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Movies The Almighty Buck

Ebert: I'll Tell You Why Movie Revenue Is Dropping 865

schwit1 writes in with a link to Roger Ebert's webpage where he gives his opinion on the decline of movie industry revenues."According to Ebert movie piracy isn't the problem. He contends that the industry needs to lower prices on tickets and popcorn, keep people off their cell phones, show a wider variety of films, and understand that movie streaming is here to stay. From the article: 'The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It's the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can't depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.'"
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Ebert: I'll Tell You Why Movie Revenue Is Dropping

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  • Back in my day... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:23PM (#38532750)
    You saw a movie in the theater, or you didn't see it at all. Further on, you saw it in the theater, or you waited a few years for it to come out on VHS for rental. These days, you see it in the theater, or wait for it to hit Netflix in a matter of months. I'd rather wait a few months and view it in the comfort of my own home, than to go sit with a bunch of ill-mannered heathens, watch 20 minutes of previews, and then shield my eyes from the glow of a hundred cell phones...
  • by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:34PM (#38532894)

    The Alamo Drafthouse had Patton Oswalt perform a "dramatic" reading of a message left at the theater by someone who was angry about having been thrown out for texting during a movie. It's pretty hilarious, and I first learned of the Drafthouse through their campaign of playing the original message as a sort of anti-texting PSA before screenings.

    Oswalt's rendition: []

  • Re:Back in my day... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:34PM (#38532900)

    You saw a movie in the theater, or you didn't see it at all. Further on, you saw it in the theater, or you waited a few years for it to come out on VHS for rental. These days, you see it in the theater, or wait for it to hit Netflix in a matter of months. I'd rather wait a few months and view it in the comfort of my own home, than to go sit with a bunch of ill-mannered heathens, watch 20 minutes of previews, and then shield my eyes from the glow of a hundred cell phones...

    I was very surprised that theaters stayed in business after home video became commonplace. I think their business actually grew; I suppose people like to go out.

    As for the ill-mannered heathens, I wait until a movie has been out for 2+ weeks, then go on an off night. I occasionally get surprised (~100 people at Sherlock last night), but usually there are only 5-10 people present, no cut-ups or screaming babies.

  • Re:Kids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:39PM (#38532930)

    I've wondered if theaters shouldn't go back to the old serials formula. With digital projectors, it can finally work again. It'd be a lot like TV, but more social.

    Every afternoon would have a new episode, from a different series for each day of the week. Make it cheap. Parents could drop their kids off. Kids could socialize. Laser pointer jerk could get it out of his system. An entire system designed to attract the folks you hate. And away from you.

    Evenings and weekends would revert to regular movie showings.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:43PM (#38532986) Homepage

    And that goes for many of the /. comments on this topic.

    Things to consider....

    1. Many people want to see films, but the cost of two tickets, soft drink and a baby sitter starts to approach $100.

    Why not consider day cares in these giant megaplexes. Just saying it'd be an interesting approach.

    2. For the price of a pair of tickets you could own the Blu-Ray. much does it cost to make a DVD? Not much...

    I'd love to see a movie company experiment with a theater to provide the movie on DVD with purchase of tickets. Or simpler, mail your receipt and ticket stubs and get $10 off your DVD.

    Be creative. Realize Americans have less leisure time. Less money. And less happiness.

    Work with us.

  • Re:Movie Quality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldepeche ( 854916 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:47PM (#38533060)

    Movies have always been mostly dumb, mindless crap. Pick a movie from 30 years ago at random, and I'll bet you $100 it's terrible to mediocre.

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @07:55PM (#38533160)

    Not to piss in YOUR Cheerios but I'm just as fine watching a decent story without any special effects which are enhanced with technology seen in theaters (home or otherwise).

    I am quite happy to watch my $1 Redbox DVDs (not even Blu-Ray!) on my 10 year old 27" CRT non-HDTV with built in DVD player.

    The story is what matters to me, not a bunch of flashy CGI or other bullshit which is better seen with fancy tech. For decades we had movies which didn't require anything special because the dialogue and story was good enough to keep you entertained. Unfortunately, and I may just be ignorant, but it seems that the signal to noise ration has increased here.

