You and I are contributing to a growing change in America’s film industry. You think the industry is listening?
by Bill Wood
Some quick background. I look for reasons to celebrate the end of the week and that often means going to a Friday movie matinee. If Friday doesn’t work for a new film, I’ll go on Tuesday afternoon to a cheaper senior matinee. Lately, though, I’ve been avoiding both. Largely because of the costs. I’ll pay for what I want to see but that seldom includes remakes, reboots and refuse. More in a moment.
The Labor Day box office numbers show I’m not alone in my thinking. The box office take for the Labor Day weekend was the worst in two decades according to the Hollywood Reporter. And that’s with ticket prices soaring.
The Reporter’s Senior Film Writer Pamela McClintock described some of the problems to American Public Media’s Marketplace radio broadcast. She said Labor Day has never been a big blockbuster weekend but it’s the first time in 25 years there were no major releases on Labor Day, the classic end of the summer weekend.
“It’s never a huge weekend but you can certainly do some business,” McClintock said. She said the summer receipts will be down nearly 16 percent, the largest decline in memory. “It’s the first time in nearly a decade that summer revenue won’t reach $4 billion.” Still hard to believe that receipts could be down with ticket prices booming. That’s another way of saying audiences aren’t responding to the product on the big screen.
Besides prices, McClintock said the more critical reviews and scores at the Rotten Tomatoes website might be having an effect on ticket buyers, especially since Rotten Tomatoes is a part of the Fandango remote ticket buying universe. Apparently consumers are looking at and reading the critical reviews before spending the money.
“Movies like Transformers and Baywatch just got crucified by poor reviews,” said McClintock.
The small screen, however, is another story! “There’s so much good television, wherever you’re getting it on TV.” And that includes Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, tablets or phones (or whatever devices you use) just to name a few.
The long-range advance planning at the studio level isn’t helping this massive change in consumer interests. McClintock said plans for next summer are underway already and those plans include another round of sequels and reboots. “There’s gotta be true alarm going on,” she added.
But ask yourself: “Are you alarmed?” Do you find yourself happy with several $10 a month hits and all the movie and entertainment content you can absorb? And at home you don’t cover $9 sodas and $15 popcorn.
Maybe we’ve reached the consumer’s disgust at paying a day’s wages for a night at the movies. Whether you’re solo, on a date, or taking the family, you’re paying a lot for two hours of enentertainment PLUS a half hour of commercials.
The website Box Office Mojo said “this is still the worst three-day Labor Day weekend in twelve years. The top twelve grossed a combined $51.5 million and you have to go back to 2000, when the top twelve grossed a combined $47 million, to find a worse performance.” And remember, the average ticket price in 2000 was $5.39 when adjusted for inflation. Today the average price is more than 60 percent higher.
McClintock’s publication, The Hollywood Reporter, said “the average cost of going to the movies in North America hit another record high in the first quarter of 2017, or $8.84, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.
“That compares to $8.79 in the fourth quarter of 2016, and an all-time high of $8.65 for all of 2016.” So if revenues are in decline while ticket prices have more than doubled, that means record numbers of people are staying home instead of going to the Cineplex.
We should congratulate ourselves. Apparently we’re mad as hell and not taking it anymore. Let’s hope the studios and distributors are paying attention.