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David Poland

By David Poland

Desperately Seeking Slumpin'

I haven’t really had the urge to call EW’s Joshua Rich an idiot. He’s hardly a savant, but there are no sharp edges that slice dangerously close to any ugliness. Until today.
In a PopWatch piece called “Hollywood’s box-office year: Good news, but for whom?,” he continues to argue the false notion that “The business is still struggling.”
Of course, it does struggle. But not in a way that this guy is equipped to even consider. He opines further:
“We’re the ones who stand to pay

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12 Responses to “Desperately Seeking Slumpin'”

  1. LexG says:

    So true. I can’t say it any better than you so adequately have over the past year or two, but THE SLUMP was and still is such a bullshit story, so obviously a superficial, half-informed view of the biz that both media critics and the legit press got to wheel out when they needed cheap, pointless filler. Kind of like when EW drags out their biannual “Hollywood doesn’t care about women” story: Just some back-burner bullshit to pad out a slow news week. In the case of THE SLUMP, it reached epic proportions and moved from back burner to front burner, and went unquestioned.
    Now all your rant needed was a pointless, say-nothing quote from Paul Dergerabedian: “Well, this just goes to show that Hollywood makes movies, and sometimes people want to see them, and sometimes they don’t.”

  2. Rob says:

    “And you don

  3. Richard Nash says:

    I don’t know if its a slump or just a really horrible slate of movies that have been released. I don’t think there has been a good movie released in 2007. Check your neighborhood theatres. Look at the films they are showing. It’s a train wreck.

  4. jeffmcm says:

    Funny you should say that since I was just thinking about how many good movies there are all of a sudden – Bridge to Terabithia, Breach, Zodiac, Black Snake Moan, The Lives of Others, Days of Glory, The Host this weekend…
    maybe they aren’t playing in Hicksville.

  5. luxofthedraw says:

    David, I’d love to see some profit examples by film on this site. The public understands that the real number isn’t the weekend BO but they don’t have easy access to any other figures. I just don’t think many people are going to take the time to listen to a Lions Gate analyst call.

  6. David Poland says:

    I used to do more of it, Lux… usually get inspired by someone publishing something that is inaccurate. I will try to remember to crunch some numbers for you soon.

  7. Cadavra says:

    Isn’t “singular anomaly” redundant?

  8. “Oh, the massive burden on audiences!”
    Don’t act like you’re a typical run-of-the-mill movie-goer David.

  9. Nicol D says:

    Obviously we have had this discussion before and will most likely have it again, but I think in some way, both sides are right.
    Yes, overall BO numbers are high and this coming summer seems to be no exception. Also, as a form of general entertainment, movies are still a bit of a bargain and there are plenty of ways you can bring in your own food if you do not want to buy popcorn.
    But I do not think quoting a flat gross number tells the whole picture.
    Are as many people going to see movies today as they were in previous generations? Are there as many physical ‘bums in seats’ when things such as inflation are taken into account? Could there be more bums if things were done differently?
    In business, you always try to grow your market share per capita, not flatline it and be content with what it is.
    I always love looking at top ten lists that account for inflation which show a very different picture. A picture where Gone with the Wind beats Titanic and films like Thunderball and Fantasia top many of our modern flag bearer hits.
    So while BO is indeed solid on a per year basis, in terms of inflation, fewer people actually haul ass to see a film in the theatres. Now obviously, DVD and VHS must also be seen as an equation in this picture, but I know I do not feel that there are as many films worth paying the price of admission theatrically as there used to be.
    And I find I purchase far more films on DVD that are at least 20 years old than new releases. What happens when the catalogue DVD’s are no longer Star Wars, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart or Raiders of the Lost Ark, but are Twister, Syrianna, Ben Affleck and Babel? Yes I know there are exceptions, but seemingly fewer of them.
    As for The Passion being an anomaly….true. But then again, Star Wars was an anomaly until they found a way to replicate it. Same with Jaws or any other film that changes the course of film history. What the Passion showed was that there is a huge segment of the population that will go to the theatre if they are given something different, that is quality. And holding up The Nativity Story as a failure doesn’t really cut it because it wasn’t a true quality product.
    It would be like saying we shouldn’t make more sci-fi after the failure of Richard Thomas in Battle Beyond the Stars to capitalize on Star Wars.
    Understand I do not equate replicating The Passion with more ‘Christian’ films per se. Just more different stories that appeal to a wider segment of the population. That could include Christian, but by no means should it be exclusive to it.
    Again, BO gross is fine…but could it be higher?
    Why are we getting two-TWO!-more Che films? The slump may have been overstated, but it was not a completely false story or a myth. Do we need more crapola like Jon Tucker Must Die? Another Hostel sequel? Is that really the industry maximizing they’re potential?
    ‘The Slump’ was merely highlighing an industry that is doing well, but could be doing better but refuses to change.
    I think that is part of the reason why so many people see the new renaissance happening in television. Current television covers such a large swath of material and subject matter, it is impossible to not find at least something that appeals to you. That film is not trying to do this has to at least be acknowledged.
    Gross numbers are fine, but like many, I do not think they tell the whole story.

