An Experience Like No Other


The ironies of the movie business! When box office is off, everyone starts to question the viability of the industry in today’s market. When business is good and setting records, they call it an aberration.

This editor has witnessed ups and downs during the past 40 years and has come to the conclusion that good movies mean good times for the business. That, of course, is no surprise—content is king and always will be.

This editor has also observed an industry that has done everything possible to differentiate itself from other entertainment media and has been very successful at it. Witness films like Prometheus, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises and you’ll find entertainment in a movie theatre at its best. No other media outlet comes close to achieving what one experiences on the big screen today.

Theatre owners have risen to the occasion and have provided fantastic venues to show movies the way filmmakers intended them to be seen. The experience cannot be duplicated on your TV sets at home and especially on the handheld devices that are carried by so much of the population.

Theatre owners and operators have not rested on their laurels, but are constantly upgrading and improving their auditoriums. The transformation is remarkable. Plush chairs, stadium seating, digital projection and 3D have made much of this possible. But it certainly does not stop there. Improved screens to reflect more light; immersive audio systems that fill an auditorium with sound everywhere; high frame rates to give the picture better clarity, contrast and less strobing when the camera pans; laser projection to provide more light for 3D—all of these technologies require large investments but result in a superior experience at the movie theatre.

The theatrical movie industry understands the necessity of staying way ahead of any and all competing media businesses, and they are to be commended for their commitment to the betterment of the theatrical experience.

Couple this with films that have captured the imagination of the moviegoing public and you achieve great box office that is surpassing 2011 revenues and attendance that boasts a five-percent gain as of this date. The pack is led by The Avengers, The Hunger Games, The Lorax, Madagascar 3 and Men in Black 3. Still to come as we go to press are Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Dark Knight Rises, Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy. And let’s not forget the strong performances of The Amazing Spider-Man, Ted, Brave and Magic Mike. Independent product is also playing well, and films targeted to the female demographic consistently find a big audience (see editorial below).

With more than half the summer still to go, we are going to see the best season ever and perhaps the best domestic year ever. Having fun and doing well at the box office makes for a great time in the movie industry.

What Women Want

Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep had a message for the movie industry at last month’s Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills.

“In this room,” she noted to the primarily female audience, “we are very familiar with these dreadful statistics that detail the shocking underrepresentation of women in our business. Seven to ten percent of directors, producers, writers, and cinematographers [are women] in any given year. This in spite of the fact that in the last five years, five little movies aimed at women have earned over $1.6 billion: The Help, The Iron Lady believe it or not, Bridesmaids, Mamma Mia! and The Devil Wears Prada."

Streep could have been a little more self-effacing, since three of the movies she cited were her own, but she’s earned the right to crow as that rare female star over the age of 60 who has become an international box-office draw after decades of acclaimed roles.

The actress went on to observe that those five films “cost a fraction of what the big tentpole failures cost.… Let’s talk about The Iron Lady. It cost $14 million to make and brought in $114 million. Pure profit! So why? Why? Don’t they want the money?”

Streep didn’t even mention the Sex and the City phenomenon, and her speech was delivered two weeks before the $39 million opening of the male-stripper hit Magic Mike, whose audience has been about 73% women. (That film, by the way, was made for a mere $7 million.)

Quality films targeted to women (we’re not talking about all those run-of-the-mill Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson comedies) have consistently outperformed box-office expectations in the past decade. So why is it always a surprise when a movie like The Help becomes one of the top pictures of the summer or Bridesmaids morphs into a blockbuster? Maybe it has something to do with the mindset of all those men in executive suites calling the shots. Women are not just underrepresented on the creative side, as Streep notes, they’re also underserved by the people who green-light films. When a good movie has special appeal for the female demographic, they flock to the multiplex—often in groups.

Hollywood would be wise to listen to one of its most honored actresses. After all, don’t you want the money?