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A Reason For Going To The Movies

Many folks are grabbing onto the dark line of thought that movie theaters are doomed. It’s an easy path to take and frankly, you can interpret the data in a way to draw a conclusion that movie theaters have been dying for a while. A few publications trumpet the fact that from 2002 to 2019 the U.S. saw a drop of nearly 350 million movie tickets sold nationwide, that is a number that doesn’t reflect the impact of COVID.

As I have stated often, Hollywood is rapidly shifting away from its base and is putting forward stories that are simply not connecting. That being said, good movies are being made but are being buried in the dollar bin that is video streaming. Distributors in the motion picture business are acquiring movies for little or no money, flipping them quickly for a few bucks, and not giving the movie a real chance. They are being orphaned by the hundreds and their place should be on a big screen somewhere.

The Oscars this year just cemented the fact for many that Hollywood no longer holds a place in their lives. They have pulled back the curtain and revealed that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science is a jumbled mess of mediocrity, political posturing and political correctness gone amuck.

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, released in 2021 due to COVID and a lack of attention should have been the next Mama Mia or Bridesmaids. Best friends Barb and Star leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on vacation in Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they soon find themselves tangled up in adventure, love, and a villain’s evil plot to kill everyone in town. Will Ferrell is one of the producers and it stars Kristen Wiig.

It was supposed to be released in theaters but is now being released widely in the UK and Australia, just not in America. This movie quickly got dumped into Amazon, ITunes, and Google Play. One of the more apparent opinions of the Lionsgate studio execs is that that the initial trailer was a spoof on “Stranger Things,” the hit Netflix tentpole that owes its success to its ability to emulate the tone of 80’s movie vibe.

What is becoming apparent is that the business of motion picture exhibition is being manipulated and frankly being starved by Hollywood. Movies, no longer being funded by the studios are being used as pawns in the streaming war, a war that is not going to end well and one where no winners will arise.

For Netflix, the pandemic is proving to be a fickle mistress. Netflix’s COVID enhanced subscriber growth is slowing rapidly. The video-streaming service only added 4 million more subscribers worldwide subscribers from January through March. This marks the slowest quarter in the last four years and was 2 million fewer subscribers than projected by its senior management and analysts. Last year Netflix, primarily due to COVID, saw a rise of 16 million subscribers primarily due to government-imposed lockdowns and social distancing mandates.

What surprises me is that all these naysayers are forgetting that the people who subscribe to streaming services go to the movies more often than those that do not subscribe to a streaming service. During the mid-’80s when VHS fever took hold of North America, many said at that time…this is going to kill the movies. It did in fact do the opposite; it gave rise to a golden era of motion picture production that produced “The Goonies”, “Top Gun”, “Back To the Future”, “Field Of Dreams” and many more.

Let me put it in a very simple way; it’s not the movies that are broken, it’s the studios that are broken.

The biggest complaint I read about the Oscars is that it was the streaming awards, streaming should get its own damn show.

When the first commercial movie theaters opened in the earliest part of the 20th Century, the reason to go to a movie was really very simple, you wanted to watch a movie. There wasn’t television, VHS or Netflix, you wanted to see a movie and you went to a movie theater.

Technologies came and technologies went, sound was introduced but if you wanted to see a movie you still had to go to a theater. Television arrived and movies saw a downturn, not because of the technology but by the fact that the studios turned resources towards the new medium. Lew Wasserman, the future head of MCA/Universal formed an extension of his agency called Regency and attempted to control all of the television output by controlling the talent. The government stepped in and told Lew it wasn’t going to happen.

When VHS came into play, it was a tidal wave, but it did not reduce movie attendance. In fact, there are many thoughtful arguments that make the claim that the VHS revolution increased movie-going. Now the studios were far more sensible, they understood that in 1997 if you sold a VHS copy of “Titanic” nine months after the theatrical release, you would in fact maximize your income.

Perhaps you went to the theater to see a spectacle, or to watch a movie that wouldn’t be easy to access elsewhere anytime soon. If you loved Titanic when it came out in 1997 and wanted to see it again before its arrival on home video — on not one, but two VHS tapes, nine months after its theatrical premiere — you had to go to the theater.

The reasons for going to the movies remain the same. It really comes down to some very simple things, the fact is they go to the movies for three reasons. One, they like being around other people….in fact moviegoers really really like it. Two, they like the commitment movie-going gives them, the commitment to being in a defined physical space and paying attention to the story and the experience the filmmaker has created. And three, it is just good to get out of your own space. A different space brings a new perspective and a new experience.

Movie-going allows us to see the world for a brief moment through someone else’s eyes and also through the experience of others viewing the movie with you. It can make strangers less strange. That sense of detachment when watching a movie provides us with a release and an alternative perspective.

Like I have said before, it's really time to fire Hollywood, they are really doing a lousy job.

Movie-going is not the problem, you just got to give folks a reason to go to the movies