Movie Sales Down? Blame the Critics!
Box office this summer wasn’t good. Compared to last year, movie studios made 15% less, a 20-year low. (That’s still 3.8 billion dollars, so let’s keep this in perspective.) What’s the problem, say studio heads? According to this NY Times article, Rotten Tomatoes, the website that makes it easy for potential customers to see what critics think of a film.
Some studio executives privately concede that a few recent movies — just a few — were simply bad. Flawed marketing may have played a role in a couple of other instances, they acknowledged, along with competition from Netflix and Amazon.
But most studio fingers point toward Rotten Tomatoes…
Last year, scores started appearing on Fandango, the online movie ticket-selling site, leading to grousing that a rotten score next to the purchase button was the same as posting this message: You are an idiot if you pay to see this movie.
I think it’s more likely that the movies were bad. No one wanted to see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword or the 5th or 6th sequel to a movie where fresh ideas had long ago been stomped out by the franchise money-making train. Heck, I tried to watch Baywatch with the lowest of expectations (show me some pretty boys!), and even so I was insulted by how dumb and vulgar it was, lacking the summer fun attitude it should have had.
There is something of an argument to be made about whether full review pieces should be summed up as a number or a positive/negative ranking, but this appears to be a case of “we aren’t making as much money as we want — shoot the messenger telling people what viewers thought of our films!” The problem, according to studios, is that now, the ratings are so much easier to find, being imported into ticket selling sites and Google searches.
Near the end, there’s also this throwaway comment about changing audience behavior:
…moviegoing is no longer a habit for most Americans. Because of climbing prices and competition from other forms of entertainment, a trip to the multiplex has become a special event. In particular, more movie fans are ignoring low- and mid-budget films when they are in theaters: Ehh, let’s wait until they show up on Netflix.
I think there’s a lot more to be said about the hollowing out of the middle, where we lose simply entertaining movies that aren’t spectacles or Oscar bait. The same thing has already happened in publishing. Or here’s a crazy idea — make it cheaper to go to the movies, particularly for films that aren’t doing well or haven’t found their audience yet! Sure, the latest entertaining superhero movie can be $10 or $14 a ticket, but for stupid summer fun, maybe a group price of $20 for 3 or 4 people? Get creative, Hollywood, instead of grousing that things aren’t like they used to be.
The article does have a great header cartoon, though, by Chris Lyons: