Ridley Scott Blames His Latest Movie Bombing At The Box Office On Facebook And Millennials, Rather Than Pandemic And Poor Marketing

from the no,-no,-it's-the-kids-who-are-wrong dept

I will admit that, until this morning, I had never heard of Ridley Scott’s movie The Last Duel. It was released this fall in theaters only, which is a bold move while we’re still dealing with a raging pandemic in which most people still don’t want to go sit in a movie theater. And so, the box office results for the movie were somewhat weak. Indeed, it’s now Scott’s worst performing movie at the box office.

The issue, as many pointed out, was that The Last Duel was targeted at older movie-goers. A historical period piece film about a duel in France? Not exactly a hit among the youth market, and older folks are still the most concerned about COVID (which makes sense, considering it’s a lot more deadly the older you get).

A few weeks ago, Scott admitted he was disappointed in the movie’s performance at the box office, but compared it to Blade Runner, which also didn’t immediately set the world on fire when it was released, and is now a classic.

But, now, having thought about it some more, Scott has decided that it must be Facebook and the kids these days who are at fault for not wanting to see his two and a half hour period piece epic. Going on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Scott insisted that he had no problems with the way the film was marketed, but ripped into “millennials” (who, um, aren’t as young as he seems to think they are) and… Facebook. Because if we’ve learned anything these days, it’s that no matter what goes wrong with your life and plans, you can always blame Facebook for those failures:

?I think what it boils down to ? what we?ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cellphones. The millennian [sic] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you?re told it on a cellphone,? Scott said.

?This is a broad stroke, but I think we?re dealing with it right now with Facebook,? Scott added. ?This is a misdirection that has happened where it?s given the wrong kind of confidence to this latest generation, I think.?

I honestly don’t even know what any of that means. People had “the wrong kind of confidence” and that’s why they didn’t want to sit in an enclosed theater for nearly 3 hours to watch a movie about two French guys fighting in the 14th century? And it’s because Facebook didn’t tell them to go? Does that mean that the movie’s social media marketing wasn’t well done? Or what?

Not everything is the fault of Facebook (or millennials). Sometimes, people just don’t want to watch your movie.

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Comments on “Ridley Scott Blames His Latest Movie Bombing At The Box Office On Facebook And Millennials, Rather Than Pandemic And Poor Marketing”

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86 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Weirdly enough, there’s a huge number of options between going to an IMAX theatre and watching something on the smallest phone you can find.

I know that some filmmakers don’t want to admit that "50"+ TV with decent sound in your own living room" is the actual modern fallback position for many people who don’t want to put up with the downsides of a cinema, but let’s not all follow them into that stupid false dichotomy.

The funny thing about this argument is that it actually tracks throughout history. David Lean probably didn’t want people watching Laurence Of Arabia on a 12" black and white TV, panned and scanned with fuzzy reception like the first time I saw it, but I don’t recall him using the existence of that possibility as a reason why cinema was doomed unless we cut off that option. I’d still watch a pristine 70mm print if one were to ever come to a cinema near me.

I will, of course, watch a movie on my phone if I’m in a situation where I don’t have much choice, like when I’m commuting or in an airport, but the fact that I not so long ago did that regularly had a lot more to do with my work schedule and access to a cinema than it did it being the way I actually wanted to watch a movie on a decent big screen. All this sort of news does is make me think that next time I’m going to a cinema, I won’t be watching the movie of a filmmaker who thinks I should have no other option, even though I do go as much as possible for me personally.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Well, that’s reasonable. I would think that less than half the Boomers aren’t Boomers in mindset, given the definitive mindset some have ascribed to them. i think it’s funny and descriptive anyway. For my money, Silent Gen is way worse tho. They are still way dangerous. Lots of Gen X as well.

But my point is, mischaracterizing whole generations or ascribing a stereotypical mindset via generation-slurring is done with crazy-low accuracy by millions. So what’s the difference if you are way out of the age range when characterizing someone as "Millennial" or Boomer? (Except the Boomer shit is usually way funnier, until it just gets stupid. And Millennial sounds way cooler than Gen Y.)

