It's beginning to dawn on me, movies are starting to really bug me on the whole. I see all the signs that Hollywood is going to burn itself to the ground, but I doubt it will. It always survives, somehow. Where to begin?
Firstly, what has been bugging me is the accessibility. Movies I have no interest in seeing are within a stone's throw away. Movies I want to see, on the other hand, require me to travel across town to the one goddamn cinema that decides to screen it (if at all). I don't know if this is based on my judgment on what's "good" or "bad", since I can't even tell anymore, it all has to do with whatever the distributors decide. Their decision is not based on the merits of good film-making, they are based on trends in society and what people will most likely spend their money on. People will spend their money on anything, if you can sell it to them. So why don't distributors promote the hell out of their better films? Because those films weren't made with the largest target audience in mind, they weren't targeted towards lifestyle choices discovered by "focus groups" and online social network queries. Specifically, they're not business-friendly, and therefore too risky to invest a great deal of money into. There may be a couple exceptions, I'll go ahead and name Toy Story 3 as one of them.
This is all common knowledge, or at least should be by now. This is natural business, I understand that. There are more sides to it that bugs me.
A good start is to watch the first part to Mr. Plinkett's review of Star Trek 2009, to get a better understanding of what I'm talking about.
They just don't make movies like they used to. Blockbusters used to be great movies, and the film-makers could get away with it too, because there wasn't much alternative. The rule was that if your movie sucks, your movie will flop, and your career starts going downhill. The same rule applies today, but your movie can still make money even if it sucks. Why? It might have to do with the marketing team skilfully addressing the mass audience's interest long enough to get them to buy a ticket (one thing they're not relying on is word-of-mouth, which only comes as a cherry on top, so you can save your hopes of all that business for the more obscure films tailored towards the snobby critic-types), or it could be a variety of other things, like:
* Ticket prices being raised (here we also have cinemas who have a "Gold Class" or some equivalent option which is over double the normal ticket price).
* Ever-increasing population of people who lack taste or self-awareness (the complacent audience).
* Ever-increasing number of people becoming parents which automatically washes them down into bland personalities due to some kind of moral standard to be a role-model for children, meaning they are able to put up with as many shitty movies as it takes to keep the little ones distracted.
* All of the above combined.
Of course, this doesn't apply to as many people as possible, I haven't lost faith in humanity just yet. Statistically, in Australia at least, only about 30% of the population still go to the movies (maybe less) and it is dwindling. An obvious issue is the ticket prices. We can see through the bullshit. Digital cinema was created firstly for the sake of a proper 3D viewing experience, but also for lowering costs on printing and distribution. It costs around $3000 to print a single copy of film on to celluloid (depending on the size and quality), however it is roughly $150 to make a digital copy on to an external hard drive (the way my company works is that they rent out the hard drives for a period of time, then we return them to be re-formatted for the next movie). A typical celluloid movie would weigh 20-21kg, and would be inside a carton about .027m³, whereas a hard drive weighs 3-4kg and belongs in a carton about .012m³, essentially lowering the freight-cost by triple (plus you only need one hard drive for multiple screens at once, unlike celluloid), and how do cinema complexes respond? By adding an extra $2 on an already inflated ticket price!!!
They can give you all the bullshit they want about the cost of the new projectors to run them, and the distributor fee to exhibit the film (they take 80% in the first two weeks of release), but money is being saved, at least it should be! I guess it isn't, because no one wants to see your inferior product! There is a Yiddish word for inferior product, it is schlock!
Wait, schlock is a value in commodity these days, isn't it? I'm sorry for using three exclamation marks earlier, I know that's not very grammatical.
Where was I? Yeah, so, people aren't going to cinemas as much as they used to. As it has been explained in Mr. Plinkett's Star Trek 2009 review, there is a rise in media-saturation and preference to home-video. People are beginning to make choices and think for themselves. I suppose this is what is also bugging me. I love film, I obsess over it every day. I've even gone beyond the point of wanting to be a "critic" because it's too boring for me, film is something I can enjoy as an expression. But as I said before, the best films are the ones that gain little exposure, and they get lost in the tangle of hundreds of millions of other events going on around the world, and they are forgotten as soon as they are mentioned. What is the point of good film-making any more? You may gain a small audience, maybe a few people on the Internet will write about it in their blogs. But is that enough?
I don't think it is.
There are many of us who have the irrepressible will to express ourselves, no matter if there is an audience or not. That's fine. But film-making is an expensive, long and tiresome effort. You're not going to make a film unless you fucking mean it, and unless you want it to be seen.
Film is a dying art, I can foresee that there will be something else to replace it. I think the Internet already has - the whole idea of social networking is a form of entertainment to many. Plenty of drama around, if you know where to look.
Based on this, I will make some predictions.
Ticket prices will inflate to enormous rates. I will say in at least five (5) years time a normal ticket will be about $50. Maybe a "family package" will be $80. In a fit of desperation to keep the cinema houses going, their screens will get even more bigger and every movie out of Hollywood will be 3D; without having to use glasses.
Any movie not in 3D will be an independent production, and there will be a lot of them, due to evolving sophistication in high-definition quality pictures able to be filmed by cheap hand-held cameras (possibly webcams even!). Actors will not be paid in advance, instead they work on commission. There will be more animation studios, but none will be able to rival Pixar in terms of quality and gross profit because they will all be pumping out the same device-driven crap. Not even the well established Industrial Light & Magic with highly respectable directors like Gore Verbinski. Seriously, "Rango" looks terrible. They've fallen into the Dreamworks trap on the method of compiling an animated film - adapting to the typical "blockbuster" formula that works better for live-action. I know it's going to make money, because Paramount is going to market the shit out of it. But it won't make as much as it could if they paid more attention to what makes good animation successful. I wonder if anyone has drawn any conclusions between "Rango" and this post by John Kricfalusi? I'm drifting off here. It's late. But I'm glad to finally get this whole thing off my chest.
There will be more to come. Perhaps this blog will be more about my current anxieties, kind of like a therapy session. I've made a tumblr account with the concept of writing about specific pieces of movie/book/music from specific collections, plus an occasional embedded sound/song you are not obligated to listen to.