Box Office Avoidance

I don’t feel ready to go back to a movie theatre and it’s making me a little crazy. 

Check that. 

I’ve always been a little crazy, in an engaging sort of way, but I’ve gone a lot crazier in the last 18+ pandemic months partly because I don’t have life at the local cinema to help me out.

Right.  I know. 

Not me at all, I swear

Theatres are open and I’m thrice vaccinated and boosted as much as any human can be at this point. 

What that means is that even if I were to contract COVID the overwhelming odds are I wouldn’t be hospitalized and, statistically, am pretty much immune from dying by its ugly hand.

Nevertheless, sitting inside for 2-3 hours in a mask with a room full of people I don’t know doesn’t seem like an escape from crazy to me.  It feels like gilding the lily of crazy. 

And, I suspect, I’m not alone. 

Plus, how am I supposed to eat popcorn like this?

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story,” about as want-to-see and hyped as any holiday movie can be (Note: The exception being something Marvel-ous) opened to about 4.1 million at the domestic box-office on Friday and is expected to gross about $10.1 million in its first weekend of release.

To translate those numbers into industry parlance, that means AWFUL. 

There are lots of reasons and analyses of this you can read here that will recount it far more articulately, hopefully and in more length than any mere blog such as this one will allow.

It’ll be a slow build, the weeks before Christmas are never great box-office, Spielberg films tend to sustain much longer than others, blah, blah, blah…

Digging into the archives for this one

But here’s what I do know.  For sure.

The audience for this movie is majority older adults, despite it’s youthful casting, and as far as that’s concerned I’m Telling You, the majority of us older Americans mostly Aren’t Goin’ out to the movies.

Oh Chairy, I see what you did there

This may or may not be rational but in every way and more this is the correct assessment of the situation.  For the time being.  And probably longer than that.

Sure, sometime during the Christmas season I just might decide, on the spur of the moment, to attend an 11am showing at a theatre on a Monday or Tuesday (Note: traditionally the slowest movie going days) in a reserved seat far, far, FAR away from anybody else. 

But this will only happen if the box-office numbers for WSS don’t build, and indeed plummet, probably into CATS: THE MOVIE territory.

Don’t bring me into this

More likely is I will wait until I can rent the film on a streaming platform or attend a small, select industry screening at an off hour where you have to prove you’ve been triple vaccinated. 

And there have so far been few, if any, of the latter events on my industry invite docket.

(Note: Industry invite docket being any email, phone call or overheard conversation within eye or ear shot that sounds even vaguely appealing to this very, very VERY crazy, quite desperate housebound me).

I’m keeping busy in the meantime

I’m told by some of my friends that it’s not wise to live this way and that you only live once.   I tend to be ruled by the latter and to that I do emphatically reply, Um….YEAH.  YOU SAID, IT, I DIDN’T.  AND NOW I DON’T HAVE TO!!

I guess it all comes down to risk/reward.  What are you willing to put up with and for how long?

Or as someone much smarter, wry and acerbic than me once said:  Is the f-king you’re getting, really worth the f-king you’re getting??

The Chair’s gettin’ saucy!

Historically it’s taken me a while to decide what the answer is to that one whenever I’m in a situation where I’m not pleased.  Though certainly I expect to revisit the issue as pandemic life proceeds with no end in sight. 

In the meantime, I can already rent Kenneth Branagh’s much talked about Belfast on Amazon for $19.99, and Meet the Ricardos will be available there on  Dec. 21.  The Hand of God, director Pablo Sorrentino’s (The Great Beauty) much ballyhooed new film drops on Netflix Dec. 15th.   And there is always a chance the Writers’ Guild and others will be sending out DVDs or codes I can pop in for things like Guillermo Del Toro’s new version of Nightmare Alley.

Don’t worry Benny, I got you on Netflix too

Yes, I know it’s better to view that one on the big screen but guess what?  Me and the hubby are not giving presents to each other this year and are instead using the money (and then some) to get a bigger, more streaming friendly flat screen (Note: 77” – but don’t call us size queens) at one of the MANY holiday sales.

It’s not the same as going out and being with other live people.   But the only mask you have to wear is the one you sometimes put on in front of your spouse instead of following through with every insidious, horrible thing you’re really thinking of doing to them.

….Oh, of course I’m only joshing!!!

Or am I???

2022 look, obviously

But before you answer, consider how crazy I’ve already confessed to being and just how much crazier I will get by the day. 

Who knows what those in my age group are capable of?

Even Spielberg, once he gets the final grosses.

West Side Story (2021) – “America”

Not Joking

I’ve decided to wait a bit to see Joker.

Not that you asked and not that I’m afraid to venture out to a movie theatre showing Joker on its opening weekend.

Oh, yes.  Apparently, there is reason to be afraid.

My students actually brought this to my attention, noting more than several sets of their parents called them this week to warn them of the perils of venturing out.  These were mothers and fathers who were truly afraid their college juniors and seniors could possibly be shot at in a public venue that dared to show a movie that addressed the evolution of a cartoon villain into a gun toting vigilante who wanted revenge.

America, 2019 #sad

But it never even occurred to me to be scared and I have fears about pretty much everything.

Not being a parent and never one to miss the opening weekend of a movie I was desperate to see (Note:  Yes, I did see Judy on opening night.  Please.) I thought of venturing out to Joker.  But it wasn’t the prospect of the ridiculous crowds that go hand in hand with those huge box-office projections that made me stay home.

Reserved seating ensures you don’t have to wait in line for a ticket and I was willing to take my chances in the off chance of a flesh and blood gunman given I survived the eighties.  But, well, the rat f-ck in the parking lot, the talking in the theatre during the film, the inevitable crying kid who shouldn’t be there or texting teens with neon-screened phones who have to be there– I mean, really, I can wait.

I’m fine with this

And anyway, Martin Scorsese says any film that’s part of the Marvel Universe isn’t real cinema so I doubt that he feels any differently about DC/Batman origins.

Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” —  Martin Scorsese to Empire magazine this week.

Scorsese throws it down

If Scorsese is venting about high and low art we moviegoers are really in trouble.

Still, I get it, don’t you?  A steady diet of anything eventually makes it less special and inevitably, less than satisfying.  So how frustrating must it be for someone who is acknowledged as one of the best filmmakers of the century to watch the market for what he produces narrow further and further.

It’s the slow execution of everything he has given his life to.  The existential extinction of a widespread and very particular art form.

On the other hand, (and quite honestly) I can’t say I’m excited to see another Scorsese gangster movie, are you? Really excited?  I mean, are you really, really excited about the release of his latest three and a half hour long epic The Irishman early next month?  As excited as you were to see Goodfellas, Casino or even, say, The Departed?  Be honest.

I feel seen #truth

A superhero movie fan could argue a new gangster film from the director is the cinematic equivalent of a Scorsese theme park ride.   Others might, too.

This in no way lets the glut of Marvel/DC comic book movies off the hook.  Looking at what’s playing at what we used to refer to as real movie theatres at any given moment is a far, far cry from the last true golden age of cinema in the late sixties through the early to mid-seventies.

You know… before this #imissyoucarrie

The entertainment business has always revolved around making money, especially easy money.  So no one can blame movie studios, producers, directors, actors, et al for focusing on the broadest possible market with an emphasis on the key 18-24 year old demographic.

It’s said studios are most interested in a four-quadrant film, meaning the movie that will appeal to the widest swath of the population (Note:  What quadrant are you in?) but this is no longer the case.  It’s not even the case that whom they want to most appeal to are 18-24 year olds.

Most people when they go to a comic book movie #ifeelold

What is true is that superhero films accounted for more than 25% of total movie ticket sales last year, the equivalent of $11.38 billion.

Truth be told, this is a lot it is still far less than what we (okay I) might have imagined.  Until we realize, large as it is, it’s still a misleading statistic.  Those films might account for a quarter plus of releases but how wide of a release do the non-superhero movies get and how long do they really stick around?

In other words, 75% of the movies we have the option of going out to see might not have anything to do with Marvel or DC but if these films only play just one or two weeks in smaller, not easy to get to (or particularly desirable) theatres in not many cities, than what are the chances any of us will get to see them?  If a comic book hero is monopolizing 5 screens at an 8-screen multiplex do you want to brave the crowds on the weekend in order to see the latest indie offering starring Catherine Keener?  You might not even show up for a Jennifer Aniston rom-com or a Spike Lee joint.

Forget about the cost of a helmet or your bulletproof vest.

… and yet this is the film Catherine Keener did in 2018 #sigh

This is especially the case if you can wait a week or two and view them in the comfort of your large screened living room, which, in some cases, will offer images almost as large as the ones you might be treated to at one of the smaller multiplex screens that the non Marvel/DC movie you chose to attend would be relegated to.

It’s not an accident that Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is backed by Netflix, which will make it available online three weeks after it debuts nationwide at what Steven Spielberg refers to as real movie theatres.

in unison: “you talking to me?”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing.

What he actually said is that Netflix films (and those from other streaming services) should not receive equal treatment at the Academy Awards and should be nominated for Emmys.  His belief is once you commit to the TV format you are a television movie and not a film.

But does his point of view extend to movies primarily backed or financed by Netflix and other similar platforms?  Or does Scorsese’s The Irishman get a pass because clearly HE makes cinema?

What IS 2019 cinema, anyway?   What is NOT 2019 cinema?

.. and what the hell is this??? #geminiman

As famed multiple Oscar winning screenwriter William Goldman once said of those of us in and around the film business, nobody knows anything.

And that, unlike most of what’s offered at your local multiplex, includes everyone.

The Late Ones – “The Joker” (cover of Steve Miller Band)