Overall, i don’t think most people popularly using the terms know what the age range or their supposed characteristics are. They just like saying stuff they think is clever and trendy and probably insulting somehow. Not everyone, to be sure. Just most.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Op could still call yourself gen X if you want.

I’m definitely gen X.
Which has always been early 70s to early 80s. Or mid 70s to mid 80s. Following on disco and hippy and boomer. Y for the 90s. What happened to Z? They were a thing and then z just got cancelled out with y? Why?

People can’t even agree on what “millennials” are date wise. Some say people who came of age at the millennium. Other say people born then.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I was aware of the movie because there were interviews on Mark Kermode’s radio show / podcast, but what you said is pretty much the main thing to be aware of – in the middle of a pandemic where some people were waiting for the Bond film to even consider going back into the cinema for any reason whatsoever, "no thanks" is quite a valid response.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As a fellow not-young Facebook avoider, but also a massive Ridley Scott fan, I took one look at this and thought "nah, not my thing".

It’s always a shame to see your heroes turn into grumpy old men who can’t accept we’re in a very different world than 20 years ago.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
nerdrage (profile) says:

just not a theatrical movie

Sorry, Ridley. Theatrical movies have changed and now you need a lot more eye candy and immersive experience to drive people into theaters. This could be through silly comic book stuff, or it could be slightly more elevated, like Dune. But a bunch of medieval people aren’t going to do it, not unless it’s Game of Thrones: The Movie (and even then, those fans have been so alienated that it’s best not to try).

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: just not a theatrical movie

Calling it "silly comic book stuff" isn’t necessarily dismissive. It’s a perfectly accurate description of some really great recent movies, but also a few very average ones. The problem is that there’s just been too much of it, and the movie industry expends a disproportionate amount of time and money on supposedly sure-thing money makers at the expensive of fresh original content.

Not that I think Ridley Scott has the answer here…

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Anonymous Coward says:

First of all most young people are leaving Facebook, we are in a pandemic the movies that might be hits will be aimed at young people older people will watch movies on Disney or hbo max another day old man shouts at the Internet young people are on insta or tik Tok now
The Internet has replaced rock and roll
Anything can be blamed on it

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

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Damien says:

Re: Legal Aspect

It doesn’t boil down to "old man yells at cloud. It does, however, boil down to "legacy media icon blames current market failure on internet social media and tech-oriented demographics rather than admit his movie lacks market appeal".

Seriously, this isn’t the first time Techdirt has covered legacy media whining when the people in it act like this.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Legal Aspect

"Does it boil down to "Old Man yells at cloud?""

Sort of. More accurately it’d be "Old Man yells at internet and technology".

A sci-fi movie director failing to understand how modern technology works is sort of within the purview of techdirt. Now if he’d been blaming something other than "teh intarwebz" for his film failing it’d not belong here, I think.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

The fact that the film had a graphic rape scene⁠—which was also technically a plot point, given that the eponymous duel was literally meant to settle whether the woman was raped by one of the men in the duel⁠—probably didn’t help matters, too. The best marketing in the world can’t overcome a word-of-mouth campaign that tells everyone what the marketing either couldn’t or wouldn’t.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The fact that the film had a graphic rape scene⁠—which was also technically a plot point, given that the eponymous duel was literally meant to settle whether the woman was raped by one of the men in the duel⁠—probably didn’t help matters, too.

Bloody hell no wonder they failed in marketing if that was what they had to work with.

Well that’s certainly a way to start my day disgusted. ‘We shall duel to determine whether a woman was raped because us stabbing each other is the proper way to decide that’. Yeah can’t imagine why a movie with a graphic rape scene and a motive like that might not be something people would want to see.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Bloody hell no wonder they failed in marketing if that was what they had to work with.

