By Kevin Wilson: PNT managing editor
The 24-hour news cycle gives us a lot of recurring themes, and one undeniable theme is the decline of the American moviegoer. I saw it myself recently when I took in a matinee of the new disappointment called Star Wars and was joined by about seven people in a theater that holds at least 100.
The box office decline isn’t something made up, as an audience tracking company called Exhibitor Relations has reported that average movie attendance is about 11 percent below last year.
I’ve never been one who likes to believe that one theory explains an entire situation, so there are a lot of ideas one must entertain on this situation. The simplest approach comes from my brother Justin, who has a wife and two sons. He reasons, as I’m sure other families have, that he’s financially better off waiting six months and buying the DVD for less than the price of concession stand popcorn and soda.
I don’t argue with that theory at all, but I have another — one that was reinforced when I purchased my ticket. During my trip to the ticket counter, I was surrounded by displays for upcoming cinematic triumphs like Rob Schneider’s “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” or a “Bad News Bears” remake starring Billy Bob Thornton.
Are these the movies the public is clamoring for? Sequels to movies nobody ever saw and remakes of movies with lesser actors?
(Full disclosure: My infatuation with Scarlett Johannson is pushing me toward viewing “The Island,” a film about a futuristic society where a man discovers the utopian civilization he lives in is actually just using him and the rest of his society as spare parts for a different civilization. Sounds kinda like “The Matrix,” only with a slightly different plotline and special effects team.)
But then again, it could be that Hollywood is giving the general public exactly what it is asking for — more nostalgia movies. Consumers rushed out to buy the new Volkswagon Bug, and TV viewers tuned in to watch VH1’s “I Love the ’90s” to reminisce fondly about things that happened six years ago. I’m sure that people will come out to see “The Dukes of Hazzard” when it hits theaters as well.
Are the consumers partially responsible by buying into all of these movies, and rewarding Hollywood with box-office receipts for bad movies? When a movie collector buys three different versions of “Animal House” because of rather extraneous five-minute features, he or she is part of the problem.
Regardless of who is responsible, I fear the future of movies because this comes into a situation of diminishing returns. There will come a point when we’ve remade everything reasonable — and because no other options exist, some movie studio will seriously consider “Cheers: The Movie” or a sequel to “Gigli,” just to tie up the loose ends.
One can only hope that the drops in box office numbers this year are taken as a sign of disapproval, and a reason for movie studios to open their arms and funding to fresh movie ideas.
And if that doesn’t happen, we’ll just have to settle for the fact that George Lucas can’t make Star Wars 3 1/2 … right?
Kevin Wilson is the managing editor for the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: