Wednesday, January 14, 2015

10 reasons movie box office numbers are down

What's wrong with the movies?
10 things to fix to bring back the audiences

Ticket sales, admission to movies is down. In January 2015 Variety ran a story,
Box Office Drops 5% in 2014: What’s Behind the Fall. "Audiences cooled to Hollywood offerings, voting with their feet as attendance dropped by an estimated 6% to 1.26 billion, the lowest figure in nearly two decades." You'll find similar articles in Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, other periodicals and their corresponding web sites.

People aren't so happy with the films they're seeing. What can new filmmakers, indie film-makers, screenwriters, actors and producers take away from the remarks of the film-going public to consider when crafting your next film? What's the goal? An award, a blockbuster? Who is your audience? 

Here are comments from movie patrons, problems they see in movies and reasons for the slump in attendance.  

1) People want more true characters and genuine humor. True reflections of human life. 

"They are tired of seeing themselves ridiculed and burlesqued.  If the public grows weary of motion pictures it will be for the reason that they do not appeal to the best in us. We prefer to laugh with not at the screen characters. Fewer imitations of hits."

People in Jack-in-the-Box costumes hand out candy
2) Predictability of plots, themes. "Continued foisting upon audiences of threadbare and ill-chosen plots which would in story form be rejected by almost any magazine. ... Old tricks are resorted to, logical outcomes distorted.  ...

"What fun is there in going to pictures when you know in the first five minutes not only how the story will end but all the phases  through which it will pass before reaching that end? 

"When you can shut your eyes and see how the hero and heroine will look and when, if you were not too self-conscious, you could give beforehand a demonstration of their reactions to all emotions brought into play?" 

3) Poor quality of films, over-sentimentality. Movies that underrate the intelligence of the audience. "Bad stories, shallowness of theme, sameness, standardized movie stories. People have seen too many good films to like the crude, disjointed, falsely sentimental films."

4) Need substance over thrills and effects. "Want more true characterizations and genuine humor. True reflections of human life rather than sensations, thrills and effects. 

"People cannot react forever to thrills. Something else is needed, something built on the deeper desires of human nature. As a child outgrows the merry-go-round, so does the adult. With movie vision matured, reject that which only thrills for that which satisfies."

Lance Out Loud
Includes moving essays by his family,
friends and colleagues
The Loud Family
TV's first Reality Show?
5) "The public is to blame for much of the trash that is being foisted upon it. The producers know the wants of the paying public and play up to their demands. The masses refuse to think therefore have not learned as yet to discriminate and the result is obvious." 

Movie makers appeal to the masses, to their pocketbooks.

6) Unemployment. People can't afford luxuries like going to the movies, going out to dinner. People can remember when a whole family could afford to go to the movies. Now you're more likely to find another type of entertainment or see a movie in a different venue where admission is cheaper.

7) High admission charges. Pair this with the fact that so many people are either unemployed of dealing with pay cuts, additional expenses associated with going to a movie, babysitter, gas prices, maybe a meal or theater refreshments. 

"The people of my town have been disappointed too many times by High priced pictures when they were no better than the one the previous night for half the price. The much advertised stars or at least many of them do not earn the high salaries they receive and for which the public must pay."

8) Hollywood Scandal. "Newspapers delight in publishing stories and statements detrimental to the characters of our favorite friends of the screen causing some
patrons to become disgusted. ...
Gloria Swanson William Holden
Sunset Boulevard 8x10"
"The fierce light of publicity that is brought to bear on the frailties of movie folks, following the recent scandals and the affection and regard felt by the public for their heroes and heroines cooled markedly. ...

"Tales of scandals of people in motion pictures, elevation to stardom of some men and women obviously unprepared by either training or experience for such positions."

9) Competition from other media. Movies aren't the only leisure activity
We can stream movies on TV,
project them outdoors

10) The unrest and dissatisfaction in the world today is affecting pictures. "When the soul is not at peace with itself everything is wrong. If the public knows not what it wants how can the producer know? ... 

"The public really wants truth at any cost, though it doesn't know it. It is tired of extravagances, popular actors, improbable situations. It seems to me in the effort to please everything has been overdone made unreal and unconvincing."

Some say that film-making is a business vs. an art. Do you agree, disagree or think it's impossible to make such an apples and oranges statement?

As you may have guessed these excerpts are not from a contemporary source. They're comments made from movie fans over 90 years ago. These come from a 1922 Photoplay magazine. "The public diagnoses the illness in the motion picture theater box office and prescribes remedies." 

A contest was run for film buffs, if that term may be used for moviegoers and readers of movie industry & fan magazines of that era. The contest asked people to write editorials which were perhaps the closest thing 1922 had to blog posts. It was a way for the public to get their voices heard.

Radio was competing with movies in 1922. Radio provided more than music, there were dramas and comedies, serialized programs featuring film stars which aired on a regular basis. This was partly to publicize the movies of course.

There were game shows and in-depth news programs, soap operas, sports and children's programs. Fans could see some movies for a cheaper price in schools and churches. 

They would later say television killed the movies, the internet killed print media, altered the way we watch television.... We're seeing a resurgence of vinyl LPs though. The good old typewriter is still out there.

There will always be competition. There will always be a struggle to create good stories and a struggle to get stories produced.  Give the public what they want? What do you think?

Related Pages of Interest:

Irving Thalberg's Ten Commandments for Choosing a Story The iconic producer's Ten Commandments for Studio Readers. He distributed them early in his tenure at MGM

The William Castle Story: Scream for Relief

National Film Registry Save the Films- These Amazing Shadows

Was Katharine Hepburn Box Office Poison?

A Good Cry, Off-Camera Musicians help Actors shed tears needed for scenes  

James Mason on The Burns & Allen Show

Lance Out Loud, Reality TV 1973, "Television ate my family"

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