In '05, no one I know, including moi, went to the movies.
Some said they had planned to see "Capote," but never got there. They're also saying they will catch the new Woody Allen film which got terrific reviews but the film industry better not count those tickets as sold. Because of people like us, box office sales were down 12.6 percent this year from '02. In its December 24th issue, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL discusses this as "The Multiplex Under Siege."
Probably the worst sign that the film industry is in big trouble is that movies don't come up in our conversation. On Monday we might allude to an incident on "Desperate Housewives," but nothing from the movies. Nada. New films are simply not getting embedded in the national consciousness the way, not too long ago, "American Beauty" had been. Our reference points have shifted to some TV (such as Barbara W's special on spirituality) and what's bouncing around the Internet. The monthly cost of cable and a connection to the Internet is much lower for a household than regular movie attendance.
Remember how Going out to the Movies had been a national habit. And now it isn't.
For me, going out to the movies doesn't offer the total escape or, as the Buddhists call it "emptying," I need from the intensity of the new economy. The suburban theaters are multi-screen boxes, not the grand edifices with ornate designs, high ceilings and balconies of my childhood.
Instead of escape, there's a bombardment of non-stop marketing. That hits you right when you enter the theater with the flashing signs announcing free small-size soda with one large-size popcorn. Inside, there are all the commercials before the movie. Then there's the collection taken for some noble cause. And those sitting in the audience react to the flick as individuals not the mass of humanity which can and used to make a film a communal experience. Why not just stay home and watch a DVD by myself. I'm not pushed to consume. And I save gas.
We all know about the lack of creativity in current films. Clearly this low-risk behavior in providing fresh material and fresh techniques indicates a spiraling panic in the film industry. In her book "Confidence," Harvard Business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter identifies that sense of panic as part and parcel of a downward spiral. That spiral won't stop until the panic stops.
But maybe worse than the same-old are the narcissism and earnest self-indulgence of once-mavericks like Mel Gibson and Steven Spielberg. Who do they think they are?
What will get us back to the movies? A sense of another world, the world that enveloped the character played by Mia Farrow in "The Purple Rose of Cairo."