To be fair, that’s what the actual factual duel on which the film is based was about: Jean de Carrouges accused Jacques Le Gris of raping Marguerite de Carrouges, and (long story short) King Charles IV called for a duel⁠—the final judiciary duel in French history, hence “The Last Duel”⁠—wherein the survivor would be declared the winner and the matter would be settled. (Side note: If de Carrouges had lost the duel, his wife would’ve been burned at the stake as punishment for a false accusation.) So…yeah, that says a lot about Ridley Scott’s taste in scripts if that’s the kind of story he thinks people want to see these days.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So…yeah, that says a lot about Ridley Scott’s taste in scripts if that’s the kind of story he thinks people want to see these days.

To also be fair, in the interview, he explains that he felt this was actually interesting in highlighting a kind of early "me too" scenario, in which the woman Marguerite de Carrouges actually stood up and accused Le Gris of rape at a time when it was next to unheard of for a woman to do so. So he claimed that he thought the time was ripe for a "me too" hero from centuries ago.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

He could potentially be right about that, but poor marketing still failed to convince people that they want to go and see such a thing at the cinema during a pandemic while the entire industry is in a state of severe depression. He’s been working long enough to know that light entertainment tends to be more popular in a time of real world hardship, and that such a heavy subject matter would be a hard sell even pre-COVID.

What’s interesting to me is that in various other forums where this has been discussed, people just didn’t know about it. The most common reactions I’ve been seeing in places like r/boxoffice are either "wow, didn’t know this existed" and "I wanted to watch it after seeing the trailer a while back, but I didn’t know it was out yet". If people who go to a subreddit that’s dedicated to discussion of current box office trends didn’t know your movie was in cinemas, what hope do the general public have of knowing that?

It’s a shame that Scott would rather come up with idiotic attacks on his potential audience rather than deal with his own marketing staff, especially as he’s experienced extreme marketing failure before, but I suppose he didn’t have phones to whine about with his last few flops.

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

No it is the children who are wrong.

Just watching yet another human blaming anything but himself for his poor decisions.

He is 100% committed to this delusion & magically ignores the pandemic, the content, & the tastes of audiences in deciding it is THEIR fault that his masterpiece tanked.

I swear the most important person these types could hire is someone paid NOT to just agree with them but explain how insane they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Just look at Hollywood and their works – it isn’t a coincidence that many of the plots which make it through are inherently so narcissistic that looking at it from the outside makes it clear the "hero" they are unambiguously and unironically on board with is a narcissistic psychopath. Narcissism is just deep in their DNA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually, after reading more about this, and more comments since yesterday… i have to wonder just how young is the prospective/target audience he’s blaming for not watching his gig? And why is no one older to blame? He didn’t expect the average Ridley scott fan age group to watch it?

IDK he makes so little sense that i am sure i am over-thinking this and these things are not worth asking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Now, if it were one of the wackier duels noted in history (there’s one where they threw billiard balls at each other… in hot-air balloons) or a movie about how Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett teaming up to kick a would-be assassin’s ass, I’d have slightly more sympathy

As it is, yeah, he clearly did not think his tlrant out properly, the Hollywood money-swallowing little hypocrite.

bhull242 (profile) says:

So many problems.

  1. Millennials and young people are less likely to be on Facebook. It’s actually becoming a running gag that only older people use Facebook anymore.

  2. Millennials are getting older. I’m a millennial, and I’m 30.

  3. Honestly, the marketing sucked. The only reason I knew the movie existed before I heard about this story is because my parents happened to see it and I remembered that, and they watched it because they wanted to go to see a movie, and that one happened to be showing. Sure, they loved it, but none of us learned it existed through any marketing or before the movie was released.

  4. Millennials weren’t even part of the target demographic to begin with.

  5. Fewer people are going to theaters right now due to the pandemic (among other factors), so releasing the movie in theaters exclusively was going to reduce the success compared to previous films.

  6. The competition is streaming, not Facebook or smartphones.

Seriously, I don’t understand why us millennials are always to blame for stuff like this in general, but this is absurdly wrong.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Fewer people are going to theaters…

End of sentence. The idea has lost its charms long ago and theatres were slowly on their way to death BEFORE the pandemic.