    Now, I realize the general public likes special effects and expects them in movies. However, to go back to the original point of variety being required, can we include these "old style" movies again? I guarantee I won't be going to the theater because I can't afford a $50 evening to view a movie nor a $5500 home theater setup (my TV was $150 and my couch is a hand-me-down from a friend) but I'd certainly rent more $1 movies from Redbox and watch more movies on Instant if the recent selections were worthy of watching.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:04PM (#38533256) Homepage Journal

    There's a limited number of plot lines known, but given the number of Hollywood scriptwriters out there looking for new plot lines, it's hard to say that the problem is with the number of (good) plot lines possible.

    However, I absolutely agree that the key problems are with regurgitated scripts, half-dead actors, a passion for not thinking, and a chronic paranoia towards originality.

    Cinemas are partly to blame - there are occasionally good independent movies. Hell, there are occasionally documentary box-office hits (March of the Penguins out-sold The Fantastic Four first on limited release and then nationally in the multiplexes). The cinemas are quite capable of mixing in all kinds of stuff that might not appeal "to the masses" but which could certainly stuff one seating area full for more than enough showings to make a very healthy profit.

    Also, box-office hits don't remain hits forever. A local cinema, back in the 70s, got Star Wars and retained it in month blocks until the audience numbers fell off. The last month it was retained, the cinema nearly went out of business. It was an expensive film to hold with near-zero audiences at that point. Modern cinemas have obviously far more screens and book in more rational blocks of time, but even so they must be wasting vast sums on holding onto too many copies for too long. Diversifying would not only increase the number of people actually going to the cinema, it would also reduce wastage from excessive rights.

  • Re:Probably too late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:10PM (#38533328)

    And (IIRC) Steven Spielberg complained a couple of years ago that the sound and video systems in most theaters are not as good as a reasonably good home theater system.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by masmullin ( 1479239 ) <> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:10PM (#38533332)

    Original Ideas are usually story driven and dont need a big screen (there are a few exceptions like Matrix & Star Wars)

    Lately the really good original ideas not only don't require a big screen, but they DO require long character development arcs, and require multiple hours to really tell a good story (Breaking Bad, Dexter, Walking Dead).

    So the only reason to really go to a cinema is for the big CGI movies like Transformers, or for "date" movies.

    One last thing, just because a movie is a derivative, it doesn't make it bad. Saving Private Ryan is extremely derivative, but it was a great movie.

  • Re:Cooking books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:13PM (#38533370)

    Actually on paper most films never make a profit. The costs are structured so that various parental entities (production houses, etc.) charge huge fees so the actual film loses money but everybody who matters walks away with lots of cash. That's why smart and lucky actors always try to get a percentage of the gross, not the net. Many blockbuster films and TV shows have never made a profit, even after 30 years of syndication.

  • Re:Also (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sancho ( 17056 ) * on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:15PM (#38533402) Homepage

    However, I absolutely agree that the key problems are with regurgitated scripts, half-dead actors, a passion for not thinking, and a chronic paranoia towards originality.

    Considering I'll rewatch movies multiple times if I enjoy them, "regurgitated scripts" don't bother me. Of course, I quite enjoy originality--though there's precious little of it these days.

    The main thing that keeps me from going to the theater more is the experience. Whether it's people talking loudly (on their phone or to others) or texters who flash their screen at everyone behind them, it's the inconsiderate other patrons who irritate me the most. The other day, I actually sat just behind and to the left of someone who started looking up nudes of one of the actresses in the movie they were in, and continued to look at them for about 10 minutes before I asked him to turn off his phone.

  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:18PM (#38533442)

    Funny enough I'm the IT guy for a small chain of arthouse theatres and there is no dropping of revenue going on there. Rather the other way round, this year was again better than the last.

    And yes, tickets are rather cheap, concession (drinks, popcorn, etc.) too, there are about 30 different movies on monthly and hardly any of these are Hollywood movies. Still, people love that. They could buy the DVD instead, but they prefer to come into a friendly place, have a talk before and after the movie, drink a nice (and not too expensive) beer from a healthy selection, munch some very cheap and tasty popcorn and generally have a jolly good time. Many come at least once a week. Once you start to realize that there are literally thousands of great movies you've never heard of in the news there's a whole new world to explore. And once you realize that this is not just an "industry" you may even find some nice theatre you really like to go to.

