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Star Wars Producer Says Box Office is Doomed 1203

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
Cutriss writes "Seen at CNN, this article interviews Rick McCallum, longtime producer at LucasFilms. McCallum says that DVDs will be responsible for the downfall of the movie industry *without* taking piracy into account, due to the fact that people think the home theatre experience is just as good, or better than the big screens, and they know that in five months, the DVD will be out on the market. Of course, his claim that "studios are barely breaking even" falls on deaf ears when I hear about 9-digit salaries for individual actors in a big-name film that's just some rehash of an old concept. He also mentions, of course, that DVD piracy and movie "sharing" groups will only speed up the cycle, and that they'll be putting Hollywood out of business, possibly within the next three years."
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Star Wars Producer Says Box Office is Doomed

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  • Too Bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zensmile (78430) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:39PM (#4471536)
    I could really care less about the box office. Everytime I go to the movies...

    1. The food portions are smaller than a few years ago.
    2. The price is WAY WAY higher!
    3. People's cell phones are going off.
    4. Some a**hole is giving comentary to the person sitting next to him/her.

    Overall, not a very pleasant experience.
    • by morningdave (259151) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:42PM (#4471587)
      You forgot the 12 year old with the laser pointer
    • by interiot (50685) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:42PM (#4471595) Homepage
      5. Some young couple is making out. 6. You can't stop the movie and make out.
    • by Iguanaphobic (31670) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:44PM (#4471621)
      1. The food portions are smaller than a few years ago.
      Go every day. Then you will hardly notice when they get smaller.

      2. The price is WAY WAY higher!
      Than what?? If you're comparing with a few years ago, see point #1.

      3. People's cell phones are going off.
      Build a Faraday cage over the building before you go in.

      4. Some a**hole is giving comentary to the person sitting next to him/her.
      Hmmm.. this is a tough one. I'm torn between a paintball gun and something like this. [darpa.mil]

      • Re:Too Bad... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ivan256 (17499) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:30PM (#4472239)
        2. The price is WAY WAY higher!
        Than what?? If you're comparing with a few years ago, see point #1.


        It's more expensive for two tickets to see a movie then it is to buy a new release DVD at the Suncoast that is 100ft from the door of the theater.

        It's $8.50 per ticket to see the movie in the theater, and all DVDs are 25% off duing the week after release at Suncoast. The decision becomes pay $17 for two tickets to see some commercials followed by a movie where I my or may not have the experience ruined by some obnoxious audience members, and the sticky floor will need to be washed off my shoes later, or I can spend $16 and watch the movie at home with no obnoxious people, and I can keem the movie to watch again whenever I'd like. Screw the theater.
      • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:54PM (#4472563) Homepage
        To shoot anyone not playing in a paintball game.

        That's what real guns are for.
    • Re:Too Bad... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:44PM (#4471633) Homepage
      exactly. Why would I NOT rent the DVD for $2.99/ea or $6.00/three? I am going to goto a VERY expensive movie theatre (to get the same sort of experience that I would at home) for $9.00/ticket?

      $6.00 for three movies (at my convienience) or $18.00+ for one?

      No matter what the hardware that the movie theatre has, it does NOT justify a $9.00 ticket price.
      • Re:Too Bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:03PM (#4471945) Homepage
        For the most part, I agree with you. The theater experience is getting hard to justify, cost wise. But there are a few points I want to make.

        1) Many of us can't afford a huge home theater. I watch movies on a 27" TV with two external speakers. It's good enough for most movies, but huge movies like Braveheart or Lord of the Rings really deserve the big screen.

        2) Don't blame the theaters for ticket prices. They break even on admission. They make virtually all of their profits on food. The movie studios are screwing the theaters over on what it costs to show a movie. The best example is the recent Godzilla. The studio (Sony IIRC) doubled their regular cost to the theaters and promised a gate similar to Independance Day (same creative team). When the theater execs finally saw the movie a week or so before it came out, there was a white collar riot where execs actually threw things and demanded their money back.

        Several big theater chains (Lowes comes to mind) have failed recently, even with $8 tickets. Maybe if the studios would make more movies worth 8 bucks, they would get more butts in the seats.

        -B
    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:45PM (#4471645) Journal

      I'm not sure why someone modded this as Funny because I think zensmile makes good points. It costs a lot to go to the movies and the experience is inferior to what I can have in my home. Here's a few more additions to the list:

      5. Sticky floors
      6. Six or seven trailers before the show starts
      7. No control over sound, picture quality, environmental conditions
      8. Just too many people in general

      If the film industry starts hurting for business, they can start to work on making the theater a more enjoyable experience. Until then, I'm just going to wait a few months and get a better experience at a better price in my own place.

      GMD

      • by glesga_kiss (596639) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:50PM (#4471757)
        Six or seven trailers before the show starts

        Not to mention product comercials before a movie you have paid for...

      • by Ooblek (544753) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:55PM (#4471822)
        6. Six or seven trailers before the show starts

        I don't know about you, but the last few DVDs I bought have this 5 minute mandatory intro on them that plays before it gets to the main menu. The skip buttons are disabled during this thing, so you have to basically stop the DVD and then press play to get past the damn thing. I'm sure that this will be where trailers and teasers will be placed next.

        And to add to whatever list is building, I'm kind of getting tired of the damn teenage kids running into the theater and screaming to their friends from the wings and then running out. WTF is with this? I never did this when I hung out at the theater as a kid, and I don't remember any other fellow-annoying teenagers doing this either.

        Another point to add to the negative theater experience is that it is impossible for parents with babies to go to the movies. While there are ways of going without the baby, sometimes those options just aren't available. We decided for the price of a movie, we could go out and buy two thick steaks and a new DVD and just barbecue at home. Nice dinner, a movie, and we don't need a sitter and we can watch the movie again if we like.

      • by JudasBlue (409332) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:11PM (#4472026)
        Actually, a couple of theaters in the east bay area where I live are addressing just these issues and doing a gangbusters job of it. The Parkway theater is a small brewpub/theater environment that carefully crafts their movie schedule to theme nights and provides special nights for things like people with small children and they do boffo business at $5.00 a ticket.

        The Paramount Theater, in Oakland, CA provides a great old-time experience, including prize giva-aways, live organ music and a ton of other fun extras, again for a low ticket price, and they are packed for every show I have atteneded there.

        Theaters that keep cramming in more seats and charging higher ticket prices for the same sub-standard experience SHOULD start to die, but specialty houses that cater to their clientelle will be able to keep picking up the slack and hopefully spread out from their hardcore urban niche to the rest of the country. Which for me would be a good thing.

        And the death of the blockbuster would just be icing on the cake for me.
    • by southpolesammy (150094) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:06PM (#4471983) Journal
      5. No ability to pause for pee break.
      6. Stadium seating != La-Z-Boy
      7. I decide when to watch, not someone else (with the exception of my wife).
      8. Relaxing with your shoes off in the movie theatre is a bad idea due to:
      a) floors sticky from spilled pop
      b) the insensitive clod in front of me whining something about "can't breathe, need air, blah, blah, blah..."
      9. 50" screen at 10' away = good, 50' screen at 10' away = bad
      10. Beer is only a few precious steps away...
  • by bottlerocket (605232) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:39PM (#4471543) Homepage
    So is this why we don't have Star Wars on DVD yet?
  • Hyperbole? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:40PM (#4471547)
    And I quote - "Literally, our very lives are at stake now."

    Not unless someone throws a sharpened DVD at them, ala Oddjob in the James Bond movies.
  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SpoonMeiser (316685) <oli-jNO@SPAMpostmark.net> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:40PM (#4471549) Homepage Journal
    It's not neccessarily such a bad thing if the movie giants are taken down a notch or two... perhaps well some a little more quality independent film then?
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by mttlg (174815) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:42PM (#4472393) Homepage Journal

      perhaps well some a little more quality independent film then?

      And here we have an example of proper use of the "Interesting" mod - interesting way of combining perfectly good words in a way that looks like it might make sense, yet falls just a bit short.

      I've encountered this phenomenon often enough that I think I can translate for those of you who speak English. If the big, crap-producing, "We'll find a way to squeeze money out of you" movie studios can't find a way to make money with the latest retread of a remake of an adaptation of an extension of a story that wasn't all that good in the first place, it could open the door for independent studios to step in with well-made films that cost much less to produce and therefore can compete in a market with diminished revenues. These films would then be made available to wider audiences in greater quantities, in theory anyway.

      Not that I think this is likely - if independent films get too popular, the major studios could always use their last resort and make fewer, better films with talented, reasonably priced actors and lower production costs. If movies like Pluto Nash (Leonard Part 6 for a new generation?) are still getting made, Hollywood obviously isn't hurting all that much.

  • by joshsisk (161347) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:40PM (#4471555)
    This article [boston.com] says last weekend's box office take was 20% more than the same weekend last year.

    It seems like that happens more weekends than not.

    McCallum's predictions of doom sound like a bunch of BS to me.
    • by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:07PM (#4471992) Homepage Journal
      The problem is one of repeating a lie often enough that people believe it.

      For decades at lest (probably longer), studios have been telling writers, actors, directors, etc that movies don't make any money. That's right, if you look at the numbers for [insert blockbuster movie here], you will find that it raked in some huge amount of money and then showed a loss within the studio.

      This is, of course, a shell game used to avoid royaltes. However, it is common for studios to then turn around and cite this "bad numbers" as the evidence that a) there is healthy competion in the market b) there is no price-fixing c) there are no other anti-trust problems. So, when someone tries to guage the general health of the Hollywood economy, it certainly looks like it will all fall apart in a few years.

