouldn't negotiate a fixed fee per film (it's a % of box office) so the model broke down.
posted by DanCall at 4:24 AM on June 13, 2013


I was hoping this would become a thread where we could shit all over George Lucas again.
posted by benbenson at 4:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the blockbuster model collapses, and Hollywood is forced to rethink how it does things, it's possible they'll actually have to start making smaller movies as good as the best stuff on TV. Not so long ago Lucas himself was touting that idea, that Hollywood would be forced to make lots of cheaper movies instead of focusing on mega-budget sequels.

Eh, I wonder. Spielberg says, and he'd know better than me, that a film goes from theater to hotels in as little as two weeks these days; they seem to get to Netflix after about 3 months. Compare to his own early career, when a blockbuster stuck around in the theater making money for the studio for up to a year. Movie finances are notoriously opaque, but I have to figure that if I'm only paying $8 a month for Netflix, any movie will have had to have made the vast majority of the money it's every going to make in the three months it has in theaters and on premium cable before it ever gets there. (There are exceptions, of course, movies which become hardy perennials on TNT and so forth which I'm sure are still making some kind of dough years later.)

So if a film has 3 months to make its budget back, I wonder if it really is less risky to do lots of small films, rather than one big film that you can pitch as an "event" in itself. I mean, is anyone really killing themselves to see a P.T. Anderson film on opening weekend? Because a small film by definition doesn't have the marketing budget to make sure you know that it exists prior to that 3 month window, isn't by definition going to be such a cultural event that you're going to feel compelled to see it immediately in order to be able to talk about it at the water cooler the next day.

Think-y, talk-y, people-centric movies --- interesting movies --- most of what's good about them is just as good on your couch as in the theater. From that perspective I can see why a studio might therefore reagard smaller films as basically a guaranteed money loser....although S&L are right that if one of them takes a couple bombs in a row and goes under, they may be willing to rethink the size of their bets.
posted by Diablevert at 4:28 AM on June 13, 2013


I was hoping this would become a thread where we could shit all over George Lucas again.

George Lucas shit first. George Lucas has always shat first.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Think-y, talk-y, people-centric movies --- interesting movies --- most of what's good about them is just as good on your couch as in the theater.

This.

The last two movies I saw in the theater were visual spectacle types -- The Hobbit (which I saw in 2D, and is honestly almost as good on a TV anyway) and TRON Legacy.

For the former, we were in a supposedly fancy theater with first class airplane seats and food/drinks service... theoretically. In practice, I got my drink and we never got our food. But it was still in the $10 a ticket range.
posted by Foosnark at 4:32 AM on June 13, 2013


Perhaps the best moviegoing experience I have ever had was Snakes On A Plane, because the audio track died in the last half hour or so and people in the audience started making up their own dialog.
posted by Foosnark at 4:35 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


> I was hoping this would become a thread where we could shit all over George Lucas again.

I don't think he's a good filmmaker (at least, not any more), but he is and has always been a canny businessman. So when he has things to say about the business of film and how it relates to other businesses, he is worth listening to, because he is speaking his expertise. The next time there's an FPP about Lucas speaking his mind on the craft of filmmaking narrative, you can go nuts, man.
posted by ardgedee at 5:10 AM on June 13, 2013


So... in other words:

IT'S A TRAP!
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:18 AM on June 13, 2013


Here's the thing: there's a place for cinematic experience that requires a large, active, intent audience, but blockbusters aren't going to be what defines that place. They're just not intimate experiences: having a crowd along for the ride isn't gonna make the explosions any more explodey, or make the plot twists less absolute shite. And the better blockbusters nowadays realize this.

Either because I'm a good friend or because I lack all pattern recognition, I have a habit of going to see superhero films when my friends go, and this habit has led to my seeing some of the worst films I've seen in years. The Dark Knight Rises was blisteringly awful. Spider-Man was a good story concept mixed with the blandest damn execution. The Avengers even started out promising, and then every good thing it did was ruined by the unnecessary and completely uninteresting actiondrama that dominated most of its everything. (Just like everything Whedon touches heyo!)

But the most interesting superhero movie I've seen of late was Iron Man 3. Not because it was at all compelling as a film, but because its director clearly realized this, and made every effort to subvert his own plot and make fun of how rote and predictable and pointless the rest of his film was. And because of this, there was some amount of camaraderie among the members of the audience. Jokes were cracked, people laughed at the same not-entirely-funny bits... I wouldn't call it a good audience per se, but it wasn't terrible either. And it's because Iron Man 3 had enough self-awareness that it involved the audience along with its gags.

