Make Better Movies

That's the golden advice theatre owners are telling Hollywood at ShoWest: make better moves. Boy, I'm so glad that somebody finally wised up and told those crazy Hollywood studios what they needed to hear, because, gosh, I'm sure that they've never been told that at all! To "make better movies" is such a crazy idea that it... just might work!

Seriously, I had to laugh at this article because really -- isn't that what movie companies are trying to do anyway? Granted, they are not succeeding, of course, but don't you think that they already feel the audiences breathing down their necks and clamoring for better entertainment? To make better movies is not a simple patch job, though. To entertain people and have them come back for more is a crap shoot. Studios have been trying to figure out the fickle-minded movie-going public for decades now and they STILL haven't gotten it right. Even with all their idiotic focus groups and test screenings (if you knew all the great movies of the past that had horrible test screenings, your head would spin), the People will remain an enigma.

No matter how hard you try to replicate a blockbuster film, the People will not go and see it unless it is a good film. What makes a good film? There's your problem. No one knows. Good movies will remain an enigma as well.

What some of the theater chain owners are suggesting to get butts back into their cozy high-back chairs seem to be a band-aid solution to a broken arm problem. Some of these suggestions may work -- making it conveinent to buy tickets over cell phones can prove to be profitable, as well as giving incentives to repeat customers. But there are a few things I'd like to see change in order for me to fully enjoy my time at the movie theater:

1. Take away the pre-show entertainment. The "20" and all that glorified TV and movie promotional crap shown before the trailers is so annoying and so loud that it makes me want to come in late or not at all. One of the reasons for going to a movie is to be with friends or a loved one, but how can you have a decent conversation with them while BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE LATEST OC EPISODE ARE DROWNING OUT ANY CHANCE OF HUMAN INTERACTION? It's inane and frustrating, to say the least. That time you have when you get in your seat before the previews used to be a fun time, to chat and cuddle, to joke and make fun of people coming in, etc. That's lost now.

2. Cut down the amount of trailers shown before each movie down to 3 or 4. The next time you see a 2 1/2 hour film, the last thing you need for you and your bladder are 10 previews of movies that probably do not go with the tone of the movie that you paid for. Show restraint, theaters! (And I know it's all about theaters promising to show so-in-so's trailer before so-in-so's movie (ie: money), but theaters can have a backbone in all this.)

3. The cell phone thing will always be a problem. Nothing you can do will change the fact that we People are dumb and will still talk while a movie is playing. But I do have to say that they're doing okay with the fake movie previews reminding us to turn off our cellies. Not sure if it's working, but it's a start.

4. I know that theater chains make money off of concessions, but PLEASE -- $4 for a coke? That's JUST CRAZY. And when they offer special combo deals, it'd be great if they were true "deals." I'd rather save more than just a quarter, thankyouverymuch.

I worked at a movie theater for 3 years before I got into the animation biz, so some of this hits close to home for me. I did it all, from sweeping popcorn kernels off the floor to serving hot dogs, pretzels, buckets of popcorn and coke to threading 14 films at once to counting the mulah at the end of the day. It was a pretty wild time I had from '93 til '96 -- a time that I will never forget. I learned so much about myself as well as about others throughout this period, which provided an invaluable resource of characters and inspiration for me.

Plus it was free movies. Couldn't beat that.


  1. All good points. Some others:

    1) Stop making movies by committee! It'll never happen, but it's part of what makes movies suck. Too many focus groups and tweaking of movies for commercial and not story-telling purposes.

    2) How about some G movies? I have two kids whom I would like to see grow a few years before using words like "crap" and such.... We'd love to bring the family to the theater but there aren't enough movies that we can see together.

  2. Stop making remakes, start lowering ticket prices ($10.25 in New York!), and try to make cleaner movies without being terribly corny.

    That's all I ask.

  3. Amen, brother!

    What I hate is when Hollywood has an accidental blockbuster, and producers and business execs scramble to "recreate" it next Summer using formulas and pieces from the hit. You'd think they'd know by now, that good films have no formula. But, then again, they don't want to make art, they want to make "entertainment".

    And I agree about "the 20" - more like "20 minutes in Hell". How dare them turn the movie screens into giant tvs with commercials! Previews - okay, but commercials - NOOOO! But, alas, it is too late, theatre's everywhere have already bought enough Fandango ads to put me in a coma.

    Now, I get to spend this period before my movie listening to the chump in front of me fumble to turn off his beeper before spilling coke all over his jailbait hootchie date. Fun times.

    But, really, I don't have any strong opinions on the subject...

  4. And what ever happened to ushers? When I was a kid (the 70s) if you cut up too much in a movie theater, one of the theater employees who was actually paid to do nothing but maintain order would throw yer butt out on yer...well, ear.