      The important thing to remember is this: THAT HAS BEEN THE PERCEPTION FOR DECADES!! What's more doom and gloom about home formats has been running around since VHS. Heck, I can't get a group of friends to wait to see a matinee the next weekend for many movies!
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:27PM (#4472199)
      says last weekend's box office take was 20% more than the same weekend last year.

      Ahhh...but when your prediction was a 23% increase over last year, that can be seen as a "loss" of 3%. It all depends on how you slant the line.

      Charts will be the death of us.
  • Lucas THX (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shoemakc (448730) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:40PM (#4471556) Homepage
    Doesn't this sound a bit strange coming from the same people who brought the THX certification to the home?

    Sounds to me like a misquoted or singular rant, and not an offical platform of Lucusfilm. There is potentialy even more money to be made in the home theater market, and it's quite clear that they realize this.

    -Chris

    • by nanojath (265940) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:21PM (#4472142) Homepage Journal
      "teens are paying more attention to the fact that the movie will be out on DVD in just four or five months at a rental fee of $4 or $5 or a purchase price of $12-$15."

      A fact over which, of course, the movie producers have no power whatsoever. There have been dozens of movies I would have liked to have seen on the big screen, but didn't get around to, and after the DVD and VHS comes out they seem to just vanish. Meanwhile, every damn cineplex has the same half dozen pieces of crap playing, several hundreds of screens accessible to me in my metro area and I've got the choice of about fifteen pictures to choose from.


      Unrelated to this comment, but I just have to vent on the following:


      "Literally, our very lives are at stake now. George and I are just praying that we can finish 'Episode III' in time, before it's all over."


      First off, FUCK I hate it when people say literally when they mean figuratively. I think I would like to show this man the difference between his life "literally" being at stake versus it "figuratively" being at stake... Literally. Second, oh come off it. Yeah, the movie industry will end, and there's no need for a patent office anymore because everything has already been invented, and nobody needs a hard drive bigger than 16 K, and Stephen King is dead at 55, and yeah, chicken little, the sky is, indeed, falling. Can we be done with this inanity, finally, at last? What planet do these idiots live on, anyway?


      Note - I'm led to believe that the story of the patent officer who claimed that the patent office should be closed because everything had already been invented is a myth. "In his 1843 report to Congress, the then commissioner of the Patent Office, Henry L. Ellsworth, included the following comment: "The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end." As Jeffery shows, it's evident from the rest of that report that Commissioner Ellsworth was simply using a bit of rhetorical flourish to emphasize that the number of patents was growing at a great rate. Far from considering inventions at an end, he outlined areas in which he expected patent activity to increase, and it is clear that he was making plans for the future."


      Sass mentions another atribution of the quote to Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office Charles H. Duell, who didn't say it either. http://www.urbanlegends.com/misc/patent_office_ul. html

  • by daVinci1980 (73174) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:41PM (#4471561) Homepage
    As long as they continue to release Star Wars in the theaters again, and don't release episodes IV, V, and VI on DVDs, I'll still have to go to the theater.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:41PM (#4471569)
    Good movies won't be doomed, something McCallum & Lucas might like to try making some time.
  • by funbobby (445204) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:41PM (#4471576)
    They said the same thing when VCRs came out, and that certainly wasn't the end of the movie industry.
  • George and I are just praying that we can finish 'Episode III' in time, before it's all over."

    Its already over lad! George shot his own golden goose with Episode I. "Before its all over" reads to us fans like "before you suckers realize what tripe we are churning out each episode".

    Starwars is dead. Long live Starwars.
  • Silly Me (Score:4, Funny)

    by futuresheep (531366) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:42PM (#4471584) Journal
    I was under the impression that it was the Video Tape that would kill the Box Office. ;-)

    Unless you have money to burn, nothing beats seeing a movie in the theater. Now if they'd just start putting real butter back on the popcorn...

    • by mblase (200735) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:49PM (#4471736)
      It's not the "theater experience" that attracts me. It's not the first-viewer opportunity. It's certainly not the overpriced popcorn and soda or the need to drive fifteen minutes across town with my entire family in tow. And it's not, nor will it ever be, the ability to recreate sounds in 6.1 speakers around the entire three-dimensional room.

      No, it's the big screen I like. Mitsubishi electronics' best efforts notwithstanding, home theater will never be as impressive as a screen the size of an auditorium wall with all the characters projected in incredible detail. The movies I really love I go to see three, four times on those big screens, just because I prefer to watch a movie "up there" than "down here".

      When I can afford to outfit an entire room of my house for darkened projected DVD movie experiences, I may reconsider. For now it's easier just to spend $3 apiece at the cheapie theater.
  • More complaints (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grid geek (532440) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:42PM (#4471585) Homepage
    DVD piracy and movie "sharing" groups will only speed up the cycle, and that they'll be putting Hollywood out of business, possibly within the next three years."

    Don't they always say this? Wasn't it said about videos, CD Video, cable? Who produces the DVD's? OK, so if people stop going to theatres then thats a revenue stream down but more income from DVD rentals, sales, airlines, pay per view, airlines ....

