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December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment" 
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
moviemkr7 wrote:
MGamesCook wrote:
To be honest, I find this to be very exciting. What movies need right now is something akin to a market crash, something to really traumatize those who control the industry. My ideal scenario is for executives to suddenly realize the damage Avatar might have done in the long run, to the point where they no cancel its sequels. But oh well, it's a pipe dream. Something slightly more plausible? One of the Avatar sequels flops hard. Now THAT would be exciting. Something like that will happen eventually, it's only a matter of time. I can't wait.


I hope for this too, but it's likely not going to happen. Studios are risk-averse. Always have been, always will be. With so much money at stake, who can blame them? This being the case, they'll always find another way to push the bar ever so slightly. And forget about an Avatar-ish movie flopping. Studios are too careful for that to happen. Look at Battlefield Earth. That was a mega flop, and only one of the subsidiaries closed up. Nothing changed. Ditto for "Cutthroat Island."

Sad but true.


Moviemkr's right. I remember after "Last Action Hero" failed, there was a lot of speculation that this might mean the end of the blockbuster. But to Hollywood, this was just a tempest in a teapot. This might have been more likely if "Jurassic Park" (the one that beat "Hero" at the box office) had also failed. But ultimately "Hero" wasn't the end of the blockbuster, it was the end of Arnold Schwarzenneger's reign as king of the box office.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:35 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
moviemkr7 wrote:
As I see it, there are a number of problems that are causing this decline; some are easy fixes, but others aren't.

Problem number one: Emphasis on visual quality over character and plot.: Everyone who knows anything about movies mentions this as a main reason why movies are going down the tubes. From a business perspective, it makes sense. Foreign viewers are a huge market, much bigger than US viewers. The problem is that not every culture identifies with the same plots or characters. Consider how many people reacted to "Drive." It was well recieved by critics, but those who were expecting a traditional action movie were in for a surprise when they saw a movie that was really meant for the arthouse crowd. Therefore, the studios tone down the personalities of the characters and the complexity of the plot so that foreign viewers won't be turned away, and amp up the visual style because everyone loves something pleasing to the eye.

That's all fine and dandy for getting people into the theater, but will they want to revisit it? Not likely. There's no one to latch onto. No character worth revisiting. No story that's worth going through twice. I saw Immortals a few weeks ago. It was fun, but I doubt I'll get the Blu Ray unless I can get it for dirt cheap, and even then I won't watch it that often. What's really interesting is that foreign audiences feel the same way: Fun once, but who really gives a damn? It's the jack of all trades, master of none. But unfortunately for moviegoers, that's how the studios get the big bucks.


That's the main thing. Hollywood doesn't know how to market character-driven stuff anymore. That's why "Drive" an ambitious action movie was marketed primarily at the Jason Statham crowd and most of that crowd came away disappointed. I loved "Drive". But I can understand why that crowd wouldn't like it and find it to be talky.

Most movies nowadays are designed to get butts in seats yet no real thought about keeping them around. I saw Cowboys And Aliens opening weekend and while I enjoyed it more than much of the general public did, it's not a movie that I have the need or desire to buy on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Quote:
Problem 3: Hollywood is only paying attention to fringe markets: Again, I’m making generalizations, but you’ll see my point. If you really think about it, there are only three types of movies out there these days (not counting Best Picture contenders, but I’ll get to that later): superheroes, Twilight-ish movies, and hipster movies. Superheroes make big money because they have built in audiences. For a while, the public was open to the idea. It was new and different. Now after 10+ years, the novelty has worn off. We get the formula, and no amount of visual pizazz or one-liners is going to change that. Like everything, superheroes have their diehards, but there are plenty of people who are getting bored with them. What studios like in addition to the built-in audience is that the movies are pretty much storyboarded to begin with. Sure, there are some changes, but the groundwork is there (this leads me to my final problem, but that’s for later). That means less risk of it being rejected as a wannabe’s bad LSD trip. The “Twilight” movies and their clones are a travesty to filmgoers, and most people regard them with disgust like every other sane person on Earth. But their primary market, tween girls, are just as undiscriminating about the quality of their movies as tween boys. Who cares if they can act as long as they look good (or in the case of boys and the “Transformers” movies, if there’s a lot of action (what’s adrenaline?)? I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this in some respects, but even if my fantasy celebrity was in Twilight I wouldn’t watch it unless I had to. Finally, there is my least favorite group: the hipster genre. Initiated by the utterly obnoxious and narcissitic “auteur” Wes Anderson (and subsequently carried on by the likes of “Juno,” “Eagle vs. Shark,” and “Gigantic”), these movies are defined by a few things: characters who are depressed, antisocial misfits, characters who delight in their own nihilism and rejecting anything mainstream, and dressing in the most odd clothes they can find (and appearing to shop ONLY at Urban Outfitters…clothes and coffee table reading included). Suffice it to say that this is probably the least populous fringe group, but in some ways the loudest. I remember complaining on iMDb when I heard that Wes Anderson was adapting a Roald Dahl book (Wes Anderson’s style and themes definitely do not make good material for children in my book), I was torn apart. Literally.

