They Still Don’t Get It

Speaking of going out to the movies, the summer slump in Hollywood output apparently continues:

Fans complain that high ticket prices and concessions make going to theaters too costly. But industry players hear that gripe often, and note the average ticket price is up 3 percent this year, roughly equal to the increase in 2004 when the box office hit a high of $9.54 billion.

The only reason everyone seems to agree on for 2005’s box office slump is that this year’s films of familiar remakes, sequels, comic book capers and science-fiction adventures simply failed to connect with broad audiences.

“Audiences have gotten more sophisticated, and movies do have to catch up,” Dergarabedian said.

I’ve certainly done my bit to suppress sales. The movie I saw yesterday was the first one I’ve seen in a theatre in well over a year, and the above reasons are why. Thirteen dollars for a tub of popcorn and two soft drinks seems ridiculous when one can pop it oneself in the house, and not have to put up with noisy kids, sticky floors, etc.

And they do seem in a rut thematically. Of all of the previews that I saw before Star Wars yesterday, only one (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) wasn’t either SF or fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia), which also made me realize how mainstream the genre has become compared to when I was a youth, though I suspect that it doesn’t dominate the book-reading public to anywhere near the same degree. In fact, I imagine that few people even realize that these are SF movies at all, so common have they become. Of course, they may have chosen those previews precisely because the movie we were seeing was SF (well, as SF as Star Wars ever was). But that does seem to be the trend this summer, judging from the paper and the buzz.

But Reuters (unsurprisingly) misses another reason that people may be staying away–the fact that so many in Tinseltown can’t keep their idiot yaps shut about politics, and other subjects. I’ll almost certainly skip (without missing) Oliver Stone’s upcoming movie about 911, for no other reason than that it’s by Oliver Stone. I’d like to see War of the Worlds, but a reason not to is the foolish things that Stephen Spielberg does and says (including his apparent worship of Fidel Castro). Why line his pockets and reward him?

And then there’s Tom Cruise.

Now, I’ve never been a person to go see a movie just because some “star” is in it (including Jennifer Connolly, though I’m often sorely tempted to see a movie in which I’d otherwise have no interest, if she graces the screen), and that goes double for Cruise, of whom the appeal is a mystery to me. I suppose that it would probably help if I were a heterosexual female. But even the latter audience may have been turned off by his latest antics. I talked to a twenty-something of my acquaintance yesterday, who said that she was going to boycott the movie simply because he was in it, and if she ever saw him in person, she’d be tempted to slug him over the things that he’s said recently about mental health (a subject with which he perhaps needs to become more familiar) and his induction of Katie Holmes into his weird cult.

If she’s in any way typical of her generation, instead of a box-office draw, he may becoming box-office poison, and cratering his career. And I don’t think it will be very easy for me to dredge up any sympathy if he does.