Film and TV

Soon the Rich Will Own Gaming and Going to the Movies Completely

You might have heard recently that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg lamented that the blockbuster was killing the movie industry, which is funny because they, you know, invented it. The two elder auteurs correctly pointed out that films seem to either be made for $1 million or $250 million, with the "middle class" of features slowly disappearing. Studios need that Avengers money to stay afloat, and just can't afford to work the middle because the middle rarely pays off overseas.

Lucas said, "We're talking Lincoln and Red Tails - we barely got them into theaters. You're talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their movie into a theater... The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller."

Let's set aside the fact that these two men, who I freely admit are responsible for some of my favorite moviegoing experiences, are sad because they're starting to get pushed out the way they themselves pushed less explodey films out over the last 30 years. I don't expect those on high to consider those down below, which makes it a pleasant surprise when it does occur.

Lucas and Spielberg predict that going to the movies will become a luxury experience akin to going to a play. Instead of paying $9 for a ticket to all movies, Avatar 2 or whatever will cost $25. Meanwhile you'll pay, say $7 for a flick like Lincoln when you go out.

Now, the thought of there being some kind of marketplace that determines how much a movie ticket is actually is sort of appealing. I might go to the movies more if I could see, say, Kings of Summer, for $5 instead of dropping full price for a flick that was made for a fraction of Michael Bay's firework budget. The hopeful capitalist in me ponders studios choosing to price film competitively, instead of this one-size-fits-all approach we have now. After all, you don't pay the same price for Cher tickets as you do to see the Legendary Pink Dots.

The reality, though, is that nothing of the kind will happen because the studios have the cinemas over the same barrel they've been using for years. Studios take an absolute obscene amount of the profits from the theaters. Why do you think popcorn is so expensive, and the staff is poorly trained and rude, and that they're all nondescript and faceless now? Because for the first three weeks or so, otherwise known as the period when they make money, the studios take up to 95 percent of the profits.

They're not letting that go any time soon, and so movie theaters won't have any incentive to show those cheaper films at all. That's why you see places like Alamo Drafthouse showing old films or things like classic Doctor Who episodes opposite first run films as well as serving alcohol. They have to rely on established properties to ensure butts in the seats, Even Alamo supplemented showings of Kings of Summer by making it a double feature with Stand by Me.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner