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Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

A couple of days ago Ryan at The Matinee wrote an interesting article about George Lucas’ vision for the future of cinema. We seem to have a similar view on Lucas’ brave new world so I decided to write a comment; not for the first time in responding to one of Ryan’s articles a quick response suddenly became 600 word rant. Rather than post it I decided to publish it here.

As I have mentioned many times I am my local multiplex’s worst customer. I pay £15 per month for a pass allowing me to attend as often as I like. I go around ten times per month. I don’t buy confectionary or drinks (that’s where the cinema’s real profit is) and I take advantage of their three hours free parking. All in all I pay around £1.50 per film (that’s around $2.25) excluding the cost of travel. I sometimes go to my local independent cinema for around £7 to se a film that isn’t on at a multiplex. I am prepared to go to the extra effort and cost for a smaller independent film, I’m not sure I would bother for a bigger film if things were the other way around. If a big movie opens I often go and see the smaller releases first as I know they won’t be out for long. It also means when I do o and see the blockbusters the cinema won’t be quite as packed. This month I have seen the big releases like World War Z and Man of Steel, but the film I was most looking forward to was Before Midnight. To put it simply the big movie isn’t always the most appealing or to of my to see list.George lucas

As you may have guessed I think George Lucas has lost the plot. The only way I can see where he came up with this is if he truly has no idea how much $40 is to the man on the street in a regular job and a regular income. The multi billionaire appears to want to make the most inclusive and accessible visual art form into something exclusive. Given his history I wouldn’t expect an idea like this to come from a man like him for two reasons: 1 – He is the man who made a film that grossed 250 times its budget (American Graffiti not Star Wars); 2 – One of the reasons the Star Wars movies make so much money is the people who go back and see them for a second or a third time. american graffiti

The concept of changing prices between a bread and butter movie and an event movie isn’t that strange. English Premier League football clubs vary their ticket priced depending on who they are playing, however the price difference he is mentioning makes no sense. Forgetting any discounts a standard ticket is £7.70. if they were to drop that to £7.50 for most films put it up to £10 for “event movies” it would make a kind of sense. In a way they are already doing this with “event movies” often being in 3D and Imax, with the additional charges and the price of 3D glasses we are getting used to paying extra for certain films. They tend to be the most expensive to make but far from the best films. In that way we only have ourselves to blame if we are stupid enough to go and watch the 3D movies. In my defense I always go for the 2D version when I can, but there is often no 2D option or the time of the 3D is better for me.The Great 3D Swindle

Here is the interesting thing. How will distributors decide what is a $7 movie and what is $40 movie? If a studio makes a turkey like John Carter that gets panned by the critics do they hold out for the $40 a ticket to recoup their money or do they sell it cheep in the hope of getting bums on seats? If a movie has a large budget does it have to wear its $40 ticket as a badge of honour, anything cheaper would be an admission of weakness or lack of quality? I think there will be a time in the not too distant future where ticket prices will rise. There is a limit to how much the cinema’s can keep increasing the cost of food and beverages. It is unlikely that distributors will let cinemas take a larger cut so to keep on making money they will have to increase ticket prices. This is a very different thing to what Lucas has proposed.

The great successes of cinema is despite the rising prices it can still be a relatively cheep night out. That is why admissions have gone up during the recession the way they did during the great depression. By pricing a lot of people out of the cinema at a time when home systems are getting bigger and better would be counterproductive. Or to quote Ryan “Hollywood – your product makes you money because of one simple reason: you stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap. Don’t fuck with that.”