The few films I've seen in theatres of my own volition were the sorts that thrived on some sort of back-and-forth with their audiences, but of them only one was even close to resembling a blockbuster and that was Django Unchained. The other two—Cloud Atlas and Spring Breakers—may have seemed enough like other blockbuster films that they tricked an audience into seeing them, but blockbusters they were not, and they were easily two of the best theatre experiences I've ever had. Spring Breakers in particular: the audience's attempts to figure out how the hell they were supposed to react to what was on screen were part of what made that movie. Seeing a movie with a group of people who are all intent on getting something particular out of that specific film leads to an atmosphere that's charged, exciting, companionable, and definitely worth the extra money for the experience. Finding a film where that's gonna be the case is a lot harder, especially with what comes out these days (and a crowd of comic book fans who want to see Batman on screen is not the same, with the exception of midnight releases, which really do draw a dedicated sort out).

It's the stranger, quirkier, more intimate films, the ones that have a voice and a style, that give audiences something fun to play with. We don't get nearly enough of those sorts of movies. Hopefully this current blockbuster model will implode and something a bit healthier will take its place.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:38 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


How much you want to bet this "implosion" is going to be a technically impressive but ultimately unnecessary CGI implosion retroactively replacing a perfectly serviceable but somewhat dated pyrotechnic effect? Typical!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not because it was at all compelling as a film, but because its director clearly realized this, and made every effort to subvert his own plot and make fun of how rote and predictable and pointless the rest of his film was.

What you are describing is called Shane Black.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:47 AM on June 13, 2013


Is it too difficult to read and comment on the ideas in the article, or are you unable to resist hackneyed, stale, pat-me-on-the-back Lucas snark?

I think it's difficult, even after reading the whey-thin content of the linked article containing random idle semi-informed speculation by two pampered Hollywood moguls who've served up a lot of expensive crap to audiences for decades after having made their names as young men, not to succumb to the urge to flip them off.
posted by aught at 5:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


The movie-going experience is a little bit sacred for me: The cavernous space, the cool theater air, the smell of popcorn, the dimming of the lights, the trailers (I love trailers. I would go see an entire movie-length of trailers, if I could. My wife thinks I'm nuts). I can't get that experience sitting in my living room.

If something destroys cinema, it will be blockbuster turds like Prometheus or Twilight (any of them): Movies that don't have to be good because they've spent a billion dollars on marketing, and everything else suffers for it. They ruin my church-like movie-going experience and make me much less likely to go back.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


>a theater offers me nothing, other than a sense of nostalgia.

Beg to differ. A theater offers the opportunity to be annoyed by a crowd of people. If you offered to pay me fifty bucks to see a movie in a theater, I'd think about it.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I want to hope that the studios will realize that the big blockbusters aren't the way to go... but as has been mentioned, Spielberg and Lucas are insiders and know the business far better than I do. If they think this method is done then that's something to take notice of. Spielberg mentioning that Lincoln almost was an HBO series and Lucas trading away his Star Wars properties fits in with this.

That said they're old-timers so I am just going to chuckle at what they think the kids are going to do.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:03 AM on June 13, 2013


Restate for clarity: if Spielberg and Lucas don't see the studios turning away from blockbusters and this being their downfall, that is something to take note of.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the stranger, quirkier, more intimate films, the ones that have a voice and a style

I think one of the most interesting things about recent superhero films is how much they reflect their director's personality. There is a strait jacket around some of these films which force them to do certain things at certain times, where all the director can do is point the camera as competently as possible, but there is room for maneuver. The Batman films are the most authored of all, as Nolan had a massive amount of control over them. They clearly reflect his vision and style.

Captain America, which I did actually like, has almost no personality, while Iron Man 3 is the closest to a sequel to the splendid Kiss Kiss Bang Bang we'll ever get. If you don't enjoy the explodey superhero bits then these films are all going to be a waste of time for you, but if you like those well enough, and take pleasure in the bits where the director is clearly stamping his voice (see Bruce Campbell bits and the Doc Oc waking up seen in the Spiderman films).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


What he's saying is that moviegoing will have to become an event. Insanely high-tech presentation. Incredible audio and 3D. Smell-o-vision. Fancy seats and fancy booze and fancy food. The kind of stuff you couldn't swing in your home theater with your vanilla LED TV and Bose sound system... that's what might draw people in and put butts in seats, because people will already have great content at home for a low price.
So what we're talking about is VR, yeah?