Hollywood goes after these markets because they are easy to identify and target, and they make their movies profitable. The problem is that they’re fringes; not everyone likes superhero movies (even tongue in cheek ones), “Twilight” or Wes Anderson. Mainstream audiences are extremely difficult to please because they are so diverse, and with so much money at stake, they want to be as sure as possible that they’re going to be profitable. But more and more mainstream audiences are turning away, and that’s troubling. Ditto for adults, who want something a little more mature (raunchy comedies being excepted). Adults used to love going to the movies. Now they stay away because they don’t belong to any of these movies, and they love their blood and gore & sex and nudity (you know, the real pleasures of movies), which eliminates the PG-13 crowd.


Hollywood has its tentpole movies, which include the ones you named (although "Twilight", "Transformers" and Superhero movies could be filed together in the Franchise category). Wes Anderson's movies have never been commercial blockbusters, yet he's built up enough of a cult following to ensure that they will be somewhat moderately successful. Rip on Wes all you want. But give me his stuff over weak imitations like Napoleon Dynamite.

And yes, adults are the most overlooked audience. This is obvious in that we're at a point when a decent not great movie like The Help gets praised to high heaven because dramatic character driven films of its type have become an endangered species. At this point, the one director consistently making films for adults may be Alexander Payne. The Descendants may very well be the best film of 2011 and it's good yet not on the level of some of Payne's other films.

Quote:
Problem 5: lack of surprise. We go to movies to be told stories, agreed? But every movie these days has an audience so built in that you don’t know what to expect. Sequels, remakes, reboots, movies based on bestsellers/classics. Even if we haven’t seen the originals, they still feel derivative. What’s the point of going if you already know what it’s going to be like and what’s going to happen? People go because these movies are more aggressively marketed than unique and original movies like “Girlfight” or “Black Book.” If people knew about them, then a lot more people would spend their time watching these kinds of movies as opposed to another sequel or remake.


In some ways, it's easy to say that the last really great movie year was 1999. What made 1999 so great was not simply the fact that there were a lot of great movies. But that there were a lot of movies that took chances. There was room for an edgy Gulf War satire (Three Kings), an artistically ambitious cinematic wake-up call about the way we live and think at the end of the millenium (Magnolia), an uncompromising critique of the pre-fabness of modern life and the dangers of group think and following leaders (Fight Club), a religious satire (Dogma), a dated yet still entertaining portrait of suburban decay (American Beauty) and a high school satire to off-set all the bubblegum teen movies released that year (Election).

Today there's less likelihood of that number of risk taking movies getting released in a single year. Studios are so worried about turning people off that they back away from anything that might. Problem with this is, when you risk turning people off you give them less reason to tune in.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:09 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Jeff Wilder wrote:
Today there's less likelihood of that number of risk taking movies getting released in a single year. Studios are so worried about turning people off that they back away from anything that might.


This is what happens when you let the accountants make creative decisions. Which is inevitable when the amounts of money involved are as large as they are. This is why I'm also in favour of the "crash" approach - or rather, I want to see more attention given to small films from small film-makers with unknown actors, rather than the same old stories with the same old stars.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:18 am
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Still though, a morning matinee by me only costs $6 and you can stay all day and watch movies if you wanted to. Problem is Im too old for that nonsense now and Im also not sure I could string together 3 movies that i wanted to see at the same venue.

Additionally, I think doing something like that, while it was a childhood memory, serves only one purpose... That you actually want your local movie theater to go under. Not only are you not supporting the theater, you are undermining it completely. The cost of you sitting in the chairs, getting your hand oils on the arm rests, using the air conditioning/heat, walking on the carpets and using the facilities for 7 hours has a greater cost than $6.