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When visiting my parents or talking to then on the telephone they often ask what movies I have seen, if I respond with the name of a film they haven’t heard of my mom, knowing I watch a lot of foreign language movies will ask “is it foreign”. On more than one occasion I have given the somewhat flippant and slightly rude response “yes, American”. It is funny that a movie made five thousand miles away in Hollywood is familiar and not foreign because it is in something similar to “The Queens English”, and yet something made across the channel in France, still on the same continent as England, is in some way foreign and exotic. Maybe we are two nations joined by a common language and not divided by it as George Bernard Shaw quipped. Whatever the reason, as we step below the surface of these idea we find an interesting thing, filmmaking does exist beyond the bright lights of Hollywood, both in Europe and in the rest of America.Mean Streets The Terminator Blood Simple Memento

When I talk about American independent cinema it isn’t just the obvious and seminal movies like Easy Rider (1969) (Dennis Hopper) or Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) (Monte Hellman) or the small no budget movies that you have never heard of. Think of some of the biggest name directors working today: Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ethan and Joel Coen, Christopher Nolan, then look at their independent films Mean Streets (1973), The Terminator (1984), Blood Simple (1984), Memento (2000) . Sam Raimi may be making money movies for Disney now but it all started with Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987). Would George Lucas have made Star Wars (1977), if he hadn’t already made THX-1138 (1971) or the hugely profitable American Graffiti (1973)? Then there are directors like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky that are just more comfortable outside or on the edge of the system. There was a time before he started believing his own publicity that Kevin Smith was the darling of the indie scene thanks to the cult status of Clerks (1994), but before that came Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991). A day in the life of various social outcasts and misfits held together by loose strands and an even looser narrative, the style and the realistic dialogue became a blueprint for a generation. Linklater wasn’t seduced by Hollywood instead he remained in Austin and two years later he came up with Dazed And Confused (1993).Dazed And Confused Clerks THX 1138 Evil Dead

The same can be said for foreign language cinema, it isn’t all about weird esoteric art house movies, there are many accessible movies not in the English language. Not that the weird esoteric art house movies are a bad thing, they are just not the best place to start. The test as to if a movie is accessible and worth seeing is simple, would you watch it if it were in English? If the answer is yes, it is worth a look. There were two movies that seemed to cross the language barrier that came out within a year of each other just over a decade ago: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001). Many of the people who watched and enjoyed them wouldn’t normally have seen a movie in another language. There have been some interesting examples too; the French thriller Tell No One (2006) is very American in its style, no great surprise, it is based on an American novel (of the same name) by Harlan Coben. A Hollywood remake was supposed to have been made but it doesn’t appear to have materialised yet. The same can’t be said for Anything for Her (2008), it took just two years for the American remake The Next Three Days to hit cinema screens. Both Tell No One and Anything for Her benefited from the presence of actresses familiar to English speaking audiences Kristin Scott Thomas and Diane Kruger respectively. On the subject of remakes the terrible Queen Latifah movie Taxi (2004) is a remake of a great French movie also called Taxi (1998). It has spawned three sequels (the first of which is also really good) the movies are notable for lots of things including significant early roles for Marion Cotillard.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Amélie Tell No One Anything for Her

When I first saw Oldboy (2003) it immediately became one of my all time favourite films. I didn‘t expect it to have gained the following that it has, I also didn‘t think Hollywood would dare to touch it, but they have the American remake of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance movievis in production and is set for release later this year, it is directed by Spike Lee. The other movie that plays well to British and American audiences is Run Lola Run (1998). It put its German star Franka Potente and director and Tom Tykwer onto the international stage both have worked in American and their native Germany many times since. But I can trace my first experience of a foreign language movie back a little further than that. In 1990 I read a review of a film I really wanted to see Nikita (1990). At fourteen years old I didn’t have a chance of getting into see it at the cinema to see the eighteen certificate movie, but a couple of months later (when I was fifteen) renting the video was surprisingly easy. Its impact in America was such that it spawned a Hollywood remake and two television series. Its director Luc Besson’s next two films Léon (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997) were in English.Oldboy Run Lola Run Nikita Taxi

I have done little more than scratch the surface of independent and foreign langue movies, but I hope I have inspired at least one person to look below the tent-pole blockbuster and popcorn movie and towards the smaller films that don’t get all the publicity. Many of them will get limited runs in big multiplexes but others are harder to find, but if this means you are also helping to support your local independent cinema’s it’s an added bonus. As you grow to love them as much as I do you will look deeper and further back at older movies and a whole world of cinema will open up to you. I know that I am to a certain extent preaching to the converted as many readers are film fans and bloggers themselves and are far more cineliterate than me.

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