A funny thing happened on the way to the movies over Thanksgiving. I realized that the major releases, across the nation including Chicagoland, were kids movies. Not surprising as the kids had a four-day weekend. But so did the adults. So why was MY WEEK WITH MARILYN the only major movie release aimed at the over-10 crowd opening that week in the Windy City? I’m all for the likes of HUGO, THE MUPPETS, HAPPY FEET 2 and ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, but really? Only one adult movie?
There is a science to marketing and distributing movies. A copy of a movie costs about 2 grand these days so only so many movies are going to be released on 3000 screens at a time. Movies like TWILIGHT. (Sigh.) And I know there are all kinds of deals that have to be made with theater chains and distributors to help get a movie to market. And I know people who run studios have degrees in business and have probably estimated a movie’s opening within a decimal point of its potential audience, best release date and ROI.
That means precious little to me as a film fan.
All I know is there are weeks where nothing adult-oriented comes out. Or, even worse, studios release dozens of films in the last two weeks of the year for those Oscar voters, and it’s overwhelming to try and rush out and see everything. It seems to be either feast or famine.
Now, this weekend, here in Chicago, we’re getting two adult-appeal movies with THE ARTIST and YOUNG ADULT. Then next week, three big movies open: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, A DANGEROUS METHOD and SHERLOCK HOLMES: GAME OF SHADOWS. And then after that it’s a free-for-all with close to a dozen new films opening up. Does that make sense? Do you think all those movies will find an audience in the one or two days over the holidays that people might have time to go to the movies? Of course not. Sadly, some will be DOA financially because of a glutted market disabling their chances of finding an audience.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many weekends during the autumnal months where virtually nothing opens but cheesy horror movies. Why couldn’t TINKER TAILOR open then? It was released in England during that season and did huge business. Why wait until the last two weeks of December to release a film like that when it could easily get lost amongst the overcrowded holiday field?
The answer is Oscar. The studio releasing TINKER TAILOR thinks more award nominations will come their way if they are closer to the end of the year for those Academy members with short-term memories. But THE DESCENDANTS opened over a month ago and it’s still a sure-fire nominee in many major categories. MONEYBALL opened way before that and is figuring in 10 best lists across the board, as well as awards voting, and will likely get some major Oscar nominations too. Is it Oscar driving these releases? Or cowardice? Or some insane sense of tradition?
Whatever the data tells them, the studios will continue to glut the summer and Christmas seasons because that's the way it's always done. Small films will struggle to find a proper audience with little real studio backing. And when all is said and done, good movies will be lost. Adult audiences will be insulted. And smaller markets like Sacramento or Milwaukee will continue to get treated like they're second-class citizenry.
Merry Christmas to you. From Hollywood.