It’s not even streaming according to Nielsen. The $200 40” tv was enough to knock it over the line. Not specifically but the generic “TV is better” response is telling.

The value of the dollar debate has shifted completely into the low end of home entertainment. Be it a rental for 1.99, a stream for .49-24.99… it’s the same price at home for one person.

Because you look at $10 a ticket and $10 popcorn and $5 sodas, and the price just is outrageous.

Knowing that they are low volume and capacity limited, less people, less shows, less dirt and goo and noise… and yet people still don’t want to go?

The lake of marketing isn’t even that big of a problem. When no one even looks up a theatre schedule, doesn’t even consider going at all?

The sooner the MAFIAA figures out theatres have zero hold over them the sooner they stop worrying about “lost”, aka non-existing, revenue.
Long gone are the days where a chain threatening not to carry films had any real market teeth to delay other formats.
It’s high time studios just say sod off to theatre chains. They make more money in streaming and DVDs anyway.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"The idea has lost its charms long ago and theatres were slowly on their way to death BEFORE the pandemic."

The problem isn’t that the cinema had lost its charms, it’s that the way theatres are operated haven’t really been going the way that’s needed to inspire customers for all but the bigger movies.

You’re correct about concession prices, but this is one place where they’ve been between a rock and a hard place. They know that significantly raising ticket prices will put people off, even if they make their concessions reasonably priced. Then, studios take a cut of the ticket prices before they see a penny (and some studios, such as Disney, demand a much higher percentage than others, so they can’t even give the smaller movies a break and make up any shortfall on the guaranteed blockbusters).

So, the immediate way of making any profit at all is with concessions. Some smaller theatres have carved out niches by, for example, offering full bar service, proper food menus, actual ushers who will go around telling idiots to shut up when they disturb everyone else, but this require upfront investment – and some studios have insisted that studios upgrade the tech and install equipment they didn’t want in order to just get the movies.

This has led to an unfortunate homogenisation of the market as well. You might be interested in watching a new drama or arthouse movie, but there’s only one screening a day that gets displaced quickly to make way for a 4th screen for the new blockbuster, since people are seeing that and not the movie that depends on word of mouth to build an audience. So, because people don’t want to make an 80 mile round trip to the one cinema that’s still playing it, it’s considered a flop and the blockbuster gets the 4th screen from day one next time instead of the more interesting movie.

That’s what’s so silly about some of Scott’s ramblings – if there’s a problem that’s stopping "millennials" from caring as much about the theatrical experience as he does, it’s the direct fault of his employers. The studios he works for have made the theatrical experience a production line that can largely be experienced at home, and their attempts to attract people to cinemas with gimmicks like 3D and 4DX have left the people who would have wanted to experience more subtle works on screen with fewer choices outside the home, and the people who go to them regularly being the ones experienced in theme park ride. He works for Fox and Disney – it’s literally his employers who have created this marketplace, and that’s even without the problem of how badly marketed the film was that he’s whining about here.

"It’s high time studios just say sod off to theatre chains."

Except, it’s more complicated than that, and people who actually care about cinema think the same thing as well – we’re just interested in helping the independents survive. We don’t really care that the multiplexes who put the same movie on 1/3 of their screens (but don’t do anything to make sure projection is up to scratch and people are behaving) are finding it difficult to attract people and that we might be left with only one multiplex playing the same thing as the other 4 used to. We care about the theatrical experience offered by people who care about it – and those are struggling too.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, I agree with you on multiple points here.

I’m a huge fan of theatres that are not part of the chain multi-/mega-plexes.

I’ve been to pens ranging from turn of the century that hardly work to modern future-retro builds.
Where people care. The owners, the crew/staff, the movie goers.

This is totally the opposed of the chain system where it’s just a job from top to bottom.
Crowded, noisy, dirty. Over priced. The latest pos from Hollywood on half the screens.

They exist, but it’s rare to find owners/operators of megaplexes that care about the industry.

And film consumerism has slowly moved away from the forced environment of big chain screenings. Where you are herded like cattle. Searched on entry. Not for weapons but for a cell phone.
Paraded to the $10 hotdog and chips. Then marched across the sticky floor shoved into the porous “comfort” seat that hasn’t been cleaned in 6 months.
Where you sit through 15 minutes of trailers to watch a movie partly drowned out by the noise from the screen a room over and partly by the kids in the back making a running laugh track.

And when some arse throws popcorn or dumdums and wakes the sleeping baby we get 10 minutes of crying and pleading about not being tossed out after spending $50 and it’s really those meddling kids.

Or

Spend 14.99 at home, make a $2.00 bag of popcorn and pop the $12.99 case of beer and sit back and enjoy the spatial audio from the $299 40” screen you picked up on sale.

3 groups of people go to theatres today. (As an overgeneralisation).

Those who want to be part of the rowdy experience that it has become. The trouble makers.

Those that can’t afford modern-ish home a/v.

And those who can’t make the “80 mile” drive to an independent.

The latter two groups spend half their time bytching about the former.

Big chain shows just aren’t fun any more!

And here’s the thing with my sod off comment. My personal, but studied, opinion:
The current general clientele (outside of opening weekend) don’t give two shites about what they are going to see. Not ultimately. The actual profits won’t have much of a bump or dip for the actual location if they say fuck you over a film’s rules and rates. Loosing a film isn’t going to kill a chain.
And if multiple chains and chain franchises say go to hell?
Those collection prices will come down.

It’s not like they can go to an independent that makes $50k a year and offer a first run for $1mil up front!

You can’t stab the hand that feeds you if it doesn’t like being stabbed.
Look at the high drop in HBO views when it killed the prime contract.
If you don’t work in giving people what they want, you wind up alone.

When a theatre chain says sod off, the studio, not the chain, will be the one most hurt.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"And if multiple chains and chain franchises say go to hell?
Those collection prices will come down."

That will definitely not happen at the major chains. Especially now. The major chains are in the business of treating movies as production line product, so they’re not going to break any relationship with the studios who create exactly that kind of product. In 2019, just telling Disney to piss off would have means not screening Avengers: Endgame and 5 other movies that made up the top 6 movies of the entire year, totalling $3 billion domestically. The same major chains in the US also run chain internationally, where these movies made even more money than that, and even if they only wanted to take a stand domestically, they would be jeopardising their entire business by even suggesting it.

Now, movies are naturally making less money due to the pandemic, but 4 of the top 10 most profitable movies from this year were still Disney. So, the industry is still stacked toward Disney, and it’s not a good idea to piss off your main supplier, especially as Disney hold all the main cards – they can just remove the window they already conceded to and cost along until the surviving chains come crawling back. Any CEO in any type of company who even suggested alienating the company’s main supplier would immediately be fired by the board and replaced with someone who would play ball.

"When a theatre chain says sod off, the studio, not the chain, will be the one most hurt."

As usual for your takes, this is an idealistic but very wrong take based on the facts. The major theatre chains are struggling massively, several have been in or close to bankruptcy already due to the pandemic, and they are no longer the only way in which people can consume first run movies. The major studios aren’t hurting so much as they are in a phase where theatrical revenue is being displaced by streaming and other revenue. They can do without cinemas for some time, and partner with whoever’s left after AMC go under.

Smaller chains and independents can get by with creating attractive venues for cineastes to support, but the venues that are mainly seen as places to go and see the latest theme park ride-style blockbuster can’t survive long without said blockbusters – this was true before, but the pandemic has weakened them enough that they really don’t have the power to resist the people who provide that content.

This is a problem of their own creation – for the last couple of decades, the major chains have been involved in chasing massive opening weekend numbers, and not supporting smaller titles that depend on word of mouth rather than marketing blitzes. So, they’ve edged out the smaller titles that could support them over a medium term and sold all their screens to a handful of studios who now have complete power over them. This won’t be resolved by those chains telling the suppliers that provide 80-90% of their income that they’re not interested in them.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

See, I’m not worried about AMC or Regal or the others.

