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.
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 also follow him on his personal blog.