Star Wars Producer Worries About The End Of Movies

from the oh-come-on dept

It’s amazing how people in the entertainment industry think. They don’t seem to deal well with complex issues where certain actions have many consequences that change things, and open up new opportunities while changing the nature of their business. Now, the producer of Star Wars – Episode II is complaining that DVD watching is killing the movie industry. This, of course, after the movie industry has pointed out that DVDs have helped the industry grow. However, Rick McCallum is worried that because people think the home theater experience is better than going to a movie theater they won’t go see the junk he produces three or four times. He is, of course, also deathly afraid of the internet, and says that he and George Lucas are rushing to finish Episode 3 before it’s too late. “Then we’re screwed. Literally, our very lives are at stake now. George and I are just praying that we can finish ‘Episode III’ in time, before it’s all over.” Anyone else think that quote reads like it came from the Onion?

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Comments on “Star Wars Producer Worries About The End Of Movies”

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LordSlakyr says:

c'mon, you're kidding, right? ...right?

I mean, really. Does this industry have any clue of business 101 or history? Or technology? It cost a small fortune to setup a home theatre – a good one that even begins to match the sound quality and enormous viewing area of even some of the smaller public theatre screens. Most people just are not going to invest that sort of cash. I had a friend burn a bootleg copy of Episode 2 that he downloaded, and that was vcr-recorded, and it sucked. I watched it a little, and the next day we went to the theatre to see experience all that bad acting in bigger than life size. All the great movies with action, sound, visual effects are best experienced in a great theatre (IMHO), and then many people will buy the movie on DVD (how many times have I watched Matrix?) – is it just me, or does this all fall in the category of DUH!

Richard W. Haines says:

Demise of movies?

If movies die out it’s because too many corners have been cut in presentation.

While it’s obvious that attendence is way down compared to the past, the question is how to remedy the situation. In the fifites, television cut weekly cinema attendence from 90 million in 1948 a week down to 45 million a week in 1952. However, by 1955 it was up to 49 million a week.
What caused the increase? The producers, distributors and exhibitors decided to dramatically improve the moviegoing experience.
3-D, Cinerama, CinemaScope, VistaVision, Todd-AO and other spectacular new technology shown on enormous screens was a vast improvement over television. At the very least, audiences got something different and unique when they went to the movies.

Unfortunately, the opposite tact has been utilized by the industry since attendence started dropping again in the seventies and eighties due to the change in content (most movies are restricted rather than PG general audience) and
home video competition. Rather than improve the experience, every imaginable corner has been cut in presentation.

First, the gorgeous (and archivally permanent) Technicolor dye transfer process was shut down in 1974 to be replaced by the inferior Eastmancolor release print method (high speed prints cranked out on a ‘one lite’ setting with poor contrast and murkey looking images). Next, 70mm was phased out in the nineties. There would be no more large screen presentations of “Star Wars” or “2001” to overwhelm the senses on 60 foot screens. Simultaneously, the large screen cinemas were twinned and drive-ins folded. They were replaced by multi and megaplexes, many of which had small screens and sub-standard performance. Reel to reel projection with professional operaters and bright carbon arc illumination was replaced by automated ‘platter’ systems that had no one monitoring the projectors with dim Xenon bulb illumination and amateurs running the machines.

Meanwhile, ticket prices increased along with concessions costs as exhibition continued to decline. Home theater presetations improved with laserdiscs and DVD units, larger monitors and ‘special edition’ discs that were more sophisticated and had greater showmanship than the grainy, murky junk prints shown on small screens in multiplexes.

Next, advertising slides were incorporated into the presentation and the lights left on in the theater while the trailers were playing lest anyone trip on the way to their seats (there were no ushers to assist as in the past). Next, some theaters played actual commercials on 35mm. Finally, Lucas and others advocated eliminating film altogether and playing digital videotapes in theaters. In the front rows you could count the color pixels that made up the video image.

What’s next? The studio logo on the bottom of the frame like they do in cable. Commercials interupting the actual feature film.

It’s a pity that the industry decided to degrade the moviegoing experience into a cut rate version of network television of the sixties rather than upgrade it beyond the quality motion picture exhibition during the ‘fabulous fifties’. I’m old enough to have seen “2001” in Cinerama and “Goldfinger” in Technicolor on enormous screens. Now that was a moviegoing experience that was worth the price of admission.

The complaints about DVD cutting into theatrical exhibition are missing the point. It’s not worth going to the cinema anymore. At least not at these prices with the substandard quality of the presentation. Give people their money’s worth and they’ll return as they did in the past. Rip them off and attendence will continue to decline.
Weekly attendence is now a paltry 15 million per week, the lowest in the history of the medium. Turning the megaplexes into videoplexes is the not the way to go in my opinion. Let’s bring back 70mm for a start…

Richard W. Haines
author of “The Moviegoing Experience 1968-2001”

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