I thing I hate about movies today is how transparent and obvious it is that the movie studios are trying to suck money out of their audience. If they could design a screen that actually reached out and took cash out of my wallet while I'm watching the twenty minutes of commercials– not even previews for other movies, just ads for cars and beer – before each movie, I'm sure they would.

Movies are becoming these big, stupid theme park rides that serve more as vehicles for advertising than for story. I don't personally give a fuck about super realistic 3D/4D/5D, however many D's you want to throw on there, and the focus on movie-making technology tends to make films less about telling a story and more about wowing the audience. And you can wow people into shelling out more cash for a movie, of course (Avatar proved that).

But is that kind constant heightening of the technology of the movie-going experience a sustainable thing? I mean, if a new movie theater came out with some crazy immersive VR helmet for the latest Spielberg film, I'd probably pay $50 to see it. But to get me to pay $50 bucks again next month, there'd better be an even better VR helmet. Or a VR brain-implant, or whatever. And no advertising.
posted by deathpanels at 6:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


What he's saying is that moviegoing will have to become an event. Insanely high-tech presentation. Incredible audio and 3D. Smell-o-vision. Fancy seats and fancy booze and fancy food.

I love watching movies, but personally, I usually avoid blockbuster movies precisely because they're such events. I'll wait to see the new Superman or Iron Man 3 on Netflix because the big crowds are annoying and the always-too-loud Dolby sound gives me a headache and the huge screen spectacle gives me vertigo.

OTOH, I will pay to see movies at my local indie theater. I'll even pay a yearly subscription fee for a small ticket discount and invitations to special events, etc. The crowds are smaller at my local and the theater is smaller and the experience of watching movies is almost always more pleasant. Bigger isn't always necessarily better.

are you unable to resist hackneyed, stale, pat-me-on-the-back Lucas snark?

Come on, if George Fucking Lucas decrying the film industry's "conservative programming choices" isn't LOL-worthy—especially when his solution to the problem seems to be "make everything bigger and charge more"—then nothing is.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


...amazing narrative I've seen all year was Arrested Development, which will probably be what people point to when they talk about the shift to the living room.

I think the fact is that TV has been doing stories better than the movies for quite some time; Arrested Development is one example in a string of them. We can go all the way back to Oz, and go from there to shows like the Sopranos, the Wire, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Game of Thrones, and probably several others I am missing.

TV (when done right) allows for the exploration of character and long term story arcs in a way that movies can't approach. What movies can do well is focus in on a specific, discrete, self-contained story and tell the shit out of it (I think here of things like Schindler's List, or Shawshank Redemption, or The King's Speech, or Casablanca, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Blade Runner, or Alien, and so on). Write it well, cast it well, craft it well, and you can create a great experience that is worth going to the cinema for.

Unfortunately, the fact is that most movies these days seem to be nothing more than a series of loud explosions and special effects that overwhelm the actors and the audience, and here we are. Decreasing originality, increasing ticket cost, and improvements in home theater setups leave us unlikely to go and see it, but we might rent it/stream it at home sometime. Which is not to mention the annoying audience factor, and speaking of that:

The two most memorable movie going experiences I have had in the last decade are Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and How to Train Your Dragon. I went to see the first one at a mid-week matinee some months after it had come out; I was the only one in the entire theatre. It was an amazing experience. Similar story for How to Train Your Dragon, except I brought my oldest son along - it was his first movie in a theatre, and we were also they only two there. Something about having the room to ourselves while the movie played made it an utterly incredible experience.
posted by nubs at 6:53 AM on June 13, 2013


How much you want to bet this "implosion" is going to be a technically impressive but ultimately unnecessary CGI implosion

Piece should've been titled "NEXT SUMMER THE MOVIE INDUSTRY GETS BLOWED UP!!!"
posted by octobersurprise at 6:54 AM on June 13, 2013


Beg to differ. A theater offers the opportunity to be annoyed by a crowd of people.

This. People's boundaries have eroded to the point where they unabashedly eat loudly, talk in normal voices routinely, and use bright cell phones to text during the feature, as if they were watching on their big-screen TV in their living room. It's sad.