    I would totally agree that you can't rely only on blockbusters. Or on selling expensive beverages.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by midtowng ( 2541986 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:18PM (#38533450)
    Hollywood is terrified to making movies with original ideas. Every movie is created by committee in order to appeal to the most demographics. Which translates into a plot that you've seen a million times before. The idea of making a movie that doesn't spend $50 million on special effects and another $50 milllion on big name actors, but instead invests in plot and acting is something only independents do.
  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:56PM (#38533872)

    Forgotten, hell. Picasso said it--"Good artists copy, great artists steal."

  • Re:Kids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:07PM (#38533980) Journal

    Our local cinema (and it's a newer less than 10 years old, 8 screens, all digital, new release flicks) shows movies around 11 AM on Tuesday and Thursday during the summer time TOTALLY FREE. They are all kids movies that were released within the last year or two. The place is packed out, and they often have to add showings on other screens to handle the overflow. Daycares bring all their kids, and I see school buses from districts 45 minutes away. Of course parents bring kids (and their friends, etc) too. The kids are usually well behaved, especially considering how many kids are in one theater. So the only money the theater makes is off of concessions. They've been doing this for several years in a row now, so it must pay off.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sleigher ( 961421 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:11PM (#38534026)
    Does the fact that they teach you how to write a script in Hollywood have anything to do with it? I mean the studios expect scripts to be written a certain way to even be considered. So they teach people how to write them the right way. Sort of a self fulfilling prophecy no? I mean, looking for originality would mean they have to think, or hire people to think. The quality of movies I see would lead me to believe there isn't much of that happening in Hollywood. But I am just a lowly consumer. What do I know...
  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:18PM (#38534088) Homepage Journal

    I have been known to spend many hours in libraries reading such things as the congressional record from the 19th century, old trademark and patent gazettes, other very old periodicals and publications, and there are untold thousands of true stories that would make incredible films.

    In the senate testimony during the period after the civil war and reconstruction, during hearings about the KKK, you could create several movies just from the eyewitness testimonies of southern people affected.

    One particularly vivid example was testimony I came across where a community was terrorized - blacks and also whites who were viewed as sympathetic either to blacks or to the union.

    The KKK rode through these places terrorizing the people while wearing blood-red hoods (white hoods came later I guess.)

    Coincidentally some babies were stillborn with deformities that in the eyes of these frightened people looked reminiscent of these red hoods, and the whole community was thrown further into hysteria, referring to them as "ku klux babies" if I remember correctly.

    Now tell me that it's not possible that some decent writer could read through the testimony of these hearings (which were the big national furor of the time) and come up with a very dramatic film? "Based on a true story" etc.

    Wouldn't even have to pay royalties to some comic book company or whatever.

    History and the present is filled with these stories everywhere you look, if you just look. And that's just the non-fiction.

    It's even possible someone could imagine up some mystical humanoids in a fairy-tale like land that aren't even hobbits.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skribe ( 26534 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:21PM (#38534106) Homepage

    Part of the problem is that there are now so many wardens in the way of new writers that it's almost impossible to get a genuinely original idea to the people with the money (eg. studios). Also it now takes more than having just a great script. You need a great package (insert obvious innuendo here): script, director, star.

    Even then original ideas have to survive the rewrites by writers that are already part of the system. And nearly every writer believes that they can write any script better than the last guy. Everyone wants to rewrite the script: studio, producer, director, star, director's cousin's girlfriend.

    What you tend to end up with is a generic, derivative mess that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the original idea.

    Given the process it's amazing that we have any watchable films at all and that's not even considering the crap that goes on after the cameras start rolling.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:22PM (#38534112)

    Why not consider day cares in these giant megaplexes.

    Whatever happened to crying rooms? When I was a kid, small local theaters inevitably had a room in the back, level with and immediately behind the last row, with a large picture window looking out into the theater. The sound was piped into that room. If your kid started crying, you went to the crying room and closed the door. You got to see the movie at the theater, from your regular seat if your kid didn't act up or from a special seat if your kid did. Either way, you got your night out and didn't have to hire a sitter.