    I really wish they'd just see that technology opens up new revenue streams faster than it closes them down.

  • Naturally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DickPhallus (472621) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:42PM (#4471586)
    It doesn't matter to me. If I go to see the movie at the cinema on cheap night, it's 5-7 bucks. If I wait 5 months to rent it and watch it on my 20 year old TV and VCR, it's still 5-6 bucks... so why would I wait? I wouldn't.

    Sure, the chump with $20,000 home theatre could wait, but obviously, money isn't a big factor in his decision.

    Personally, I enjoy a night at the movies, but I also enjoy snuggling up at home to a movie with the girlfriend... I think both will be around for a while, personally.

    I'm sure someone said similar things when VHS was introduced.
  • Yaaahh! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:42PM (#4471601)
    Then, once they go out of business, perhaps people that are interested in making good movies rather than huge incomes will start making movies.

    And oh, here's a thought...who forces them to release a DVD in 6mo's??? Seems like they could delay the release of alternate distributions indefinately. Don't think so? Go ask Disney. They did it for a VERY long time.

    If it's such a risk...release alternate media 1 or 2 years after the movie comes out.

    Wow. That was hard to think of wasn't it. Perhaps if he stopped thinking about his next big rip-off-money-making-flick, such an obvious concept would be obvious to him too.

    What was his point again...
    • Re:Yaaahh! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SirSlud (67381) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:06PM (#4471989) Homepage
      Before they start delaying DVD releases, they need to start making better movies again instead of simply trying to feed you the next big catchphrase to utter around the water cooler.

      Cause lets face it .. how many of the folks that bought Austin Powers 2 on DVD would have bought it had they had to wait another year or two? Nobody gives a shit about most of these movies once they've faded from the pop culture venacular; a process that only takes 4 or 5 months after the movies runs in theatres.

      Entertainment today is more expoitive than it ever has been. They ploy on your material and cultural associations, but rarely have anything to say that is applicable beyond the cultural microsecond in which they are released and promoted.

      In fact, this is part of a bigger problem in the whole 'Business at the speed of light' goal we got caught up in .. the faster you get into the cultural conciouness (with exploitive or cheap advertising), the faster you fall out of it. The feedback loop between the producer and the consumer *can* get too tight, and the movie industry as it stands today is a very good example of this. Watch for the pendulum to start going the other way; hopefully with a neo-Hollywood instead of the one we're stuck with today.
  • Nonsense! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gpinzone (531794) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:45PM (#4471640) Homepage Journal
    This is just a ploy to use the recent outcry over pirating as a wedge to push digital projectors and THX approved sound systems in theaters. Remember the toll free number given out for the SW trilogy re-release to report theaters with substandard equipment?

    Pretty sneaky!
  • by Rhys (96510) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:45PM (#4471642) Homepage
    And don't let the door hit you on the way out.
  • by gonar (78767) <sparkaliciousNO@SPAMverizon.net> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:45PM (#4471656) Homepage
    The movie industry did basically the same thing to live theater. it still lives as a niche product for those who want it, but it is not nearly as pervasive as it was.

    just because you have managed to earn a living doing something in the past, that is no guarantee of being able to do so in the future.

    technology changes the rules, and some industries suffer, but other industries prosper.

    the movie industry needs to realize that they are not "entitled" to make money from traditional movies, they must provide us a reason to do pay them for the experience.

    if they made movies that were worth the extra $5 to see on a big screen vs. my tv, then maybe I they wouldn't have this problem.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:46PM (#4471666) Journal

    It'll be as dead as...

    ...movie theatres after TV.

    ...Live music after radio.

    ...theatre after movies.

    ...radio after TV.

    There's something that going to the movies can provide that DVDs can't. The movies provide the whole "going out" experience, and the crowd. How many times have you gone to a movie and remarked "when that happened, the whole crowd laughed, yelled, groaned, etc."

    Staying at home with a DVD and the microwave is lame. Dinner and a movie is cool.

    Better yet, we may see more innovation in theatres like the Cinema and Drafthouse. If you've never been to one of those, you don't know what you're missing.

  • by Slashdolt (166321) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:46PM (#4471668)
    I'll chalk this up to "We only have 10 years left on this planet!" stated by actor Ted Danson about 10 years ago (also from Hollywood).

    Look at how piracy has destroyed the software industry! Oh, it hasn't? But people have been pirating software for 10 years, how can software vendors still be making money?!!! Funny, isn't it?

    My hope for the future is that we get rid of alot of the "Fame and Fortune" aspect of acting. In the future (thanks to the Internet), I believe that anyone will be able to broadcast anything they want, and may become famous, but not necessarily rich.

    Hollywood makes lots of great movies, and a lot of bad ones. But they've only been around for less than 100 years. They may simply be a short-lived 20th century phenomena, with other forms of entertainment eventually taking over. Don't boohoo about it. If they disappear, it will be because nobody wants their stuff, not because everyone wants DVD's...