And add to that the phenomenon where, when you're sitting in an almost empty theater, another group of people comes in and of all the seats in the place -- and theaters are now the size of airplane hangers -- they sit right in front of you (or almost as bad, right next to you, to begin their interminable crinkly candy wrapper soundtrack)? I've never thought of humans as herd animals but it's like the cows all needing to stand next to each other in the huge field.

(Sigh. Are the kids off my lawn yet?)
posted by aught at 6:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


all listening to their hippity hops with their PadPods and FitMiis and Facebookings
posted by shakespeherian at 7:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Amusingly, we actually must "expand the week" for economic reasons, meaning address the recession by shortening the work week while eliminating "control" jobs (previously).
posted by jeffburdges at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2013


Somewhat relevant.
posted by fatehunter at 1:29 AM on June 13


Any chance there is a link to this article that is not in all caps? I tried reading it but could not finish it due to the formatting.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the fact is that TV has been doing stories better than the movies for quite some time

And taking off from that, if I were an industry person, I think I'd be asking myself how the movie experience could be more like TV, instead of how it could be more like a major league sports event or a Broadway show. Part of the answer might be more and smaller theaters to provide a more intimate experience; another part of the answer might be to actually broadcast to the theaters in a way similar to the Met's opera live in HD. Viewers could subscribe for a season, catch a missed episode, or watch it at home and at the theater.

Given that the technology is there to do practically anything, focusing on "bigger, flashier, and more expensive" seems just amazingly short-sighted.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somewhat relevant.
posted by fatehunter at 1:29 AM on June 13


Any chance there is a link to this article that is not in all caps? I tried reading it but could not finish it due to the formatting.


There's a bunch of text-case converters on the web that'll change Hulk back into Puny Banner. Convert Case seems like a pretty good one, but googling "text case converter" gives you plenty to choose from.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Puny Banter, shurely?

Haven't been to the flicks in years due to:

1) you can't smoke
2) ticket prices
3) food and drink at prices that would make a pay-day loans company blush
4) mobile phones
5) idiots who talk over movie
6) idiots who have seen the film and talk about it
7) can't pause it if you need the loo
8) If popular - queing
posted by marienbad at 7:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's something different about seeing a good film with an audience, but even though I like that, I seldom go to the movies. It's already changing - people go to the movies because they want to go out or because they're willing to pay a premium to see Iron Man IV now, and not wait for it to be available for personal viewing. Or a local cinema has IMax, food, or some other factors that make it a special experience.
posted by theora55 at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2013


octobersurprise: " Part of the answer might be more and smaller theaters to provide a more intimate experience; another part of the answer might be to actually broadcast to the theaters in a way similar to the Met's opera live in HD. Viewers could subscribe for a season, catch a missed episode, or watch it at home and at the theater. "

I sort-of wish for a firm, defined second tier of movie studios making smaller talking-head, emotion-type movies -- with high production values and good actors and MOVIES (not TV), but not gunning for the international market the way blockbusters do. I feel like these movies -- Nora Ephron movies, Merchant Ivory movies -- are all but gone. They could price them cheaper, and run them in smaller theaters in the megaplexes, but also run them in the auditoriums at libraries or museums, have a roundtable or cocktail party afterwards. Movie tickets around here are $9 for evening shows (matinees as low as $4.75); I'd pay $40 for the two of us to go see a high-quality movie starring Emma Thompson in period clothes at the local museum and have cocktails afterwards while discussing the movie with other attendees. I'd pay $100 for that if they'd take my kids in a classroom and make them do art while I watched a movie and had a drink.

Another thing that gets a LOT of attendance is classic kid movie summer matinees -- $3.50 per kid to take them to see an old Disney movie on the big screen. Mommy matinees and sensory matinees are also well-attended.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone mentioned Spring Breakers earlier, and I think that's a good example of a movie that got the model right. It cost $5 million to make, and has made $31 million worldwide. It was cheap enough that the creative team could take all the chances they wanted, because they didn't have nervous producers who had bet $100 million looking over their shoulder nitpicking their every move. And it clearly paid off.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:06 AM on June 13, 2013


In Hollywood, did they decree,
a stately pleasure-dome to be,
where Sunset, the sacred boulevard, ran,
through plots inscrutable to fans,
down to the Pacific sea.

