Boy, when I’m in a bad mood it shows. Back in 2014 I wrote about how I thought maybe it was time for movies to sort of, well, end. Even I have to admit that’s a pretty bitter point of view. What’s more, they haven’t ended and there are more theatrical releases than ever. But, I still think I had a point back then so hear me out, if you will.
There are more movies but…
The average person goes to the movies but a few times a year now. The best data that Mr. Google could give me said they went on average four times a year. That’s down from five times a year when I wrote the article. When you realize that there have been two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and at least one Star Wars movie every year for a while, it means there’s one lonely slot for new mainstream entertainment for the year. That’s going to mean a lot of high-profile flops.
One of the past year’s biggest flops, Mortal Engines, should have been a massive hit. Helmed by Peter Jackson and featuring a young-adult-friendly storyline and tons of amazing special effects, it still tanked. Same with A Wrinkle in Time, based on a phenomenally successful book and backed by Oprah Winfrey. If these films can’t make it, what hope does any film have?
More than ever, theaters are unnecessary
I’ll stand by my 2014 prediction that movie theaters are a dinosaur waiting to go extinct. Most have only slightly better picture and sound than you can get at your own home, and prices are just plain out of control. The successful movie houses of today have added bar service, a full menu, and other amenities to try to encourage “date night”viewing. It’s not clear whether that’s going to work. People just aren’t going to theaters like they once did.
Who can blame them? Even if you like the “2-hour, single story” movie idea, even if you aren’t more enticed by limited series, more and more movies are skipping wide domestic release and going straight to streaming. As recently as a year ago, a straight-to-Netflix release was viewed as a failure. Then came Bird Box, a film that everyone just couldn’t stop talking about. It won’t make you forget the roughly 9,000 really bad Netflix films, but it’s proof that you don’t need a movie theater to see a great movie.
Now the Oscars just need to keep up
I’ll go to the cinemaplex if there’s an Oscar contender there, since most of them don’t get out to streaming before the award shows. That’s changing slowly, but it needs to change faster. The Academy Awards are trying to evolve after staying still for far too long, and they could use a little help from studios when it comes to getting buzz for nominated films. Of course voting academy members can screen the films themselves, but the awards show suffers when regular folks don’t get to find out for themselves what shape water is or how many billboards are in Ebbing, Missouri.
Will theaters really be gone in five years?
Well, I have to say it’s still possible. As I pointed out recently, the Marvel Universe has gotten increasingly hard to follow and it seems like we’re not getting any more non-Skywalker Star Wars films. Does that mean the field is open for some new films, or will people just stop going to movies altogether? I suspect it will be somewhere in the middle. If I write another article in 2024, I’m willing to bet the average person will go to the movies only 2-3 times a year and that the number of high-dollar blockbusters will have dropped. A lot of films will premiere on streaming and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy drops its requirement that feature films be screened on any theater at all.