    Of course, back then only crying babies were a problem. Toddlers-through-teens sat in their seats and were controlled by their parents (if present) or by the fact that if they acted up their parents would hear about it later from other adults in the theater or from the management. Occasionally, in the very worst of cases and only very rarely, the theater owner would pull a kid out of the theater and sit with him out front until his parents came to pick him up. Said parents then got a full report and the kid was banned from the theater for some space of time.

    Of course, also, back then we believed not only in personal responsibility but in being responsible for your kids, too.

    Now get off my lawn.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:30PM (#38534192)

    Every movie is created by committee in order to appeal to the most demographics.

    Nowadays that includes foreign audiences because roughly half of the revenue from big-budget movies comes from overseas. So they deliberately limit the scripts to what translates easily to any culture, and that leaves pretty much nothing other than famous faces, pretty girls and big explosions.

  • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @10:37PM (#38534774)

    Ah, but you forget the context: to steal is to make your own. The full context from T.S. Eliot:

    One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

  • Re:Also (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Friday December 30, 2011 @12:05AM (#38535288)

    Sam Walker []. Had a revolver built to his specifications so his cavalry could better blow apart Indians. Ended up shooting Mexicans with them. Spent his whole short life in brutal combat, right up until his dramatic, made for Hollywood death. Several really great opportunities for America bashing in there.

    Can't understand why no one has done a big budget film on this guy.

  • Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:21AM (#38535708)
    One room of my house has been converted into a mini-theater/game room. We have two projectors (the little one I though would be good enough... but wasn't and a much better one which cost me less than $1000 and is REALLY great). It allows us to play multi-player games together, but more importantly, we have a 120" movie screen with surround sound, two couches, bean bag chairs, a popcorn machine, a drink dispenser and a mini-fridge. And no... we're not fat :)

    I built this room up when 3D movies came out. It's too damn hard to find a movie theater anymore where I don't have to wear a shitty pair of plastic glasses that give me head aches from the 3D or the unfamiliar pressure on my temples (sadly I lied about being fat... I have a really fat head... hopefully it means I have room for a bigger brain but more likely is a deformity). Last time I took the family to the theater, it cost me $18 a ticket (I'm in Norway), that's $72 just for tickets. Then two medium buckets of popcorn, 4 drinks and a pack of candy for each of us ran about another $50. That's $122 to go to the movies. Oh... and I had to pay for parking as well. That was another $20. So $142 for a movie. Sometimes we even had to pay for the cheap ass glasses... that adds up to another $20. So, now we're up to $162.

    I can go online and purchase a film from iTunes, it costs $10-$20. If I rent, it's $2-$5. Popcorn costs us about $0.50 a bucket. Drinks cost $1 each. Candy costs $3 a pack (as we tend to purchase over priced, imported reeses peanut butter cups). Worst cast, $39, but more often closer to $29.

    The movie room altogether cost probably about $2000 and since the kids and I spend probably 1/4 of our recreation time in there, it is paid off QUICKLY. Even if we did a movie night every other week, it still would have paid for itself in less than a year.

    We stopped going to the theater for many reasons, but 3D (stupid glasses to see crappy picture quality) is the biggest one. Ticket prices was #2. Parking #3. Overpriced junk food #4.

    OH!!!!! One more thing. Last time I went to the movies, they actually played 40 minutes of advertisements before starting the film. NO SHIT!!! 40 Minutes!!!! I clocked it. After gouging me for a fortune in tickets and junk food... they then forced me to watch 40 minutes of advertisements before seeing the 92 minute film!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!!?!? The kids were already out of drinks before the f-ing advertisements were over.

    For a good laugh... I can buy round trip tickets to London for $100 a person (after taxes and transportation to and from the airport as well as parking), for a total of $400 between us. Then pay about $120 for a motel room for us. Even eating out every meal, we'd save about $10 per meal, or $60 in total. So, $460 for a weekend trip to London for the whole family. $162 times 3 is $486. So it actually costs me less to go to London with the whole family for a weekend than to go to three movies.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."