  10. David Poland says:

    The thing, Nicol, is that it doesn’t matter how many tickets are sold… especially not when coffers were epxanding massively with DVD revenues.
    The Slump was a myth. And your notion that industry can do better is false, businesswise. The hard reality is that the business has pretty much maximized itself to its greatest end. Continuing to expand the market will require reducing the revenue per unit, so it is a manipulation leading to a false result.
    This is why DVD sell-thru is a double edged sword. It lowered the price point so that it made theatrical feel more expensive than it is and set teh bar so low that future iterations of delivery will find it very hard to raise the prices for any owenership over 20 bucks ever again… and most likely, we are heading to a movie ownership economy of under 10 bucks.
    It’s funny that people see the new renaissance on television when the hits are viewed by fewer and fewer people every single year… yet no stories about the end of television.
    The art of it, the delivery systems, and the economics of it are all completely different things. And the mythology of The Slump is that they are all part of a big blur.
    And I am not an average moviegoer. But I was. For a long time. A very frequent, ticket buying moviegoer in Manhattan, which used to be the only market other than L.A. to have that annual increase, which started being the norm after Jurassic Park and more importantly, the expansion of the chains so that five or so companies owned the vast majority of the US screens.
    As someone pointed out, the most significant increase in ticket costs have come in the elmimination of matinees and the increase in prices for kids and seniors. But the difference in LA between an $11.75 ticket and the $10 ticket of six years ago? Negligible. The availability of DVDs to own for $8 six weeks after release? Priceless.

  11. Nicol D says:

    Thanks for the response Dave,
    As I said before, I do not disagree with your entire thesis; I certainly think the slump was overstated because it was a hot ‘watercooler’ story and easy to digest. Where I disagree is where you say that the market cannot be expanded and has maximized itself.
    I think we could agree that the majority of films are made for comsumption by a much younger demographic then perhaps is the mean age of the country as a whole.
    Many of these younger demo films at some point just seem to be white noise. Some click, many do not; is it not possible to conceive of an industry that makes fewer fims like this and instead exchanges them with more films for adults? Could this not result in more adults going to the theatre with higher adult ticket prices?
    I know many adults that would love to go to the theatre but always lament that so many films are not geared towards them. Is it not possible to try to get that demographic out more?
    It seems to me and many others that there is a large segment that is just not being serviced on a regular enough basis.
    On a long enough time line, does this not also affect the DVD sell-through market when the catalogue items are the current teen/youth -oriented crop?
    I agree that sell-through DVD is a double edged sword, however. I personally am at a point where I even find renting a new release for 5-6 dollars
    expensive when I can go to the $10.00 bin of my local record shop and buy brand new/old releases for under 10.00. Yesterday I purchased the special edition of Diner for 4.99. Hard to argue with that. And I agree that that makes fewer people want to go to the theatre to spend 10 or so dollars on theatrical.
    I also think the shortening of theatrical to DVD windows will also cause a problem for the industry in the long run.
    Even though I disagree on some of your points, thanks again for the response.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    Reminds me of the old economics joke:
    Two economists are walking down the street and one of them sees a twenty dollar bill in the gutter. Before he can pick it up his friend stops him saying “It’s not real.” “How do you know?” “If that was a real twenty, someone would have picked it up by now.”
    It helps if you understand how economists think.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon