The Year the Movies Slumped

A recent poll conducted by AOL/Associated Press said 73% of people prefer to view movies in the comfort of their own home. Could this be one of the main reasons for what the industry leaders and experts are calling a movie slump? Possibly.

The movie industry has been crying for attention after announcing a 19-week ticket sales slump earlier in the summer. Ticket sales have been sub-par in comparison with those of the same time period last year. But is there really a need to worry? People are still going to the movies in droves, right? Yes, but nowhere near as much as they used to.

I remember hearing stories from my mother and grandmother about their trips to the movie theaters. They would go just about every weekend. Several hours were spent in the theaters. Siblings and neighborhood pals would tag along with homemade snack bags in hand. I even recall pretty regular trips to the theaters with family and friends. This has since stopped. As far as my family and inner circle of friends are concerned, it seems that we are more inclined to wait for movies to come out on VHS or DVD than to go to the theaters. Judging from recent reports, we aren’t alone. For the most part, the movie viewing experience is better at home. You can watch movies at your own leisure, with little or no interruptions, and without spending too much extra money (if any). For a group of 3 going to the movie theaters today, you’re looking at about $50 dollars for tickets and food (and this maybe too cheap an estimate).

While the movie industry seems to use this trend as an excuse for why movies aren’t doing as well, they seem to be forgetting something. And that is the role they play in the success or failure of movies. I can give another reason directly linked to the movie industry for this slump–the abundance of bad movies. Quality has been severly lacking.

Usually when I’m eating my breakfast in the morning, I tend to look at old movies until it’s time to go to work. As of late, I’ve seen Jezebel, The Little Foxes, Carmen Jones, Casablanca, All About Eve, and a A Streetcar Named Desire to name a few. Many of these movies I’ve watched on more than one occasion. I fall in love with these movies even more after each viewing. I’d find myself not being able to take my eyes off of the screen. I was captivated by Old Hollywood’s screen legends. Their talent, their beauty, their timeless appeal – totally amazing. These were movies with plots (yes, plots). No unnecessary violence and special effects. And little to no sex. Sex was often alluded to but it was never as forward or raunchy as it is in many movies today.

They just don’t make movies like they used to. Today it seems like you can have all the star power, the special effects, the cinematography, and all the bells and whistles you could dream of….But if the movie is bad, it’s bad. None of these features will save it. No amount of marketing or promotion can make up for it either. In the old days, the studios didn’t need to spend as much to promote movies. People just went to the movies (and on more of a regular basis). Not to say that there weren’t any bad movies then. Even then, bad movies were made. But just not as many as there are now in my opinion. For me, you can go back to the summer of 1997 when Batman & Robin and Speed 2: Cruise Control were released (two of the worst films ever made). From that point on, the quality of summer blockbusters and movies in general has declined. Ever since then, I could count on my hands how many times I’d go to the movies in year.

Another issue is the kinds of movies the studios are making. We’ve been witnessing the era of rehashes and remakes. Movies packaged as new films when they’re nothing but updated versions of older and in some cases more recent movies. There’s also movies inspired by TV shows (and often times mediocre TV shows at best). We also have a lot of movies that can be lumped into the same category with the same actors stuck in the same roles (typically these buppie, yuppie romantic comedies). And last but not least, we cannot forget about the sequels and prequels. Sometimes you’ve just got to say enough is enough. I’m probably not alone when I say I haven’t been impresesed lately.

I say the same thing to Hollywood as I say to the music industry….Maybe if you stopped worrying about the money and put out more quality products, you wouldn’t be in the predicament you’re in now. If you did this then just maybe people might start going to the theaters a little bit more. Though this slump may be a major point of concern for the movie industry, there’s no need for everyone to get their panties and jockstraps caught in a wad. Every industry has periods when sales don’t match expectations. When this happens however, it’s never a bright idea to put the blame completely on external factors. Especially when you have not looked at how you may have contributed to the situation at hand. In the meantime, get better screenplays. Start telling unconventional stories. Showcase stories with issues that touch on the multicultural and multiracial makeup of this world. Don’t get too crazy with the graphics and the violence. Try to create movies with less violence, less sex, and more substance. Try to spread the wealth. Give some of these actors we see on screen all the time a run for their money. And maybe if you create better work, we’ll see better performances all around. If you take all of these things into consideration, just maybe we’ll see a change. Just maybe you’ll be able to bring the people back into the movie theaters in droves again.

I’m not giving up hope though. The movie industry doesn’t seem to be giving up hope either. There’s a considerable amount of faith being put behind many of the fall movie releases like to Hong Kong and the fourth Harry Potter installment. There’s hope that these movies will bring the industry out of its current slump. It’s going to take more than just a few blockbusters to get out of this slump. You’ve got to start on the inside. Otherwise, that premier on cable or the sale at the home video store is going to become even more attractive.

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