Whether you like it or not, if you don't buy concessions and pay for each movie you see, the end result is satisfying your own ego, assuming everyone else is responsible for paying for you enjoyment, and doing your part in closing the theater and helping the employees lose their jobs.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:21 am
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Jeff Wilder wrote:
In some ways, it's easy to say that the last really great movie year was 1999. What made 1999 so great was not simply the fact that there were a lot of great movies. But that there were a lot of movies that took chances. There was room for an edgy Gulf War satire (Three Kings), an artistically ambitious cinematic wake-up call about the way we live and think at the end of the millenium (Magnolia), an uncompromising critique of the pre-fabness of modern life and the dangers of group think and following leaders (Fight Club), a religious satire (Dogma), a dated yet still entertaining portrait of suburban decay (American Beauty) and a high school satire to off-set all the bubblegum teen movies released that year (Election).


I find it interesting that most of those movies you mention as being "great about 1999", the vast majorities you describe as "satires" or "critiques". I want to say something about a lack of originality on the part of the filmmakers (I think it's easier to satirize the work or the style of others than to come up with your own original ideas), but am having a tough time coming up with a thesis. Your selection/description of movies just struck me as odd in describing 1999 as "the last great year of film."


Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:24 am
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
MrGuinness wrote:
Still though, a morning matinee by me only costs $6 and you can stay all day and watch movies if you wanted to. Problem is Im too old for that nonsense now and Im also not sure I could string together 3 movies that i wanted to see at the same venue.

Additionally, I think doing something like that, while it was a childhood memory, serves only one purpose... That you actually want your local movie theater to go under. Not only are you not supporting the theater, you are undermining it completely. The cost of you sitting in the chairs, getting your hand oils on the arm rests, using the air conditioning/heat, walking on the carpets and using the facilities for 7 hours has a greater cost than $6.

Whether you like it or not, if you don't buy concessions and pay for each movie you see, the end result is satisfying your own ego, assuming everyone else is responsible for paying for you enjoyment, and doing your part in closing the theater and helping the employees lose their jobs.


Like James I can recall sitting through the same movie more than once in my youth; but maybe only 5 times. I may have skipped from theater to theater maybe 2 or 3 times in my lifetime. Now, at 40+ years of age, I wouldn't think of doing such a thing; it amounts to petty theft in my mind. (I actually probably started recognizing this/respecting it at the age of 20 or so.) I have a couple of casual acquaintences who are also 40+ who still engage in this behavior, and as MrGuinness describes, they are also fairly narcissistic in other areas of their lives. I internally shake my head when they descibe the 2 or 3 movies they saw on one ticket the previous weekend.

Incidentally, the last time I saw 2 or 3 movies on one ticket was at a drive-in about 10-15 years ago.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:31 am
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Jeff Wilder wrote:
moviemkr7 wrote:
MGamesCook wrote:
To be honest, I find this to be very exciting. What movies need right now is something akin to a market crash, something to really traumatize those who control the industry. My ideal scenario is for executives to suddenly realize the damage Avatar might have done in the long run, to the point where they no cancel its sequels. But oh well, it's a pipe dream. Something slightly more plausible? One of the Avatar sequels flops hard. Now THAT would be exciting. Something like that will happen eventually, it's only a matter of time. I can't wait.


I hope for this too, but it's likely not going to happen. Studios are risk-averse. Always have been, always will be. With so much money at stake, who can blame them? This being the case, they'll always find another way to push the bar ever so slightly. And forget about an Avatar-ish movie flopping. Studios are too careful for that to happen. Look at Battlefield Earth. That was a mega flop, and only one of the subsidiaries closed up. Nothing changed. Ditto for "Cutthroat Island."

Sad but true.


Moviemkr's right. I remember after "Last Action Hero" failed, there was a lot of speculation that this might mean the end of the blockbuster. But to Hollywood, this was just a tempest in a teapot. This might have been more likely if "Jurassic Park" (the one that beat "Hero" at the box office) had also failed. But ultimately "Hero" wasn't the end of the blockbuster, it was the end of Arnold Schwarzenneger's reign as king of the box office.
The main reason Hero failed I believe is because it was released a mere 2 weeks after Jurassic Park, which took away most of it's potential audience, Arnold himself admitted that the studios should've waited for a few more weeks before releasing the film.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:41 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
One thing that hasn't been discussed but should be:

Studios aren't going to be worried about their bottom line until international box office numbers start hurting, and right now that's not happening. The studios make money hand over fist in the international market, and if we keep in mind the rule of 2.5 (which states that a film generally has to make 2.5 times its budget in order to turn a profit), then the fact of the matter is that most films are profitable. I don't see things changing anytime soon.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:09 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
Studios aren't going to be worried about their bottom line until international box office numbers start hurting, and right now that's not happening.


Hmm.