Where once were many, now stood few,
with gilded fixtures in the loo,
showing spectacles as on Broadway,
with dancers, singers, flashing lights,
and food and drink from far away,
to give filmgoers true delights.

But as the theaters of old,
crumble and succumb to mold,
their demon-spawn called only Netflix,
crosses silently across the Styx,
to rake in all the gold.
posted by jph at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


People simply have a limited amount of time, said Spielberg. "We can't expand the week. We can't expand the 24-hour cycle. So we're stuck with so many choices."

He seems to be saying that people have only a limited amount of time, so there's no potential for growth in the industry. But already the premise is wrong. Most people have more time and money at their disposal than 50 years ago. Secondly, there are some markets (China, most of the developing world), where many people are just starting to be affluent enough to go to the movies. So there is potential for growth. Although possibly less so in Hollywood than elsewhere.
posted by sour cream at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2013


If the blockbuster model collapses, and Hollywood is forced to rethink how it does things ...

... then they'll stop to think and remember that great movies are about great acting. Not great computing.
posted by Twang at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2013


Both of these men are completely out of touch with regards to quality filmmaking so I do not trust their opinion at all.

Spielberg lost me forever with a quote I can't find now about Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, saying they punched up the physics to make it more exciting.

PHYSICS are PHYSICS. If you make them more dramatic, they cease to look real and believable. I don't understand how a grown ass man doesn't understand this, and further, could be excited about presenting such a unreal product.

Lucas and Spielberg made better movies when they were constrained by budget and time and people above them. Art suffers when every idea is coddled and allowed to happen.
posted by agregoli at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless they are my ideas. My ideas are gold.
posted by RobotHero at 9:00 AM on June 13, 2013


I remember James Cameron had proposed the price variance idea years ago. (after Titanic but before Avatar.) Again, he said the big budget movies could and should charge more than lower budget movies.

If this was a serious discussion of the business instead of a fluff piece in the Verge, you would need a theatre owner to chime in. It's easy for a director to say this, but let's hear from the ones that deal directly with the customer when they fork over their money. Do we really need to add an extra complication to the lobby discussion the group of teenagers in line ahead of you is having over what movie they're going to see?


I am kind of pissed at the loss of a nearby cheap theatre. They converted it into a high-end theatre, with steak and beer, which I can see the appeal of, but there were a lot of movies I liked seeing for $3.00 on thread-bare seats, like horror movies and stuff.
posted by RobotHero at 9:20 AM on June 13, 2013


"TROUBLE IN HOLOLAND! MACE WINDU IS DISPATCHED TO THE REPUBLICAN SPACE PORT OF LOS ANGLES TO BREAK UP FEDERATION CONTROL OVER HOLOMATRIX 42 CONTROLLED BY BOUNTY HUNTER DRELL vanCLEFF THREATENING TO REVEAL PLAN KARDASIAN."
posted by clavdivs at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2013


I’d have thought Bruckheimer…
posted by Smedleyman at 9:27 AM on June 13, 2013


Steven Spielberg and George Lucas just found out about VHS?

This is one of those weird "In the future…" stories where people predict things that seem plausible, but the more you look at them they don’t make sense. Big budget cable shows and streaming movies are here now, this thread is full of people saying "damn right, I don’t go to the movies any more" and yet there are still people going to the theater. If there was going to be a big implosion wouldn’t it have happened already? There may be a slow contracting at some point down the line, but that’s a different story.

People go to the theater for their own reasons. I don’t much, I’m old and have a big screen TV and gizmo’s. I think that’s what the article meant to say; "Steven Spielberg and George Lucas don’t go to the theater any more because their old, rich, and have all that shit at home. Assume everyone else is like them".
posted by bongo_x at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2013


Didn't RFA, but if I understand the point correctly, this sounds like much the same argument Steven Soderbergh's is offering as the reasoning behind recent decision to discontinue making feature films for a while, and concentrate on other media, like television.

He was interviewed by Terri Gross on Fresh Air a couple weeks ago and attributed his decision to the high stakes, low risk mentality now ruling Hollywood and the fact that it is now easier to get interesting projects green lit for TV than for film. As an example, he gave his recent Liberace sorta-bio-pic for HBO. He initially shopped it around as a feature film, and couldn't get the needed funding, but was able to put together a deal with HBO for a much smaller dollar as a TV production.
posted by hwestiii at 10:01 AM on June 13, 2013


We have pretty much abandoned our old Regal Multiplex for our new Arclight based on amenities (better seats, significantly better popcorn, coffee drinks, no commercials - the only two downsides are them being a Red Vines shop and it's attached to a mall), and do occasionally indulge in a Cinepolis or Gold Class* outing for very long or big deal movies.

