A. O. Scott weighs in again on the box office slump by way of Spielberg and Lucas, who essentially invented the idea of the summer blockbuster, and where we, and they, are now, thirty years out. He makes some particularly good points about the sea change in how movies are rolled out these days:
"Jaws," released in June of 1975 and set during the Fourth of July
weekend, was still in theaters when the bicentennial year began…This kind of longevity is unthinkable
nowadays, for a number of reasons. Repeated viewing of the kind that
made "Star Wars" and "Jaws" such phenomena is now enabled by, and
reserved for, home viewing, which did not come into its own until the
early 1980’s. The release schedule is much more crowded than it was
then, and the window between the theatrical and DVD release is now
shorter than a successful first run used to be. Even the term "first
run" has a ring of almost vaudevillian antiquity. There is now a
pre-release sprint that leaves audiences (and journalists and
publicists) winded by opening day. Three weeks later, the picture is a
fading memory. Here I am still going on about "War of the Worlds,"
which is so last week. "Revenge of the Sith"? Who even remembers?
Anne Thompson at the Hollywood Reporter writes that 2004 could well go down in history as the high water mark reached by the box office, as the market’s reached a downturn that’s not actually due to poor quality (because really, this year’s films haven’t been worse on average than any other), but due to the fact that people just don’t care to see movies in theaters anymore, combined with a flood of multimedia competition. On that note, Josh Grossberg at E! Online wonders if this Saturday’s shelf date for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" will impact Friday’s release of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and who would have thought a studio would be afraid that kids would rather stay home reading? Seth Schiesel in the New York Times reports on Electronic Arts’ upcoming video game based on "The Godfather," which is attempting to offer an ambitious amount of narrative freedom to the player.
Over at the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein bemoans the slow creep of now inescapable ads into the theater-going experience, detailing how Disney is, surprisingly, the one studio to take a stand, refusing to allow ads in front of its Disney-brand movies.
Some things have changed for the better. In the New York Times, Ta-Nehisi Coates salutes the rise of the "major league director who only happens to be black," with Tim Story‘s "Fantastic Four" pulling in over $50 million last weekend. Coates presents Story’s success, and the upcoming "Hustle & Flow," as signs that movies are moving away from the tendency to be polarized along racial lines. And at the Boston Globe, Wesley Morris takes a layered look at the subculture doc, outlining the "major paradigm shift in American popular culture" between 1990’s "Paris is Burning" and this year’s "Rize."
+ The Boys of Summer, 30 Years Later (NY Times)
+ Old rules don’t apply in modern boxoffice times (HR)
+ When "Harry" Met "Charlie" (E! Online)
+ How to Be Your Own Godfather (NY Times)
+ Now playing: A glut of ads (LA Times)
+ The Color of Money: No Longer Black and White (NY Times)
+ Going mainstream (Boston Globe)