A few safe weeks after everyone started bemoaning the disappointing state of the 2005 box office, A. O. Scott at the New York Times weighs in (the term is fashionably late, no?). Rather than deal with the hard numbers, Tony O. first admits that yes, every year at around this time critics declare that mainstream cinema is gut-shot and thrashing around in the mud, a few brief but agonizing minutes from death (we haven’t had a chance to watch the "Deadwood" finale yet, so it’s on our mind, sorry), and that by winter everything’s canned peaches and opiates again. But this year, he insists, box office returns are suffering not because films are bad, but worse, because they’re mediocre, destined to be the fodder of cable network Saturday afternoons, to be watched in bursts between trips to the kitchen to check on the banana pudding you’re making from the recipe on the Nilla wafers box (Are these glimpses into our home life as boring for you as they are for us? We’ll stop, promise.).
"[T]heir mediocrity appears to be less a matter of accident than of design," Tony posits â€” the pressure to be light, pleasing, and inoffensive is killing off any interest the public might have in bothering with a film. He also returns to that Hollywood Reporter column about critically acclaimed Cannes films not finding US distribution that both he and Manohla were to bothered by. In other words, for Tony, Hollywood’s eagerness to pander to the broadest audience is the problem. A valid point, but one we’d like to dub, after reading this similar NYT squib about Roger Ebert, the "Cannes hangover."
At The Hot Blog, David Poland takes issue with this whole failing box office story trend, citing some numbers and titles from this time, 2000, and so on before going on to say:
The reason I am so endlessly enraged by this "the box office is falling" argument is that it is, first, not accurate. But more importantly, it is a wish fulfillment from the world of critics and journalists. The media always is happy to tell Hollywood that the sky is falling.
But hey, at least it’s a pleasure to not hear theater owners and the movie industry blame piracy as the cause of the attendance slide.
He goes on to make some points about the over-importance of the opening weekend, before launching into suggestions for fixing the problem. Of course, he’s got his own agenda to sell here, as his company, 2929 Entertainment, is going to be pioneering giving films a simultaneous DVD/theatrical/television release. Still, an interesting read.
+ The Spring of Our Discontent (NY Times)
+ This Is Why I Rip The NY Times (The Hot Blog)
+ Movies and Theaters – Letâ€™s make the Customer King and make more money (Blog Maverick)