*Good lord, I don't know if they're all like this, but we were on a mini-vacation a couple of years ago and went to a Gold Class in Pasadena's Old Town, and it basically like being in bed (in a bedroom much nicer than my own), including a blankie and drinks in glasses and seatside service so obsequious my husband wondered if there was a fellatio menu. We paid $60 for two for the first matinee of the day, but Contagion was really long and we left feeling very relaxed if afraid to ever touch anything or talk to anyone again.

The Cinepolis near here is almost as expensive, has the big recliners, serves alcohol, and you really have to book tickets at least several hours before if not several days for a big new release. We never have that problem at the Arclight. People are still going to the movies and dropping serious dough to do it.

We have an unnecessarily large television, and I suppose if we could get first run films streamed (legally, I mean) I might buy a more comfortable couch and just never go out, but there is still something about going to the movies. Hell, the Arclight is showing Alien this Sunday and Terminator the Sunday after and we're going to those even though we own them and have seen them many times. (I'm buying Alien tickets right now and it's almost full.) But yeah, if I had Spielberg's in-house theatre I'd probably never go out either.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2013


PHYSICS are PHYSICS. If you make them more dramatic, they cease to look real and believable.

We're willing to tolerate all sorts of things that contradict physics, like weird spaceships and flying Iron Men and jumping Hulks, etc. There's a broad range of effects that look possible to us even though they're not. I don't see what's wrong with "punching up the physics." It might just mean that things fall faster than the terminal velocities they would actually have, or something... it's not like our eye has an intuitive conception of terminal velocity that would recognize when the physics has been punched up.
posted by painquale at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2013


Haven't been to the flicks in years due to:

1) you can't smoke


If you could smoke in movie theaters I would never go. I can't be the only one.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Slightly hyperbolic, but this about sums up my feelings on the matter:

The Laughable Hypocrisy of Spielberg and Lucas’ Diatribe Against Blockbusters: What’s infuriating about this little diatribe is that it’s coming from the two men who are, it could be argued, more personally responsible than anyone for the current state of the business. The last great era of studio backing for “really interesting, deeply personal” movies was the 1970s, when the majors were funding the likes of The Godfather, Chinatown, The Conversation, Five Easy Pieces, A Clockwork Orange, All the President’s Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Nashville, and even Lucas’s own American Graffiti. And the overwhelming, record-breaking success of two movies brought that era to an end: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and George Lucas’s Star Wars. Their films, with their giant grosses and something-for-everyone style, ended up putting their ‘70s contemporaries like Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese all but out of business. “Star Wars swept all the chips off the table,” Friedkin told Peter Biskind, in his invaluable book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. “What happened with Star Wars was like when McDonald’s got a foothold, the taste for good food just disappeared. Now we’re in a period of devolution. Everything has gone backward toward a big sucking hole.”
posted by Chichibio at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Painquale, you may tolerate it. I do not. Punched up CGI physics look hella fake to me, and I hate it.

Also: The physics in Crystal Skull are particularly horrible.
posted by agregoli at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2013


I'd be curious to know the last time Spielberg or Lucas actually went to the theater as a ticket-buying member of the general public. And what they saw.

(For me, it was last Sunday when I saw The Purge; a movie title and plot that matched my own feelings at the end of 85 minutes. If I coulda hunted down James DeMonaco to poke him in the eye and kick him in the shins, I woulda.)
posted by wensink at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's not like our eye has an intuitive conception of terminal velocity that would recognize when the physics has been punched up.

We do, kinda.
A lot of CGI fake physics gets a pass because we have no frame of reference.
Most people don't know how long it takes, say, a ship to sink or a spaceship to turn, so it is accepted when it happens too fast. Shotguns don't knock a body back 5 feet.

But as soon as you get to person-sized objects, a little part of your brain stands up and says, 'wait a minute, that looks weird'.
If the superhero seems to have zero mass(The Hulk jumping) or no inertia (Spider-man changing directions), it gets your attention.

