When was the last time you actually saw a movie in a theater? I’d need a very good excuse to get me to go to the nearest 13-Plex, and it’s been a long time since I had one. I finally broke down and went to see “The Martian” a couple of years ago, not because I was dying to see Matt Damon stranded on Mars, but because I wanted to finally see whether I thought 3D was a worthwhile innovation. It isn’t.
If I wanted to go back to the same place today, my choices would be: “Transformers: The Last Knight” (3D), “Cars 3” (3D), “Wonder Woman” (3D), “The Mummy” (3D), “Captain Underpants”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”, etc. You get the idea.
These are not movies, so much as they are theme-park promos, product placement vehicles, and transparent attempts to separate teens and pre-teens from their allowances. They are either “sequels” to previous successful efforts, screen versions of comic books, or full-length cartoons.
It all started in June of 1975, when “Jaws” was released. Prior to that, motion pictures were generally understood to be art which may or may not have commercial value. After “Jaws”, movies were understood to be commercial products which may or may not have some artistic merit.
In the years since “Jaws”, the “artistic” part has disappeared. You cannot get a picture made today without a strong business case, “bankable” stars, and an extensive plan for foreign distribution rights and subsequent DVD or Pay-TV revenue. All that matters is how much money can be made for the investors. The hell with “art”.
“Jaws” cost $12 million to make and recouped that and more in two weeks. In two months, it passed the record-holding $86 million made by “The Godfather”, and became the first ever to gross $100 million. It was the biggest money-maker ever seen. By 2013, it had grossed $470 million, of which $260 million was in North America. And now, the huge profits made by “Jaws” are just a basic expectation for studios and investors. By 2013, 127 films had surpassed its revenue totals.
You can’t get a “small” picture made any more and, if you go ahead and make one yourself, there’s no place to get it shown. Real estate prices in cities where there may still be a market for “film” are too high for independent theater operators.
The rise of “home theater” and ubiquitous content availability via the internet have further hastened the final demise of the movie theater.
But, as Joni Mitchell once said, “something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.” There’s plenty to watch on my screen at home. Whatever I want whenever I want it, actually. It’s nice. Convenient. Comfortable.
With a little effort, I can even find real movies to watch.