    For the record, I've never put off "going to the movies" with my wife, simply so that I could watch it on DVD/VHS/PPV three months later...
  • by GMontag (42283) <gmontag@guymo[ ]g.com ['nta' in gap]> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:48PM (#4471710) Homepage Journal
    The Buggy Whip Manufacturer's association is calling for legeslation to restrict, license and tax "horsless carrages" citing safety concerns.

    Traveling Theater Companies call for legeslation to regulate the new "moving pictures" industry, citing flickering and health concerns.

    The dairy industry seeks non-dairy product regulation and distinctive markings so that consumers will not be "duped" by "inferior" products.

    Television networks are calling for increased regulation of Cable and Satellite Television providers citing "unfair competition".

    Looks like these movie guys are a little slow on the uptake with the same old false logic.
  • by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:48PM (#4471712) Homepage
    Here's what will really happen.

    Ticket sales will improve as the economy improves. Theaters will install new technology to make the movie-going experience better. Ticket prices will increase leading to bigger and bigger box-office takes. DVD sales will remain strong. Hollywood will continue to thrive. Piracy will be a secondary factor (as it is now) until fat bandwidth is ubiquitous; after that, it will be controlled by social factors. MPAA will continue to believe that they represent the forces of free speech; people like me will continue to laugh in their faces.

    Hollywood will face a major defeat, however, it won't be economic. It will be legal. Copyright extentions will be cut down by the Supreme Court and DMCA will either be stricken down or repealed. Hollywood will then have to resort to marketing (gasp!) to prevent mass piracy.

  • Bah humbug (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:50PM (#4471751)
    You mean we might have to ADAPT our business model and learn to live in the digital era like everyone else? *whine whine whine* Please. They are selling lots of DVDs. Nobody is forcing them to price DVDs at 19.99 on Amazon.com. The fact that they are selling them at that price point leads me to believe that they are practicing standard revenue maximization behavior, looking for the magic marginal revenue = marginal cost point. Illegal copying ("piracy") of movies is still largely limited to college students and others who have limitless bandwidth, lots of time, and can't afford the 20 bucks for a movie they know is worth watching again and again.


    Furthermore, people will STILL go to the movies as a social event, it's something to do with friends, it's an experience, and most people just don't have home theater equipment that comes close to that yet, until we all get InFocus-style LCD projectors for our living rooms. Oh yeah, and if you want us to come to the theater, consider that just maybe 10 bucks+ a person, not including snacks and soda is a little outrageous - when I was a kid, I remember it was 4-5 dollars, and I'm only 23. Price has gone up substantially faster than inflation, and the quality of most major studio releases has gone down. Hmmm....

  • Heh heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by wunderhorn1 (114559) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:50PM (#4471758) Homepage
    I actually saw this article a little while ago. Thought about submitting it, then thought, "Nah, it's light on content and overly sensationalistic."

    I should have known better ;-)

    Anyway, my favorite quote was at the end:

    "The business will implode once you can download a movie, give it to your friends and not have a moral problem with doing it. Then we're screwed. Literally, our very lives are at stake now. George and I are just praying that we can finish 'Episode III' in time, before it's all over."

    Personally, I'd like to see Lucas standing out on Hollywood Blvd holding a placard that says "The end is near! Repent from your evil filesharing ways!"

  • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:51PM (#4471762) Homepage
    It seems every year, the studios claim to rake in more and more revenue from ticket sales, what gives? Oh that's right... price of the tickets have gone up ridiculously quickly. Has it occurred to them that perhaps its the price of the tickets that's keeping people away? Allow me to illustrate.

    6 or 7 years ago, I'd take my girlfriend to the local 3-screen theatre and we'd watch a first-run movie for about $5 a head, plus a shared $8 combo. Total cost, after taxes, $18. Now, the ticket price at my local 12-screen megaplex is $13 per ticket, and the cheapest popcorn+soda combo runs $9 plus tax. Total cost, after taxes, $38.

    Now, at $18 for a night out, it was worth it. But once the cost of the experience exceeds the price of owning the movie on DVD, I get a little hesitant about running out to the theatre every weekend. So now, unless it's a movie that will truly benefit from the big-screen experience (i.e., Clones), I simply wait and buy the DVD. That's right, I buy the DVD, even if I'm not sure I'll like the movie. Know why? Because it's still cheaper than seeing it in the theatre, and plus, I get to keep the movie. So even if the movie sucked, hey, at least I still have something to show for it. If it had sucked on the big screen, all I'd walk out with would be some butter on my fingers.

    What I'd like to see happen is for studios to make less use of expensive, superfluous special effects and quit pandering to the silver-spoon prima donna crybaby megastars like Julia Roberts, and start hiring equally-capable, but far lesser-known (and thus, far cheaper) actors, like Guy Pearce. Of course, now that he's becoming popular, you'd have to opt for someone else, unless he's willing to continue working at his "Memento" salary levels. This way, we'd get more diversity on screen, and the movies would be far cheaper to produce (and dare I dream, far cheaper to watch?).