Now, if the plot is good or the cinematography works and 'suspension of belief' is in full effect, people probably don't care.
But if it's a crap movie, no amount of mucking with the law of gravity is going to help.
posted by madajb at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2013


PHYSICS are PHYSICS. If you make them more dramatic, they cease to look real and believable. I don't understand how a grown ass man doesn't understand this, and further, could be excited about presenting such a unreal product.

DING DING DING. This is particularly egregious on movies where the protagonist is an "everyman" like Indiana Jones or John McClane. If the physics aren't real, then there's no goddamned tension.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:42 AM on June 13, 2013


where the protagonist is an "everyman" like Indiana Jones or John McClane.

For half a second I had a flash on an image of a cranky old Senator swinging a nunchuk in an awkward manner, or attempting some other big action move, before the actual name clicked in. (No, I haven't seen any Die Hard since the first one, took a moment to connect.) But still, yikes.
posted by aught at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


aught: "This. People's boundaries have eroded to the point where they unabashedly eat loudly, talk in normal voices routinely, and use bright cell phones to text during the feature, as if they were watching on their big-screen TV in their living room. It's sad."

It's also bullshit. The original audiences at Shakespeare's plays booed, heckled, and threw stuff at the actors. In 1919, a "farcical musical play in two acts" nearly provoked a riot in London. The a well-mannered, docile audience at any kind of function is a historical rarity.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, I haven't seen any Die Hard since the first one

There is no Die Hard except the first one.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aw, the second one isn't so bad.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:16 PM on June 13, 2013


The original audiences at Shakespeare's plays booed, heckled, and threw stuff at the actors.

They might have cred but I still wouldn't want to share a theater with them.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:31 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's also bullshit.

Just describing my own experience of going to movies when I was a young adult (80s) versus today. I know I mocked myself with a get-off-my-lawn comment but in all sincerity I see a dramatic difference in people's respect for their fellow audience members in the last decade in particular.

And come on, you know I'm talking modern movie going, which has been a thing for less than a century. Comparing to Elizabethan groundlings - who I don't think I'd have wanted to go see a performance with either, let me just say; I mean, all that texting and ICEE slurping! - is just silly.
posted by aught at 12:52 PM on June 13, 2013


We've reached a point of no return with the fantasy movie. The geeks, nerds, and obsessives have so completely taken over the entertainment industry, and so thoroughly know the comic books, science fiction television, and galactic film series they're working with, that there are no new surprises left. Even when it's new, it's nostalgic.

Whether it's Batman or Star Trek or Star Wars, the audience has been there before and can't wait to go again — to find the Easter eggs hidden for only them, to bask in the filmmakers' adherence to sacred texts. This obviates any real expectation that a movie will work as a movie, that it will be a piece of commercial art that takes you to some emotional or visceral place.
From the Grantland review of the new Superman. Seemed on target with this discussion.
posted by nubs at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This story has been updated to correct Clark Kent's home state; it is Kansas, not Iowa.

I know the article is about problematizing an audience's relationship to canon but that's kinda embarrassing.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:29 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Superman's from one, Kirk is from the other...let's just chalk it up to someone getting some continuities mixed up.
posted by nubs at 2:46 PM on June 13, 2013


Their films, with their giant grosses and something-for-everyone style, ended up putting their ‘70s contemporaries like Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese all but out of business.

Blaming Spielberg and Lucas for the death of the 70s is a trite oversimplification. The 70s could not go on forever, let alone the idealized version that gets pass around nowadays. The cocaine had to run out sometime.

Besides:

Altman made movies through his life.
Ashby's alcoholism helped kill his career.
Friedkin's Sorcerer was a costly financial failure, plus he also shot himself in the foot with Cruising and Deal of the Century. To Live and Die in LA was not a huge financial hit, IIRC, and let's not speak of The Guardian.
Bogdanovich has been working constantly as a director over the past few decades.
Coppola's quixotic ambitions (viz. One From The Heart) and personal tragedies have interfered significantly with his success.
Scorsese worked constantly, and nowadays, he has never been in finer shape. Yes, he has had to fight for every dollar over the years, but this is nothing new.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:58 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I rarely go to movies. Maybe one or two a year, and even those tend to be group activities where I'd rather be doing something else.

It's not that I don't like movies—I actually love them. Just not the ones that most theaters show.

If they showed more movies that interested me, I might go 5-6 times a year. If they cleaned up the theaters, made them more comfortable, and got rid of the pre-show commercials and patronizing anti-piracy ads, I might go even more.

