Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cinematic Saturation

We are a society of choice. In fact we have so much choice we actually have the choice of which awards shows to cast our choices towards. There's People's Choice Awards, Teen's Choice Awards, Kid's Choice Awards, and of course MTV Movie Awards For Those Who Also Voted In All The Other Ones But Want to Be Sure People Get The Point.... I think it's safe to say we are a society of saturation. These days when you hear something, you don't just hear it once. You hear it at work, on TV, in the newspaper, on your phone, across your twitter feed, tumble, and facebook. People ask you questions on formspring, text you for your input, all before you blog about it and send out emails to all the people who have just gone the same thing just in case anyone might have missed it. And for the most part, I would say dealing with any one of these various components on its own right is perfectly fine. But as a collective, they're beyond overkill.

And like every other segment of entertainment, movies have bought into the same saturated pie. Tell me, how long can you watch television without seeing at least three trailers for the next 'big' films - or so they label themselves - that will in short time be coming to a multiplex near you? I'd wager twenty minutes if you're on the right channel. Add into that the mass number of trailers for the same movie that will be played intermittently throughout your wait for the other films' trailers to arrive. This past week I saw a trailer for Fast Five followed by another trailer for Fast Five. And it occurred to me: back the hell off already.

Seriously, I know the point of trailers is to play up hype and push out the knowledge that your film is being released this weekend. More specifically - the fact that you've invested an insane - yes, insane - amount of money in this and need this to bank or you'll have to settle for only buying three sports cars this year instead of seven. Such is the way of the hard knock life for your average billionaire studio. But even still, it's the sheer egotistical nature of it all that annoys me.

This week three films received wide releases. Next week three films will receive wide releases. After that, only two - can't be big winners every time. But across the platform there is one consistency: Money. Oh yes, every week a new movie which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make - though they shouldn't have - will make its way into the multiplex near you. And your job to support them. Otherwise, no more movies for you!

Or so the trailers would lead you to believe. According to most of them every week you'd be missing the event of your generation, event of a lifetime, once in a lifetime film, jaw dropping event, or the thing everybody will be talking about is coming your way. All they ask is that you obediently toss out $8 every week - ideally a few times for safe measure - for roughly 40 weeks out of the year. I don't know about you, but I always keep $320+ on hand just to make sure I do their bidding.

The worst part of it all: each weekend there is a movie released targeting the same demographic as the week before - let alone the same weekend. No movie can breath. Blockbuster events like Avatar exist because simply put nothing else anyone cared for was opening within eight weeks of it. I'm not saying Hollywood should adhere to that. But would it kill you to not try and cram all your biggest sellers into one weekend after another? This July alone we'll be seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Cowboys and Aliens - each strong contender for mega box office success - appearing in theaters in successive weeks.

It's a fast food world and movies are riding the drive through lane. Get in, get out, munch, and return as quick as humanly possible. But I don't want that. I want to sit and reflect on the movies I've seen. Take a while to weight their pros and cons. Maybe wait a week or two and go with a friend who is out of town. But this day and age - no. If you're not a hit out of the gate, you're a bomb by midweek and out of the theaters in four. In that time frame a handful of other films vaguely similar to you has been thrust into the limelight and are begging and calling for attention just the same. No rest for the weary, and even less so for those prone to patience.

Be sure to remember my dear readers, you always have a choice. Well, you do so long as you make the one that the studios want. If you don't, no worries, society has already come up with a fine label for you which will allow them to perfectly ignore you and go on making their perceived choices with pleasure. Now, go out there and think for yourself... just so long as you only think the same as me.

8 better thoughts:

Sam Fragoso said...

Great article Uni ~ I see this every weekend with big blockbusters, coming in succession week after week.

If I didn't receive some press screenings for a lot of these, I would most definitely not spend my money going to the theaters.

As for the trailers, well, I don't watch T.V. too much, so I don't notice it. What I do remember is the previews for the Oscar "Best Picture Nominees" ... They milked the shit out of "127 Hours" (and "The Fighter") .... I saw that trailer so much I was considering taking it off my top ten of the year.

