How to Fix the Movies? Some Suggestions

Recently, Entertainment Weekly had a 10-item list about what studios and theater chains should do to create a better moviegoing experience. Here is their list:
1. For every giant CGI-filled blockbuster, commit to a modestly budgeted drama or comedy, a la Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right
2. Don’t remake good movies, remake bad ones
3. Stop killing us with your popcorn
4. Embrace the On-Demand button-have a simultaneous theatrical and on-demand release-especially for indie movies.
5. Treat 3D like the good silverware-only bring it out for special occasions
6. Admit you’re jealous of TV and hire its best writers
7. Before a project gets a greenlight, someone involved with the project has to believe it will be a good movie. Ask, what makes this movie special?
8. Get rid of the commercials
9. No more than four screenwriters per script
10. Create separate screenings for schmucks (people too addicted to their phones)

These are all fine suggestions, but here are some of my own tweaks to their ideas:

1. Learn how to market films other than giant blockbusters
As this awards season proved, there are more than a few great indies and general non-dramas out there, but unless they are a surefire “prestige” picture, they get left by the wayside, dumped to winter, spring, or direct to dvd, without a real chance to find an audience.

It’s mostly smaller art houses that produce these movies, and the budgets just aren’t there for an all-out media assault (or, the films are only later picked up by large production houses after buzz is created, but no attempt at a proper campaign is made). All the more reason for larger studios to back up the little guys and throw some money at proper (and creative?) ad campaigns that yield results.

2. Don’t make movies based on merchandise/tie-in sales
I am glad EW didn’t just flat out object to remakes, but I think the problem is really in franchise films. Recently, it was discovered that Disney will only make sequels to films based on the sales of toys and other tie-ins, rather than the quality of the ideas.

3. Stop killing us with your popcorn prices
We all know it’s bad for us, but the least they can do is cut the prices. A bag of popcorn currently going for five or six dollars probably costs about a dollar to make. That’s a huge markup. Better concessions would be great, but you really just have to go to theaters like Landmark or Alamo Drafthouse to actually get good food at the movies. I know it’s how the movie chains make their money, but there has to be a compromise between theaters and moviegoers at some point; many people cite the outrageous concession prices as the reason they refuse to go to the theater in the first place!

4. Let me watch more movies sooner, at home and in the theater
I love going to the movies (which is apparently foreign to some people), but I don’t have the time or money to see all of the films I want to see in the theater. At home, I thrive on Netflix, which allows me to watch a virtually unlimited amount of movies for a flat fee. In this way, I can expose myself to many more films than I would ever be able to see in theaters. I’d love to be able to leave the theater with a voucher to download the movie I just watched, and have theater chains utilize the ease of digital projection to screen more movies in other markets that until now would only screen in New York or LA.

5. 3D should be an event
I agree with this one, completely. If I am going to spend the extra money to see 3D, it better be damn good. So far I’ve only felt that way with Avatar and Tron: Legacy.

6. Hire real comedy writers. You know, from TV.
I totally agree with this one too. Comedy films are dying. At this point, there are maybe two good comedies released a year, and they are all of the R-rated variety. On TV, however, comedy is blossoming, with great shows like The Office, 30Rock, Community, and Modern Family. All of these programs are on broadcast television, and can’t utilize the R-rated comedic repertoire, yet they possess some of the funniest written comedy around.

7. Put more effort into making each film special
Look, we all know for every Winter’s Bone, we get another Drive Angry 3D, and another Fast and Furious sequel. But there are ways to make great ‘B’ movies, that are at least inventive and fun, like Piranha 3D or Kick-Ass.

8. Bring back entertainment before the show
We always get to the movies way before the showtime, in order to get the best seats. And we are bombarded with ads and meaningless promotional drivel until the trailers start. An awesome solution would be to screen the wonderful live action, documentary, and animated shorts before films, or at least play some web videos or something. Maybe get some of those Tisch students to supply their senior film projects…

9. Don’t start shooting movies before you finished the script
See Pirates 2 and 3, many other franchise films, but no example is better than Men in Black 3:

“So the idea was to shoot the first act of the film in 2010, then take that planned hiatus, polish up the complicated time-travel parts of the script, and get back into it in February. But as one ‘former studio chief’ is quoted, “If [Will Smith] wasn’t satisfied after it’s been years in development, how are you going to fix that at Christmas?” (from slashfilm)
Crazy.

