Monday Morning Quarterback Part Four

By BOP Staff

October 27, 2005

They're just a touch too close to The Rock's strudel.

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We were -this- close to a Kelso movie

Kim Hollis: Speaking of pirate movie stars, the Orlando Bloom starrer Elizabethtown has made $19.0 million thus far. Is he just not a draw if he's not in an elf outfit or puffy shirts?

Joel Corcoran: I may have to recuse myself from any discussion about Orlando Bloom.

Reagen Sulewski: That was a film that could have had Oscar aspirations.

David Mumpower: As much as I respect Cameron Crowe and love his films, the casting of the lead actor in Elizabethtown had me mystified. Jimmy Fallon and Orlando Bloom? Who was next on the list, Paul Walker?

Kim Hollis: Well, Orlando replaced Ashton Kutcher, so...

David Mumpower: Kelso, the worst SNL News guy ever and a chick with a beard...Cameron might not be able to pass a drug test right now.

Kim Hollis: And I have to say right now that this film is terrific and I am stunned at the reception it has received. Stunned.

Reagen Sulewski: I found Elizabethtown incredibly self-indulgent, especially towards the end.

Tim Briody: I have to admit it was a bit odd to read a scathing review of a Cameron Crowe film, like the one that appeared in my local paper.

David Mumpower: Completely agreed, Kim. It's unquestionably one of the best films I've seen this year. The critical reaction to it is nothing sort of shocking to me. I know some of the negative reviews come from the lackluster longer print shown at TIFF, but still. It's such a soulful look at southern living and the best film of this type since A Thing Called Love.

Reagen Sulewski: And more damningly, the showing had four (4) people in it.

Kim Hollis: *shrug* All Crowe's stuff is intensely personal. I pretty much accept that going in. I totally knew this was about his feelings about his own father's death and appreciated it all the more for that reason. Also, as someone who has attended a number of Southern family funerals as a complete "outsider" (my grandparents, uncles, aunts and so forth are all in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana), everything rang completely true.

Reagen Sulewski: I think that's a very different statement from calling it a good movie. I didn't dislike it, and in fact I found it perfectly pleasant. But it's not really something I can recommend.

Dan Krovich: I don't think the advertising has presented Elizabethtown as anything more than just a bad Orlando Bloom - Kirsten Dunst romantic comedy, though.

David Mumpower: I agree with that, Dan. It had a lackluster marketing campaign which seemed to paint the film as another Wimbledon for Dunst.

Studio executives have officially run out of excuses

Kim Hollis: The overall box office was down 27% from this same weekend last year. For the entire 2005 calendar year, we're down 8%. A lot of Hollywood executives are throwing their hands in the air.

Tim Briody: This weekend last year had The Grudge, but still. That's just overly excessive.

Kim Hollis: Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal says "I'm very concerned about the marketplace. There are so many movies out, so much to choose from, yet the marketplace continues to fall, and not just by little amounts." Warner Bros. head of distribution Dan Fellman says, "I've been telling people for a long time that I think it's content-driven. I don't think we had a film that jumped out for people this weekend."

Reagen Sulewski: There's no question the shift to DVD has a lot to do with this, but you'd think there'd be a few hits by accident.

Kim Hollis: So really. What's the problem?

David Mumpower: We've been hammering home this thought since Monday Morning Quarterback debuted, but I don't think it has fully sunk in yet. The reality is that the mega-blockbusters will still merit a drive out to theaters. It's the "I'd like to see it but if I don't, no big." films which are getting caught in the crossfire. If people have to wait a year to see Doom on video, it does $10 million more this weekend and $30 million more during its domestic run. If they can rent the DVD in 90 days or so, it does $15 million and leaves a very bright group of people at Universal scrambling to create explanations.

Dan Krovich: Also, this year is definitely down, but is it fair to expect box office to increase every year?

David Mumpower: Since there is ticket price inflation, I think that it's fair historically to expect at least 0% drop with regards to yearly ticket revenue.

Joel Corcoran: I don't think we should expect the box office to be up every year, Dan, but a close to 10% drop in a single year is worrisome, especially in the face of rising ticket prices.

Dan Krovich: Maybe they've hit the price point wall with ticket prices.

Kim Hollis: Maybe they have. You can buy the DVD to watch with a family for cheaper than it costs to go to the theater.

Tim Briody: You have to wonder when even Universal's head of distribution couldn't put a smiley face on Doom's opening, like they normally do.

Joel Corcoran: I don't think there is a problem with "too many" movies, Kim, but I think Dan Fellman nailed it - the quality of movies overall has dropped significantly over the past few years. Couple that with some very quickly and vastly expanding entertainment options for people, and of course the box office is going to drop. We aren't anywhere near the point where big screen movie releases will go the way of the buggy whip and the eight-track tape, but Hollywood has to be nervous.

Steven Soderbergh and Mark Cuban put the scare in studios

Kim Hollis: I think a lot of theater chains are going to be very anxiously watching to see how Steven Soderbergh's experiment with Mark Cuban and his conglomerate goes. The simultaneous release of Bubble on DVD, in theaters, and on pay-per-view has to be a super scary prospect, even if the film is experimental in nature.

Tim Briody: If they're willing to basically give up in their comments to the press, I can't fathom what's going on internally.

Kim Hollis: I think that's a well-taken point, Tim. They're starting to show signs of weakness on the PR side where previously they would do whatever to put a positive spin on it.

David Mumpower: Mark Cuban's quick offer to experiment further with the iPod Video/TV shows model demonstrates that he's one of the brightest people in the industry even though he's new to the marketplace. In fact, I think that might be his biggest advantage. Since he's not used to what once was, he's liberated to accurately evaluate the current situation.

Joel Corcoran: I don't see this being a simple "market correction." I think there are some deep fractures in the movie industry, and most of those fractures relate to quality of movies - the stories, the filmography, the overall care for the craft of film-making.

Kim Hollis: I can certainly say that I've been substantially more discriminating with my movie-going this year than in the past few. If something looks like garbage, I'm a little bit less inclined to go out and see it. I'll wait for DVD, maybe.

Joel Corcoran: If you give people a reason to go out to the movies, they'll go, as long as the experience offers something more than they can get at home in front of a home theater system.

You'd buy groceries online if given the opportunity, wouldn't you?

David Mumpower: An analogy I made the other day in an interview which I like involves groceries purchase. If Wal-Mart introduces a new home delivery line, wouldn't you expect it to do well? Why go out for groceries when you can stay in and have them delivered to your door?

Kim Hollis: Absolutely. We're becoming quite an insular society.

Joel Corcoran: But movies aren't the same as groceries, David. Unless you have an actual, big-screen movie theater in your home, there is something different about seeing Batman Begins at the theater versus seeing it at home, even on a widescreen plasma projection TV with full surround sound.

David Mumpower: Now then, from Wal-Mart's perspective, if those numbers don't count as part of their business, their numbers would go waaaaay down. Is the industry itself slumping? No. We're still buying the groceries. The difference is in the accounting process as well as in fewer employed cashiers at the Wal-Mart store. Studios are making more money than ever. It's exhibitors who are the cashiers in this scenario. Their livelihood is the one threatened.

Joel Corcoran: With film, the delivery medium does affect the quality of the product. But a bar of Ivory Soap is a bar of Ivory Soap, regardless of how it gets into my hands.

David Mumpower: There isn't to me, Joel. I accept that a lot of people say that going to see movies is special but I don't think that's the case most of the time. There are very few BIG films. The reality is that there aren't more than half a dozen of these a year. It's the rest of the films which become victims of circumstance. Those are the ones which get shut out.

Kim Hollis: It's different, sure. But by watching at home I can pause the movie if I need to do something real quick, I can avoid annoyances like cell phones or crying children or talking people, and I can be comfortable (I find movie theater seats to be astonishingly painful). I'll choose home if given the choice, and that's even on a special-effects driven film.

Without movie theaters, we might never leave the house

Joel Corcoran: I completely agree, Kim, but it's all a trade-off. And I'm certainly willing to sacrifice a heightened experience at the theater for more convenience and comfort at home for mediocre movies. Regardless of the special effects involved.

David Mumpower: People say that it's in a media consumer's nature to want to go out to watch a movie but I don't buy that. We watch more television than anything. It's free and it's a home delivery model. The only difference in movies comes with a Harry Potter, Star Wars or the like. Most of them aren't "special" enough to make more engaging in a theater than at home.

Dan Krovich: I find many movies that aren't obvious big special effects eye candy to be greatly enhanced in the theater compared to home.

Joel Corcoran: Maybe for you, David, but for most people, the experience is much different. Not every home has a $10,000 home entertainment system with Dolby or THX, a great DVD player, and TiVO. Most people have a 20 inch TV that's a few years old and a DVD player they got on sale at JC Penny or Costco. I fall into that category.

Kim Hollis: But do you need the big surround sound system to watch In Her Shoes? I think you'd have to say no. There's only maybe 10 films each year that truly merit the "big screen experience".

Joel Corcoran: But I'm not going to spend eight bucks on a theater ticket and another ten bucks on popcorn and a drink for just any movie. I will for some really good films, like Crash or Batman Begins. But for the mediocre, run-of-the-mill pabulum like Fantastic Four or Dukes of Hazzard, I'll just wait for the DVD.

David Mumpower: My "nicest" TV was $300 when I bought it. The experience doesn't change for me and I fervently believe that I am giving the mode answer here. Is a movie better in a theater? The answer would universally be yes. Is it so much better that it's worth putting up with cell phones, loud talking and commercials? The answer there has swung to no. Studios and exhibitors need to adapt to that changed market climate.



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