A Galaxy Where People Stay Far, Far Away From the Movie Theatre

Are we witnessing the end of the Hollywood blockbuster?

Empty movie theater at the AMC Worldgate 9 Theater in Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia. October 19, 2017. (photo: Famartin)

Once upon a time, in a Galaxy quite close to home, silver screen stars and movie-making titans alike were all breathlessly asking the same question:

“Where won’t Hollywood go next?”

The sky seemed the limit. American movies, made in Hollywood, had already gone around the world and back again, giving rise to other such entertainment industries like Bollywood.

American movies had become so ubiquitous that, even now, there are U.S. immigrants who ran for congressional office because they were that disappointed in life in America versus life in American movies.

Disappointed that real life isn’t like Hollywood movies, you say? Join the club, why don’t you. Some of us are still waiting for our Hogwart’s letter.

With the mass export of American movies came the mass export of well-known American products like McDonald’s and Pepsi. Once the industry understood the relationship between selling a fantasy escape for two-hours in a dark movie theatre and selling actual items, things really got cooking.

The addition of mountains of advertiser cash brought breakthroughs; better cinematography, more inspired storytellers, ever more beautiful, larger than life actors and actresses. Hollywood held a glamour, a fascination; it was a draw for the talented, the ambitious.

All that money likely had something to do with it.

Next, we saw the birth of CGI.

After our collective gasp of astonishment faded, ground-breaking movie effects like the ones in The Matrix became so commonplace television commercials often have better special effects that early movies.

Some early movies have become well-nigh unwatchable. Basically anything with animatronics, except Jaws.

When did Hollywood have its heyday? Was it the early days of old Hollywood glamour? Was it when the executives took over and monetized the industry, combining it with music entertainment, news programs, even the weather?

We might not be able to pinpoint the beginning, but we may be seeing the beginning of the end.

Now, Hollywood stars, directors and producers are asking another, far gloomier question:

“Where will Hollywood go next?”

Did Hollywood give us too much? Now we have thousands of shows and movies available right in our homes. We can watch what we want, when we want, without having to see commercials or leave the house.

Did technology spoil us too rotten- with our enormous flat screen televisions and living rooms wired with surround sound? The glorious plasma television that first graced the walls of only the very wealthy who could afford a $20,000 television has given way to a flat screen technological wonder you can pick up at Best Buy for $300 bucks.

Scratch that, you can order it on Amazon for less.

As everyone has their own movie theatre these days, is it any surprise that Hollywood is having real trouble getting people to go to the movies?

The newest Star Wars franchise flick was released to much fanfare. But even a sure-thing franchise like Star Wars disappointed at the Box Office over the holiday season.

It is possible that movie-goers are experiencing franchise fatigue. With every new superhero reboot, sequel, prequel and spin-off, fans seem more apathetic than ever. Who can keep up?

Merchandizing first and making the movie after has likely lost some early accolytes of the Hollywood scene. Movie purists ran for the emergency exits years ago- around the time when Denise Richards was cast as a nuclear physicist in a James Bond movie.

As Martin Scorsese recently grumped “a super-hero movie is not cinema.”

He might be right; but for true independent cinema, consumers have even more choices than ever. Few if any of those choices, however, originate from Hollywood these days.

It has been said, in certain circles, that conservatives and Republicans are eschewing movies more and more. This may be in part because of celebrities and movie stars who become vocal political activists- always for Democrats.

But a bigger reason might be keeping conservative audiences at home; the level of sex, violence and profanity- all things religious conservatives have always avoided- has risen to a fever pitch.

Gone is the pan away; squirm-inducing, hyper-realistic and extended scenes of grotesque violence, graphic sexual assault and murder are more commonplace in Hollywood movies than ever.

Is the level of violence why people aren’t going to the movies?

It is possible that the over-monetization of art is to blame. When making a blockbuster, even the most talented director has their hands tied. Every decision has to be made by committee.

The more money is on the line, the more cooks want to be in charge of the kitchen.

Which is why so many of these superhero franchise movies trot out the same tired old tropes again and again; the money men see it as a safe bet.

That it obviously isn’t is something Hollywood is being achingly slow to realize, if indeed it ever does.

Movie producers need to go back to making great movies, selling people on the experience of the movies- and spend far less time selling us all more stuff.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)