10. Create special screenings for adults.
Tweens, teens, and parents are my biggest problem at the movies, really. Adults I can speak to if they are talking too much or whatever, but I am tired of going into a ‘hard’ PG-13 movie on a Friday night and end up sitting in front of some 11- year- old with mom and dad, or next to some 14- year- olds who got dropped off. Basically, I end up going later at night, and then texting, talking teens are the issue. I say give them their own theater to jerk around in, and leave the adults to their film and box of Junior Mints in peace. Recently it seems that baby boomers are staging a theater resurgence, so this “separate schmuck screenings” idea may actually be a possibility.

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3 thoughts on “How to Fix the Movies? Some Suggestions

  1. Great list, and great response too.

    There are a number of things that would get in the way of making these ideas work. Really, the whole system would need a reboot entirely. The main issue is that theaters and the film industry are two separate entities. Issues with theaters and issues with how movies are made have to be addressed separately.

    1. Commit cash towards a drama or comedy in lieu of every block-buster. I like that idea, and your response. In the end it’s all about money, and studio will only care about finer films and great artistic films if it translates into more money in the bank. Sadly, they just make deals in Hollywood, not movies. Maybe if big studios hired some starving artists?

    2. Movies based on merch. Well, it’s all about the money. We won’t have movies we want unless studios can piggy back on the their bigger budget movies which cover the costs of films that did not make as much money. Sadly, it’s just business.

    3. Popcorn prices. This is what I mean by the movie theatre and film industry being two separate entities. The theatre rents the movie from the studio and do not make a profit from the box office sales. They make their money back in concession sales. So that is a tough one as they would have to sell a lot of popcorn to pay the bills and rent more film reels. I do strongly agree with what you are saying in your response though. Perhaps more choice, healthier choice too, would up sales?

    4. Embrace on-demand. Again, totally agree. However studios may not like it because movies tend to have promotional cycles around the world where the actors make appearances on foreign TV, etc. For this to happen there would need to be a total overhaul of the film industry.

    5. 3-D. Totally agree, lol. But if movies made for 3-D were released (like Avatar, Tron, and my personal fav Coraline) and not movies with 3-D slapped on them instead I feel opinions may differ. People aren’t stupid, we know crap when we see it.

    6. Hire TV comedy writers. YES!!!

    7. More effort. Sadly when it comes to movies, the studio exec has more creative control than they should. Check out this article I found on Cracked.com
    http://www.cracked.com/article_19012_5-hollywood-secrets-that-explain-why-so-many-movies-suck.html

    8. Bring back entertainment before the show. Yes indeed. Again this is the movie theatre looking to make some extra income with ads. Furthermore, it’s the studios paying for ad space for their upcoming movies. However I miss seeing a short film before a movie. (Plus I love watching trailers…)

    9. Don’t finish the movie before the script. Ya, I agree. This just doesn’t make any damned sense.

    10. Screening for adults. I got one word for you… alcohol. Seriously. Movies in their infancy were a social experience complete with intermissions where well dressed folks could meet and discuss the film. Teens make it social with their phones now, but I say it is time to step it up a notch and introduce (like in some foreign movie theaters I have attended) a drinking section. Right there you restrict the age of viewers, plus it enhances the social experience of the film. This of course raises the concern of drunk idiots at movies, but so far I have just seen this idea in art house theaters where the Jackass crowd tend to avoid.

    Yes, long winded response, but I found your list to be a good one and wanted to contribute. 🙂

    • Great minds think alike, that’s for sure! Thanks for your excellent comment. I definitely like the idea of alcohol-friendly movie theaters. There are few experiences that cannot be enhanced with a nice glass of beer!

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