Yes, but they used to say this about DVD sales, and it was a rule of 2. So I think we are seeing a gradual change.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:59 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
I work at a theater, and even I shake my head at how marked up concessions are. But that's the way the theaters make money, and they make a pittance with ticket sales (90-95% of the money goes back to the distributors and only if a movie has staying power does the theaters' share grow to 35%).

My suggestion is this: If your local theater offers up discount matinees or discount concessions during the week, that's the most ideal time to go. Unless it's one of the peak movie-going seasons (i.e. May-August, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays), not many people show up during the week. Especially if you want to see a movie that's a big family movie (i.e. The Muppets), you face a substantially less chance of having patrons show up with their unruly kids than if you go during the weekends.

I know our theater chain offers up a popcorn bucket at the steep price of $17.50 at the get-go. But if you're a regular moviegoer, it only costs $3.50 to refill it during the calendar year. That's a big incentive, especially since now a small popcorn is $6! We also have a Stimulus Tuesday theme where a small popcorn and drink are $1 each, candy is $2.50, and the combos are $5 less.

There are many ways to avoid paying full price at the theaters. I don't recommend sneaking food in, even if it is cheaper. Most people who sneak food and drink in don't bother throwing away the trash when they leave, and that ticks me off to no end. If you don't want to eat, eat before you come in.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:02 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
James,

Have you ever been to something like an Alamo Drafthouse? Super quality equiptment, super friendly staff until you talk or text (in which case you will be escorted out) and tables in front of every very large, comfortable seats in which you can order gormet foods along with a beer.

I have no problem paying a premium for that experience.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:49 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
roastbeef_ajus wrote:
James,

Have you ever been to something like an Alamo Drafthouse? Super quality equiptment, super friendly staff until you talk or text (in which case you will be escorted out) and tables in front of every very large, comfortable seats in which you can order gormet foods along with a beer.

I have no problem paying a premium for that experience.

I've never been, but I would go in a heartbeat. I would definitely appreciate the deluxe accomodations and the management that clearly gives a shit about making movies a special experience.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:32 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Ken wrote:
roastbeef_ajus wrote:
James,

Have you ever been to something like an Alamo Drafthouse? Super quality equiptment, super friendly staff until you talk or text (in which case you will be escorted out) and tables in front of every very large, comfortable seats in which you can order gormet foods along with a beer.

I have no problem paying a premium for that experience.

I've never been, but I would go in a heartbeat. I would definitely appreciate the deluxe accomodations and the management that clearly gives a shit about making movies a special experience.


We have a local drafthouse with large cushy chairs with side tables for food and such...a couple of love seats strewn here and there. They have table service and alcohol. It's a nice change of pace but it's an old single screen theater, so they don't have a lot of choice for movies. The last film I saw there was Super 8 and, frankly, they had the volume cranked too loud. Also, being in such comfy chairs (and with a couple of beers in you) can make it real easy to doze off if the movie doesn't sieze and hold 100% of your attention; the threshold for that is lower in the more cramped seats of a multiplex.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:45 pm
Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
roastbeef_ajus wrote:
James,

Have you ever been to something like an Alamo Drafthouse? Super quality equiptment, super friendly staff until you talk or text (in which case you will be escorted out) and tables in front of every very large, comfortable seats in which you can order gormet foods along with a beer.

I have no problem paying a premium for that experience.


I've been to an Alamo in Austin several times. The problem with the Alamo is you have waiters interrupting the movie experience with all their running around and "last call!" nonsense. I don't like going to them.

(And eating restaurant food without being able to see it? That's an ick factor not related to this, but yes. Ick.)


Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:34 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
moviemkr7 wrote:
My problem with movie theaters is the non-movie noise. I've been really sensitive to this for a while, but I cannot STAND it when someone near me is loudly munching on popcorn, nachos or what not, or is sniffling up a bunch of mucus. Especially these days when theaters are so cramped and tiny, those noises become magnified tremendously. I used to love going to movie theaters, but it's so bad now that I dread going. I love it when I'm essentially the only one there.


While watching EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE the other day, there was a woman carrying an infant sitting directly behind me. (I couldn't move because the theater was packed.) All things considered, the baby was well-behaved, but it made enough whining noises to occasionally pull me out of the movie. Boggles the mind.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:49 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
James Berardinelli wrote:
moviemkr7 wrote:
My problem with movie theaters is the non-movie noise. I've been really sensitive to this for a while, but I cannot STAND it when someone near me is loudly munching on popcorn, nachos or what not, or is sniffling up a bunch of mucus. Especially these days when theaters are so cramped and tiny, those noises become magnified tremendously. I used to love going to movie theaters, but it's so bad now that I dread going. I love it when I'm essentially the only one there.


While watching EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE the other day, there was a woman carrying an infant sitting directly behind me. (I couldn't move because the theater was packed.) All things considered, the baby was well-behaved, but it made enough whining noises to occasionally pull me out of the movie. Boggles the mind.


When I was at The Thing, there were some people who would not shut up. I mean, they were talking NON STOP! I'll admit, I do occasionally mutter a thing or two to a friend of mine, but that's a rare occasion, and I'm careful not to be loud. But i had to go get the usher (who did nothing), and at the end of the movie, they were mad at me! WTF?

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:53 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
Vexer wrote:
The main reason Hero failed I believe is because it was released a mere 2 weeks after Jurassic Park, which took away most of it's potential audience, Arnold himself admitted that the studios should've waited for a few more weeks before releasing the film.


That's an excuse, not the reason. I was there on the front lines for that debacle. I went to it on opening night; the theater was packed. They were turning people away at the door. When the movie ended, the audience booed like I have never heard before or since. They hated the movie. We're talking a generic mall multiplex crowd comprised primarily of males between the ages of 13-21.

THE LAST ACTION HERO failed because of a massive audience backlash. It was not the movie they wanted to see. At the time, Arnold was such a box office behemoth that his doing an action movie where he wasn't kicking ass and taking names was anathema to his core audience: teenage boys and college-age young men. He lost them with that movie and they never really came back.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:00 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
roastbeef_ajus wrote:
James,

Have you ever been to something like an Alamo Drafthouse? Super quality equiptment, super friendly staff until you talk or text (in which case you will be escorted out) and tables in front of every very large, comfortable seats in which you can order gormet foods along with a beer.

I have no problem paying a premium for that experience.


I haven't been and have no interest in going. For me, a movie theater is about seeing the movie, not about eating and watching. I NEVER purchase concessions or bring anything to eat with me (except the occasional breath mint).

Tell me about a theater that has extra large, cushy chairs, lots of leg room, and NO FOOD, and I'll pay extra.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:03 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
moviemkr7 wrote:
Problem number one: Emphasis on visual quality over character and plot.


It makes total sense that a primarily visual medium is being hosed by too many visuals ;)

Avatar will not fail, as much as we all want it to. Cameron will just come up with another horse shit ridden marketing campain like he did with the original. To make matters worse, calling it the 'sequel to the biggest grossing movie of all time' isn't actually horse shit, it's the tragic truth!

I can't honestly see a market crash happening in the near future. If studios firmly believe they are saving money by now only utilising digital filming techniques, they are obviously using sub-standard kit (assuming 35mm to be a 'standard', despite the vast range of film formats previously used in movies) and/or making the obvious saving from shipping and projecting costs (can you press play? You're hired!). The irony here is that multiplexes now charge more for an inferior product (compressed sound etc) and as I mentioned before, the fake IMAX issue is perhaps the biggest insult.

Quality wise, what are people waiting for exactly? The next 'Citizen Kane'? Keep waiting, it won't happen. It's a no win situation, creatively; anything remotely seminal and it will be blasted for the slightest misstep, and anything that takes the best of the winners to make something new will get trashed for doing so.

Conclusion: We, the audience, have a perfectionist complex. The subjective nature of entertainment means that there will always be people who are disappointed. The people who applaud 'Avatar' will hate 'The Sitter' and vice versa. Nothing will ever please everyone, but cinemas and studios will always take home enough money to not feel the need to warrant change.


Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:57 pm
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Post Re: December 14, 2011: "At What Price Entertainment"
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Quality wise, what are people waiting for exactly? The next 'Citizen Kane'? Keep waiting, it won't happen. It's a no win situation, creatively; anything remotely seminal and it will be blasted for the slightest misstep, and anything that takes the best of the winners to make something new will get trashed for doing so.


No, just something of better quality than Twilight, an end to superhero movies and sequels, fewer remakes and reboots, and so on.

Quote:
Conclusion: We, the audience, have a perfectionist complex. The subjective nature of entertainment means that there will always be people who are disappointed. The people who applaud 'Avatar' will hate 'The Sitter' and vice versa. Nothing will ever please everyone, but cinemas and studios will always take home enough money to not feel the need to warrant change.


I think you're overstating things a little. True, everyone is different and theywant different things from different movies, but the dramatic downside in ticket prices is proof that we want something other than what Hollywood is giving us.

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