It’s my opinion but:
I’m not sure much harm would be done to the industry as a whole if they simply died off. Leaving behind the hundreds of thousands of independents with 1 or 2 screens.

Before covid I would see more than 12 films in a year in theatres. I can’t remember the last time I was in a chain multiplex. Early 2010s?

Maybe a shake up could create some parity.
Because where are you going to spend your money.
A family of 4 with kids. Do you spend $19.99-29.99 opening night to stream it, or $20 a person to go to the theatre.

The theatre experience has now been surpassed by all but entry level home A/V.
That means the big theatres need to gimmick or lower the price to bring people in.
That’s why we get things like ‘stunning 4D 8K imax’ and the like.
Which is a good pull once or twice.
Covid only sped the process. Theatre attendance has been dropping for a LONG time. Well over a decade year over year.

It’s about time they start looking in the mirror to figure out why.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"That means the big theatres need to gimmick or lower the price to bring people in."

Gimmicks are a failure long term. They’re expensive to implement, and by their nature require support from the studios. You can have the greatest 3D screen in the world, but you’re not going to attract blockbuster numbers if none of the recent studio movies have a 3d print.

"Which is a good pull once or twice."

Exactly – once or twice. Do you know how much that equipment costs?

The basic problem is that these cinemas have sacrificed everything that should make the cinema experience special, and so have created something that people are choosing not to go to. It used to be that cinemas had ticket staff, concessions staff, ushers, projectionists, etc. Now, you buy your ticket after waiting for the people in front of you to work out what popcorn they’re buying, don’t have much backup if the people around you are being disruptive, and there might not be anyone to complain to if the projection is messed up.

Those could be things you’d put up with if there were other advantages, but those have disappeared in many areas too – a 10 screen multiplex used to mean you’d get at least 10 different films to choose from, now you just get the same movies playing everywhere else. This is why the big chains are in trouble, not because of pricing or lack of gimmicks, but because they offer nothing compelling – especially during a pandemic (if you can’t trust them to throw out people using their phones or having loud conversations, why would you trust their ability to enforce proper public health measures?).

There’s no easy fix for the major chains because they’ve manoeuvred themselves into a position where they’re set up only to funnel through the latest blockbuster until the next one comes out, but the answer is sure as hell not to sacrifice their main revenue stream while spending massive amounts of money on short-lived gimmicks, as you seem to be suggesting.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Do you know how much that equipment costs?

Yes, quite precisely.
A 60hzX2 (120fps acl) projector starts at $3500 for a low end pioneer and tops out around $40k.
They go higher but if you go higher your a gimmick fool!

Passive glasses top out at $2.50-$5.00 and active shutter glasses in bulk (20+) run $5-$20 each.

3-point vibration motors cost $30 per 3. Or $4500 per 50 seats.

To be basic on this: setting up an imax 4K real 4D 50 seat theatre screen for digital display on the lower end of prosumer/entry com would cost:

$24999 for a Martin 5K 160 projector.
$4500 in motors
$4000 in MD8 wire
$12000 in speakers
$59999 for a 21.4 +8 tuner
$10000 in active glasses
$400 in copper tp cable.

And I don’t believe we’re disagreeing… all that much.
The problem with chain megas is they’ve willingly become a modern slave to the 1919 version of company display.
When you go to a mega and the same movie is on 20 of 30 screens you have a problem. A major one!

I’ve long wondered how the nearly always empty lot at the Ogden 16 running 3 movies managed to stay afloat.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not even a millennial but of course some of my family are. That he trashes them over something that isn’t their fault at all as if the world owed him anything makes him look arrogant and toxic as hell.

Pro tip: Alienating an entire generation doesn’t help you snag more fans. I for one will be making a point of not watching his movies. His extreme arrogance and entitlement really soured any positive opinions I had about his previous movies.

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