I would not pay $20 or $25 dollars for the pleasure, though. And fuck your $5 fountain sodas.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:40 PM on June 13, 2013


All I can say is thank science for Arclight. Reasonably comfortable seats... assigned seating... and NO COMMERCIALS, NO COMMERCIALS, NO COMMERCIALS.

For about $3 extra we can sit in peace and quiet without being hassled about downloading a car or some other such nonsense.
posted by chimaera at 3:50 PM on June 13, 2013


What Spielberg and Lucas are saying (I think) is that the entertainment industry will bifurcate. The vast majority of filmed entertainment will come into your home through wires or satellite transmissions - broadcast and cable TV, and about 90% of what we currently think of as Hollywood movies will meld together into a galaxy of choices that can be downloaded or streamed on demand. If the TV networks and cable channels continue to exist at all, it will be as gatekeepers that decide which projects get funded and produced, and they'll be doing this on much smaller margins as the "mass culture" continues to splinter into a million special interest groups.

Movies, they say, will continue to exist in theaters, but as a much more specialized product for much smaller audiences. One interest group out of many, as it were.

This just seems wrong to me, because movies were one of the mediums that created mass culture in the early twentieth century, fusing together geographically and culturally separated societies into one giant group. Everybody paid a dime to see The Wizard of Oz, or Casablanca, and the tropes of many different movie genres became part of the background of everyone's life. You could live in a city and still be a fan of cowboy movies, or live in a jungle and still know about Ghostbusters. Books, radio, movies and TV help make us who we are.

Now, on the very cusp of this giant wave of globalization that's turned the whole planet into an interconnected society, it seems these old mediums of mass culture are breaking apart, just as society is splintering into a million separate interest groups, and it feels like a tremendous loss. I wish Hollywood would keep it's old business model and still try to swing for the fences. If the major studios strike out too many times and end up going bankrupt, maybe a smaller 1970's style system of production companies could take their place. But smaller, more cheaply made movies might not be capable of pulling people away from their other distractions, and the whole medium could disappear.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2013


they sit right in front of you (or almost as bad, right next to you, to begin their interminable crinkly candy wrapper soundtrack)? I've never thought of humans as herd animals but it's like the cows all needing to stand next to each other in the huge field.

It's not herd mentality. It's because you, as the first in the theater, presumably took the best seats. The second-best seats are adjacent to them.
posted by rifflesby at 6:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pro tip: go early and take a half dozen jackets along with you. Get the good seats and drape jackets as a buffer zone beside, in front, and behind you.

You're welcome.
posted by mazola at 9:29 PM on June 13, 2013


"Ah, it sure is a fine day to go to the movies with my extensive collection of realistic CPR training dummies."
posted by rifflesby at 10:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's because movies about men -- which are all that are showing, now -- just don't succeed properly, and we need to rethink whether people will go see movies about men.
posted by jeather at 2:36 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Get the good seats and drape jackets as a buffer zone beside, in front, and behind you.

You'd think it would be that easy, wouldn't you?
posted by aught at 5:43 PM on June 14, 2013


It's not herd mentality. It's because you, as the first in the theater, presumably took the best seats.

See, that's not it, because I'm blind in one eye and tend to sit off to one side. It's weird.
posted by aught at 5:44 PM on June 14, 2013


As Lucas painted it, the shift will present new opportunities both for consumers and filmmakers. Viewers will have access to a wide variety of programming, "usually more interesting than what you're going to see in the movie theater".

Whose fault is that, you fucking hack?


Hey, he created some great films to be modified and revised for years to come!


Back in the day they used to have an "A" movie, a cartoon short, and a "B" movie. Maybe theaters could go back to that somewhat, with a short film or two before the main event. Make it a package deal for your 50 bucks.

*cough* drive-ins still do this *cough*cough*

I realize drive-ins are dying things, and the sound is only as good as your car radio, but for $7 per adult, you can drive in, bring your own food and drinks, and have fun with friends.


Perhaps the best moviegoing experience I have ever had was Snakes On A Plane, because the audio track died in the last half hour or so and people in the audience started making up their own dialog.

Rifftrax live, you say?

The idea of niche experiences is really catching on, which is exciting. People won't pay $50 for an individual ticket to a plain old movie, when you can pay less to see movies in concert, live scores to movies. Screw surround-sound, that's a real, live band or a full frickin' orchestra in front of you.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:14 PM on June 15, 2013


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