All joking aside, great article. Keep on writing, happy Sunday.

Castor said...

That's what I'm saying to Mad all the time! I definitely not someone who is willing to watch more than one movie in a day because part of the experience is letting it simmer and reflecting on it. I will be checking out Thor next week but I can't say I will go to the movie theater more often this year than previously.

Univarn said...

@Sam I would have had a hard time bumping 127 Hours because it was my number one film, but I know what you mean. There's been times where I've needed something and intentionally not bought a brand because I was so sick of their commercials.

@Castor Mad is one of those people that seems to have a never ending supply of money for viewing expenses. I think he's got some sort of magic trick - hence the hat.

Mette said...

They don't show many film trailers on TV here in Germany, only if it's Harry Potter or something - but then it get's really annoying after some time. The first time you watch the trailer, you might get excited and curious for the film, but when you can say all the lines after, say three or four commercial breaks, you'll feel you're going insane.

But there's one place where I love to watch trailers: in cinema. Many people here come later to cinema, so they won't see the trailers, but I think it's wonderful. Very different from watching the latest trailers on your laptop.

Fletch said...

I had a hard time with this post. You're lashing out at the movie studios for...making products? At moviegoers for...going to see movies? At advertisers for...trying to get you to buy their products? Um...ok.

I'm not saying that there isn't an eternal hype machine that wants you to believe that you're a scummy loser for not seeing this, that or the other, because there certainly is. But there are so many quote-unquote guilty parties that you're shooting at a moving target, when you know as well as I that none of it really matters. Make your own choices and be happy with them. If you succumb to the hype, it's your own damn fault. Reminds me of people going on and on about sequels and remakes...Hollywood is only giving us as much as we're willing to take. Y'all don't like 'em - stop seeing 'em. Simple as that.

I also take issue with this sentence: "Oh yes, every week a new movie which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make - though they shouldn't have "

Who are you to say that they "shouldn't" cost millions of dollars to make? Who am I, or anyone? This is akin to people complaining about the salaries of sports' stars. They are a commodity, and will be paid whatever the market allows them to be paid based on, amongst other things, the public's desire to see them in action. Same goes for movies. It's not a validation of quality to cost a ton, but it's also not an invalidation, either. I guess I just don't see what the cost of a film has to do with the rest of this.

Univarn said...

@Lime I think the cinema is great for trailers as well - I just don't go often enough and when I do, I find it's the same trailers as last time more often than not.

@Fletch What I'm complaining about is the preconceived notion that if they make it, we should see it - irregardless. I'm not belittling people for going to see movies, but I do believe media is perpetuating it as more of a requirement and less of a choice. "It's the one movie you have to see this year" is a quote just about every film features (even if no critic says it - they put it in there as a slogan). There's only so many people and each can only spend so much money. And I think it's in studios interests to scale back, not release movies on top of one another, and allow people the opportunity to see one before nine other films have taken up all of its time slots at the theaters.

I get what you're saying though, and I don't belittle them for working to try and produce as much products, or people for choosing them. I just think their current system is based on consistently spending inordinate amounts of money on lots of movies and hoping that none of them bomb so badly that the one or two hits they connect can't counter-balance it. And I don't think it's a sustainable, long-term business practice.

Fletch said...

But Univarn, there's a difference between "the media" and the marketing. Granted, it's a difference that's shrinking constantly, as more and more information becomes infotainment (which is highly influenced by advertisers), but I have to still cling to the notion that news programs and newspapers and such are not mandating that I need to see any films (yet).

I do agree, however, that it's in the studios best interest to scale back, but I think their mindset is that if they throw enough shit at the wall that some of it will stick (and it does).

Univarn said...

@Fletch Not mandating, no. Socially manipulating with ever increasing control on society? I would say yes. However, I take some comfort in recent polls which have shown a sharp decline in ratings for the more extreme of our news programs.

And I do agree that it does, sometimes. Other times you get companies like Miramax or New Line with all the potential in the world just flatlining because they spent more than they thought.

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