    Am I the only one who, when I see a Tom Hanks movie (and don't get me wrong, Tom is an amazing actor), I have a lot of trouble accepting him in whatever role he's supposed to be? I keep seeing Forrest Gump. Of course, he was great, but he's still got that recognition, and sometimes, that can hurt a movie. I mean, come on, George Clooney as Batman? Sure, he did a great job, but I kept seeing the doctor from "E.R." I think this was one of the reasons I liked "Memento" so much - I'd never seen Guy Pearce before.

    By the way, there's no way that the industry will die in a mere 3 years. That's insanely fast. They couldn't die that fast if they tried. It would take nothing short of some extreme economics and a perfect sequence of disastrous coincidences and events to eliminate such a massive industry so quickly.

  • by Felonius Thunk (168604) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:52PM (#4471781) Journal
    ...but theaters. The movie studios will keep making movies, and if they can't make as much on dvd sales then they reduce the cost of making movies (lower pay, increase productivity, the usual etc.). The worst that can happen is that theaters go out of business, and I see no reason why that would really cause movie studios to go down. Heck, with the focus off of getting people into theaters, maybe the number and quality of films released each year could rise. Maybe not to the level of the book industry (production costs too different), but along those lines.
  • by _bug_ (112702) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:54PM (#4471808) Journal
    How can one compare movie earnings from a few years ago to today? The economy is the exact opposite today as it was a few years ago. Back in the day we all had a little extra cash to spend on the outrageous 10 bucks a pop price to watch a movie in a theater.

    Now that we are in lean times of course I, and many others in a similar situation, are not going to go out to the movies as often as once was.

    We're all feeling the crunch McCallum, you are not immune to it.

    Insert your own cheap shot about the drop being off due to rather poor story telling and execution for the last two Star Wars movies.

    So don't blame the internet and kids with fat pipes. Try looking closer to home for the real reason things are so green right now.

  • by sssmashy (612587) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @02:59PM (#4471871)
    "Literally, our very lives are at stake now. George and I are just praying that we can finish 'Episode III' in time, before it's all over."

    Is it just me, or does Mr. McCallum sound a little paranoid/delusional? If Episode III brings in less than half a billion in box office and 3 hundred million in merchandising tie-ins, I'd be surprised. Yet Rick and George "literally" have their "very lives" at stake. I guess they're just a few pirated DVDs away from living in a cardboard box.

  • by Brian_Ellenberger (308720) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:01PM (#4471900)
    In the 50's and 60's they said TV will kill the film industry.

    In the late 70's/early 80's they said the VCR will kill the film industry.

    Now Rick McCallum is claiming that DVD will kill the film industry.

    He claims that "single movie that can survive on box office gross alone". That may be true, but only because of natural competition. The total revenue for a movie in the day and age is theater release + home release. That TOTAL revenue is what pays salaries and production costs. What, did he think the DVD was going to be just pure profit? Actors aren't making 20 million just based on theater release.

    But it is unlikely that theaters are going away anytime soon. Why? Because the studios control the supply and demand for movies (for the most part). You pay $8.00 to go to a movie because you can't see it on tape, even if you had a movie quality home theater. And it is going to be decades before >50% of the public has movie quality home theaters anyway. They release the movie on DVD only after noone is seeing it in the theaters anymore.

    Now piracy may be an issue and that is one of the points he seems to be making. However, in order to be all that widespread everyone would need T1 lines to their houses and the total bandwidth of the Internet would have to be tripled. Most people will still be on dialup in 3 years, so mass use of a Napster-clone is unlikely to be feasible. Unless people are willing to stay online for 2 weeks to download a movie.

    Brian Ellenberger
  • -1 Redundant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:03PM (#4471943) Homepage
    When TV came out (circa 1950s), people from the movie studios claimed it would be the death of the big screen cinema. They adapted and survived and made more money than before.

    When VCRs came out (circa 1980), people from the movie studios claimed it would be the death of the big screen cinema. They adapted and survived and made more money than before.

    When so-called piracy came out (circa 1980s), people from the movie studios claimed it would be the death of the big screen cinema. They adapted and survived and made more money than before.

    Now that DVDs and overly expensive home theaters are out, someone from the movie studios is claiming it will be the death of the big screen cinema.

    These people really have no clue what they're talking about, do they?

    Come on, people. Yeah, cinemas are grossly overpriced, but people keep going to them in droves. There's a very heavy social aspect there that no one seems to realize. Your family isn't "going out together" if you rent a movie (or stream it from a server) onto your own 30" screen. It's not really a date with your girlfriend if you're not paying for her rip-off slime popcorn at a theater.

    Yeah, I'm sure this guy is speaking for himself, not for the company. That doesn't make him any less of a short-sighted dork for saying it.

    I have full faith and confidence in the ability of American business to figure out how to make a buck no matter what the technology is.
  • Riiiight... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by keep_it_simple_stupi (562690) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:03PM (#4471949) Homepage
    And they're not making money from DVD sales? I'm sorry, what does it cost... $.05 per disc? Probably less? The movie makers will continue to make money irregardless. And if the movie theatres can't stay open well that's just too bad. They should have figured out a way to make us want to come and put up with their ridiculous prices and all the annoying patrons that you have to sit with. I'm sorry, I'm still paying, I'm not going to feel sorry for them.
  • by tsmit (222375) <tsmit50@nosPAm.yahoo.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:04PM (#4471957) Homepage
    The only thing i need is a baby crying, a woman talking on her cell phone, and teenage kids kicking the back of my couch to make it a true movie-going experience.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:08PM (#4472002)
    I'm with most others; I don't really this idea that DVDs are killing the theatre experience. However I very much concede McCallum's points about movie 'purists' preferring the home theatre experience.

    About 3 years ago in Canada we had a projectionists' union strike. It didn't end well. The frequency of fuckups in my moviegoing experience has at least tripled. They are constantly threading the film up - especially first releases - with the wrong lens (i.e. anamorphic vs. standard). Film breaks are more common, and apparently unrepairable now.

    They run innumerable ads before movies now. When I hear the voice say 'and now a word from our sponsor...' I feel like standing up and spouting off for 10 minutes because I am their goddam sponsor.

    The popcorn prices are laughable. The soda/pop prices are fucking astronomical.

    Mobile phones. Laser pointers. Hell, GameBoys.

    The waits have gotten longer.

    First-run movies often get cycled 24-7 so the prints fall apart faster. Which means you need to see it earlier (see previous point).

    I liked the theatre experience before; there's a certain crowd-vibe that is really enjoyable, sometimes even saving you from a bad film (the complete derision shown in the last Godzilla remake was spectacular. I've never seen a whole movie openly, loudly mocked by the entire audience before. And it was fun.)

    These days though... being able to control the lighting and sound perfectly, being able to pause to go to the can, eating my own sensibly-priced junk food... like most, I make a judgement call when a movie comes out. If I'm dying to see it, I'll go. Those movies are rare these days.

  • by Whispers_in_the_dark (560817) <rich.harkinsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:09PM (#4472017)
    ...when they STOP showing commercials to a captive audience before the movie. The excuse that the commercials are buffering increasing ticket prices is, IMO, bunk. Tickets here in Cinci have risen about 20% in the last couple of years. I used to go to about 10 movies a year, now it's down to about 3 and those are *matinees*.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beleg777 (551987) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:11PM (#4472034)
    So the movie industry isn't making money off of all those DVD sales? If they aren't, they are doing something really wrong. If they are, well, it shouldn't be the end of the movie industry then. Perhaps just a rearanging of priorities.
  • by aleksey (1519) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:14PM (#4472061) Homepage Journal

    ... is the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Everything else really doesn't have the value-add to make it worth driving out to a mega-plex to be surrounded by the same people you see on Cops and Girls Gone Wild.

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:14PM (#4472076) Homepage Journal
    The issue of needsing more movie theaters patrons and other revenue to pay for the more expensive movies is directly related to people staying home.

    For instance, I used to go to movies a lot. I used to have a main stream movie theaters close to me. That theater is now closed and I have to go much farther to another theater where i have to pay for parking, where they have several concesion stands but even on busy weekends they only have one open, usually with only two staff, to serve the entire 30 screens, and where they clean up the during the credits. And don't get me started on the five minutes of unrelated product commericals. I never had these problems at my old theater.

    Going to a movie is no longer a pleasent experience, and it has nothing to do with cell phones, or people talking, or babies. It has to do with the number of screens and the number of seats that is necceary to show a main stream movie. Movie going should not be something that has to be scheduled, planned, and carried out in a careful operation. It is supposed to be fun.

    So, I mostly go to the occasional art flick where I can drop in, buy a ticket, and enjoy the show without having the experience ruined by excessive lines, cleaning staff, or overt commercials.

    And, in time, I may get a home theater, and more DVDs. Of course, if the DVDs continue to become increasing draconian, I may just abandon the whole movie going expereince

  • Pop Quiz: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Triv (181010) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:38PM (#4472346) Journal
    What's the difference, experience-wise, between watching a movie in a theatre and renting/buying one?

    Going to a theatre is immersive. There are (ideally - screaming children and cells aside) no distractions at a movie. You're completely involved with what's going on on-screen. Same thing happens in a play - they darken the theatre for a reason, and it's not to see the actors better.

    Watching a movie in your typical living-room is completely different. You know you're watching a movie, you don't become as involved in it.

    I think $10 for a movie is ludicrous (I grew up with a $4 second-run moviehouse on the corner of my street). I can't really afford it, but I go anyway. Why? Because it's a change of scenery, it's a night out, it's not sitting in my living-room. And because, for any given movie, I have a better shot of enjoying it in the theatre's immersive environment.

    Triv
  • by trcooper (18794) <coop@red[ ].org ['out' in gap]> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @03:40PM (#4472372) Homepage
    Claiming that it's the consumer's fault they're in trouble is bullshit. The can easily save their own asses.

    1. Stop charging more than the DVD costs for two people to see the movie in the theatre. And I don't mean raise DVD prices either. There is no reason it should cost more than 10$ for two people to see a movie, or more than 8 for that matter.

    2. Stop paying Julia Roberts and Arnold Schwartzniger 40 million to be in a movie. Easy.

    3. Make movies worth seeing and not these overhyped pieces of garbage like the last two star wars have been. In most cases a movie CAN wait, I've got better things to do.

    For now I'm more than happy to watch DVD's on my 53" widescreen in the privacy of my own house. I don't have to worry about people moving past me because they bought the 72oz soda, or a bawling child. If Hollywood doesn't like that, fix their problems, don't make it out like this is my fault.
  • by cheinonen (318646) <cheinonen.hotmail@com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @04:14PM (#4472786)
    Lucas financed Star Wars Episodes 1 and 2 himself. They cost him around $100 million each, or less, to produce. He got a sweetheart distribution deal from 20th Century Fox that let him keep the vast majority of the $600 million or more they each made worldwide. Let's be really conservative and say movie theaters keep half that (it's more around 25% overall), and Fox gets $15 million. Lucasfilm is still getting around $200 million per movie, not counting merchandise, soundtracks, DVD's, etc... If they can't find a way to profit from that, I have no sympathy for them.


    His citing Titanic isn't a good example either. Titanic was a total aberation for movies. It made as much the next 12 weekends as it did it's first weekend (within 10-20%) instead of having the usual 30-50% drop off that most major movies do now. People just kept going back again and again, and you can't expect any movie to come close to what Titanic did. I just think they're blowing everything way out of proportion. Yes, I'm sure downloading movies hurts them some, but not that much (I know I'm not going to take the time).

  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @05:09PM (#4473341) Homepage Journal
    The funny thing is, people have bemoaned the impending death of the box office since time immemorial. The first thing that was going to kill movies was television. And true, it did (along with the busting-up of the vertical monopolies held by movie studios) fundamentally change the movie-going experience, turning what had been a whole evening's worth of entertainment (newsreel, shorts, B movie, feature) into a single movie presentation. On the other hand, it also improved movie presentations dramatically, as the studios went to panoramic widescreen and more use of color to draw audiences back out of the home.

    And then there was Valenti's prediction that VHS would kill movies. As you can see, it hasn't.

    I don't think that DVDs necessarily mean the end of movies, either. Though if it means studios start to concentrate on quality, putting an end to the sort of crap movies that seem to dominate the box office these days, that could be a blessing. (No more Adam Sandler, please! No more Tom Green!) There are some films that you just have to see on the big screen, and I've been known to drive all the way from Springfield, Missouri to Kansas City to see films that may not make it down here. (I'm considering such an expedition to see Spirited Away, for instance, even though I've already seen it on a DIVX ripped from the Japanese DVD.) But I could be an exception to the general rule...
  • by NeuroManson (214835) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @05:40PM (#4473644) Homepage
    Take all the megamovieplexgargantua theaters, and instead of each minitheater being open to all, have them designated as:

    Theater 1, The Playpen: Squalling babies allowed, offering counselling at a premium for idiots who take their 2 year olds in to see the latest rated R slasher flicks.

    Theater 2, The Lame Room: For people who really don't care about watching the movie, and instead want to talk, make out, use their cel phones.

    Theater 3, The Idiot Room: for people who want to do their own MST3K performance.

    Theater 4, Paradise: For people who actually want to *gasp* watch the movie.

    That way, they'll actually make MORE money, rather than driving away the folks who would normally want Theater 4!

    Meanwhile, has anyone else noticed the irony that this is the same Lucasfilm that not only took upwards of 5 years originally to release their movies to tape/DVD, but supported the old "pay to watch" DIVX standard, refusing to release the original trilogy to DVD until it died?
  • Amazing! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ogerman (136333) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @05:54PM (#4473751)
    that they'll be putting Hollywood out of business, possibly within the next three years.

    This is the first good news I've heard on Slashdot this week!

    Although I think he's being a little bit optimistic on how soon this will happen. Have a look on IMDB at how much money even the worst recent movies have made vs. their production cost.. That's a disgusting profit margin for any industry.

    Protect our freedoms! Fight DMCA / CBDTPA / SDMI / SSSSA / Palladium / etc. Boycott Big Media!
  • Easy fix. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeFM (12491) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:55PM (#4474972) Homepage Journal
    Make a white-disc copy of the DVD available cheap for anyone with a ticket stub from the movie. As soon as the movie is on the big screen the customer can buy it on DVD this way. That'd boost attendence and help stop piracy.

    SW: Clones just sucked. That's why I didn't see it again and again like I had previous Star Wars movies.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

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