…or why the movie industry is performing horribly this year. “The Media”, that nebulous, multi-headed beast is up in arms over the whopping 21% decline in year-over-year box office reciepts. Those in the know have blamed everything from piracy to poor product. Now though chicken little is sure to declare the sky is falling as BlockBuster reports that their year over year video rentals are falling as well.
Last year was a record high for the box office industry. There was an amazing array of solid product, with some of the best movies of the decade thus far coming out, from Lord of the Rings through Spider-Man 2, Fahrenheit 9/11 and the Passion, great movies were bringing people into the theatres all year long.
The marketing of these movies was also nearly perfect. Lead times were good, with the culmination of marketing campaigns falling right on the movie's opening and then trailing off after the movie was released. In comparison, this year all of the marketing seems to happen months in advance. I wanted to see War of the Worlds back in May when the early buzz was incredible. The Tom Cruise meltdown happened in mid June, and the movie didn't appear in theatres until July! Cruise's infamous meltdown on Oprah happened while Steven Speilberg was still putting the finishing touches on the film!
Imagine if the press junket happened the week of the film, instead of two or three weeks before.
We're an instant gratification society, and we want what we want right now. Tease us with a new movie, and we want it right then.
People I know think that The Dukes of Hazzard has already come and gone…it gets released this weekend! How's that for bad marketing?
Batman is one of the best superhero films of all time, yet it's doing better overseas than it did in North America. When you compare the marketing campaign of this movie to the campaign of the first Batman movie in 1989, there's no contest even. The first one was marketed so well that everyone HAD to go see that movie.
Movies used to be events, and when the video craze took off and home theatres became more affordable, the movie industry fought back with better screens, better theatres, and more choice.
10 years later and those theatres are starting to show their age. Refurbishments need to be made, digital projection needs to be invested in, and audiences need to be educated that a movie theatre is not their living room (so shut the hell up).
Home theatres are cheaper than ever. You can buy a DVD for the same price as two movie tickets. For a $2,000 investment, you can have a home theatre experience which is on par with, or better than a theatre experience. There needs to be a reason for us to leave our cocoons and enjoy a theatre (which is still how filmmakers envision their movies being seen).
The revolution is happening on TV right now, as years of crappy reality programming have given way to a rise in incredible dramatic production. Lost, 24, The Inside, and Alias are big budget movies produced on a weekly basis. Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, and Las Vegas give us entertainment every week, and the reality series have been pared down to only the best with Survivor and The Amazing Race capturing audience attention. Reviews say that the competition will only increase in the fall with early favourites Prison Break, My Name is Earl, and Bones getting great reviews.
Gaming is becoming a bigger industry, as is the internet, with people's attention being taken away by new distractions. Movies have to work harder than ever to keep people coming back. We need new ideas, new technologies, and new directors. In short we need another revolution like we had in the 90's when the Quentin Tarantino's, Kevin Smith's and PT Anderson's of the world were introduced to us.
All is not lost though, there are smatterings of brilliant ideas out there, and Richard Kelly (of Donnie Darko fame) has a new film coming out next summer which is already spreading the viral seeds. Southland Tales has a website already which looks interesting, and has opened sites up for Sarah Michelle Gellar's character of Krysta Now has a website, while what is apparently q company in the film named Treer Products also has an official site, and another site which is referenced in the official site has been created for USIdent. If Kelly uses the web for this movie the same way he did for Donnie Darko, then this could be very interesting indeed.