    I figure that theater owners are trying to cut costs like everyone else, so the only employees they have are ones contributing directly to revenue: concessions, ticket sales, and the projectionist (I imagine they're trying to get rid of the last two as well). But I think it's starting to hurt them.

    Yeah, I'm an annoyed old fart, but I used to love going to the movies and haven't been in a while. Partly because of the lousy movies and high proces but mostly because of the terrible moviegoing experience.

    Thanks, I feel better now.

  5. i think the dismal output by hollywood is a direct reflection of how isnulated and cowardly much of our society has become. what has proliferated in hollywood is the unwillingness to take a risk. maybe this is because of the environment being so comnpetitive the last 25 years - and getting more competitive on an exponential level with every blockbuster season.

    with stakes so high, no studio exec wants to take a risk anymore, but they HAVE TO in order to bring something frsh and new to the screen. hollywood needs the risk takers. it always has.

    out of the next 12 most highly funded upcoming hollywood movies, 10 are remakes. do you realize they are remaking "Land Of The Lost" with Wil Ferrell?!!?
    the philosophy is obvious: take a proven commodity and bring it to the screen and then the seats will be filled. the thing is, the public will always be smarter than that - or will they? Big Momma's House 2 was #1 at the box office when it opened....

    Back in the seventies, there weren't even VHS residuals and execs took bigger risks than they do now. how did it turn into suck a wretched, spineless, system that caters to the lowest common denominator?

    i think if the executives today won't take a risk on new ideas and new visions from new directors(and they are out there), then it should be up to the mutli millionaire superstar directors whose careers wouldn't be what they are without the risks that studios took upon them years ago.

    what movies and directors are Spielberg, Coppola, George Lucas, and Scorcese funding?
    who are they backing?
    themselves and no one else.

    money truly does corrupt in this instance where those once great minds now live in their seperated reality in a mansion on a hill without any contact with society. their seclusion and has clouded their vision and their creative output ranges from the benign to the insipid. they are shadows of their former selves and we have not seen them pay anything forward to the new generation of film makers.

  6. Two points:

    Hollywood studios won't take risks anymore for one simple reason: Corporate Synergy. Movies aren't movies anymore, they're product. Unless something can be made to reap benefits for ALL of the divisions of the studio's Multinational Corporate Overlords it's not worth doing. Can we turn it into books, toys, video games, cell phone ringtones, feminine hygiene products? No? Then let's not bother.

    Also (sadly) the points you guys are making --while all extremely valid-- are having little or no impact. Every time I see this issue raised the same points are being made. Enough with the high prices, enough with the commercials etc. But the theatre owners have made their deal with the devil and it's too late now. --They say they want you back at the movies but they won't take the steps necessary to do it. The things you're *telling* them you want done.

    Wouldn't surprise me if seeing movies in theatres one day goes bye-bye.

  7. Great post Ward! I think paul hit the nail on the head... the whole thing sounds like a parallel to corporate music/radio or corporate comics,books,magazine/and the publications distribution network.

    Its the same in every arts/business venture... corporate greed has crushed the heart of creativity.

    Where's the good stuff? Where its always been: in the indie market.

    Where's the classic movie-going experience: at your closest rep house. Most major centres have one or two... god bless the folks who run these joints on a shoe-string with the whole megaplex deck stacked against them... we should be kissing their feet!

    Of course you won't see first-run movies there but with a little patience your favourite movie will get there, the staff is friendly, movie-knowledgable, the snack bar prices don't require a second mortgage, and the crowd is generally far more courteous.

    As for the corporate movie theatre scene - all the lamenting in the world won't save it. Its doomed.

  8. Good points all .. But I have to agree with your other commenters, the corporate movie industry is in serious, serious trouble. And I say that as someone who sees at least one movie a week. The best thing they could to keep my interest is stop letting corporate hacks like the guy they let murder "Freedomland" make movies. Leave that to actual moviemakers. If you're interested, I also have a blogger blog about movies, mostly reviews and such. It's at http://reelfanatic.blogspot.com if you're interested.

    Keith Demko

  9. Id like to see the rebirth of the Cartoon before the Movie. Like the old days with the Looney Tunes. Preach on!! When the hell did commercials even get in there!? The only commercial I want to see is the Lets all go the lobby sing along from the drive thrus!!

  10. I don't watch the commercials before a movie. I either talk to my husband through the commercials (he hates them too), read the free movie magazine, or just look around the theatre. I don't need to pay to see the latest SUV or Pepsi commercial.

    I know it doesn't affect anything, but it's my little protest. ;)

    (and I heartily agree with the poster who wants the rebirth of the pre-show cartoon!)