After Hours optimize

Moviegoers want quality? No fair!


A few snarky anti-Hollywood blogs picked up on an LA Times piece where movie producers try to figure out why Hollywood is massively tanking at the box office this year.

My personal favorite is how quickly they toss aside the notion that

"the usual suspects — bad scripts, bad

marketing and the lack of bona-fide stars" could possibly be to blame,

since those sorts of issues never stopped terrible movies from becoming

really successful in the past. I mean, Independence Day

made Will Smith, not the other way around, and Sherlock Holmes couldn't

divine a coherent plot out of that cinematic train wreck.


Basically, they're asking what's with the 'quality' obsession all of a sudden?


OK, setting aside the idea that the public actually wants quality (God

forbid), or that Hollywood should actually strive for quality when

spending hundreds of millions of dollars (that's crazy talk), I have my

own theory, which at no point delves into the self-absorbed

psychobabble and audience-bashing you'll find in the article.


The public doesn't necessarily want quality, they just don't want to pay $8-12 for crap.

If these awful movies are going to be on DVD in a matter of months (to

say nothing of low-fi pirate versions for download), why would I fork

up the massive ticket prices for the "theater experience"--especially

when the theater experience, to my mind, requires getting together a

group of friends who want to indulge in the same celluloid crap fest at

the same time as me? We'll all just save our sheckels and watch the

pretty effects and absurd explosions from the comfort of our home

surround sound systems and hi-def screens.


Besides that, I think that the general public actual does want a

certain level of quality for a change, and television is to blame. (No,

I'm not being sarcastic.) Megabudget movies have to appeal to a wide

audience, which means they tend to eschew plot, character, and other

quality earmarks in favor of making a product any half brain-dead

schlub can enjoy at a base, reptile-brain level. Television, during the

three-network broadcast monopoly days, had the same problem, which

brought us the hideous concoctions that once passed for cutting edge

sitcom and drama entertainment. Since cable entered the equation,

competing on quality became more common. ESPN SportsCenter, for

example, is a much better product than the five minutes a Big Three

network newscast devotes to sports, because SportsCenter isn't aimed at

everyone, it's aimed at the sports fan. The Big Three (Four if you

count Fox, Six of you count UPN and the WB) have followed suit, making

quality an occasionally expected component of the product.


Television, a more ubiquitous experience than movies, has trained the

consumer public to expect quality. Megabudget movies are terrified of

gambling on quality, because its hard and they never had to do it

before. This explains the crappy summer box office.


Word to Hollywood: Change or die.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...