Hey, Marvel fans, how much are you willing to pay to see Avengers 2?
$20? $40? How about $100?
And, at that price, are you gonna see it twice? Three times?
Cinema legends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently spoke at a symposium dedicated to the opening of a new media center, and what they had to say about the future of movie pricing sent shock waves around the world. Discussing the future of the box office, they warned that films costing $250 million to make could inevitably cause Hollywood to ask you – the consumer – to pay more for seeing these films.
According to Steve: “You’re gonna have to pay $25 to see the next Iron Man; you’re probably only have to pay $7 to see the next Lincoln.” (Did Steve leave Lincoln open for a sequel? I didn’t see that coming.)
In fact, Lucas even predicted that this impending ‘implosion’ would dramatically force studio executives to re-think how they ask theatres to present their films to audiences. He even suggested there be fewer theatres dedicated to films tagged with ‘blockbuster’ status but they be equipped with more amenities, similar to the way Broadway plays offer patrons more plush seating and (apparently) first-class treatment. Lucas — the man who never met a price-tag he wouldn’t charge – believed going to the movies should cost you around $100 – $150.
The principle of this whole debate really centered on the fact that Spielberg was lamenting the fact that he ‘barely’ got Lincoln into theatres; it nearly premiered on HBO. Lucas chimed in that his feature surrounding the Tuskegee airmen – Red Tails – ‘barely’ received a theatrical release. Their point was that too many big budget films are forcing smaller films off of the silver screen platform, and, consequently, this is bad for ‘art.’
Well … woe is me!
You’ll have to pardon me if I sound more than a bit cynical about this whole debate, but if there are two men more responsible in the last half-century for the emergence of the blockbuster mentality – one super-big film per weekend taking up one-quarter of the multiplex’s screens – then those two men would have to be George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. You’ll have to pardon me if I say it’s more than a bit ironic (if not downright insulting) to listen to these two billionaires wax on about how unfortunate it is they can’t get their latest garage film down at the cinema.
And what’s the best way to fix this problem?
You pay more for what you want to see.
It’s no secret that Hollyweird has been struggling throughout much of the last decade to make end meet ends, but the truth here is that Tinseltown math has never added up. (Google any lawsuit that challenged studio bookkeeping for a taste of reality.) Rather than chalking it up to their own increasingly bloated salaries and actors’ demands for studio perks, the creators of the summer blockbuster apparently believe it’s OK to have filet mignon on the craft services table so long as they can pass that cost on to the consumer.
Steve, did you actually see what you and George did to mankind with the last Indiana Jones film? You’d really want me to plunk down $50 to see that piece of garbage once? Do you realize what that single experience would do to your reputation? Do you think after experiencing that for a mere $50 that I’d even chance watching your version of Lincoln at the low, low price of $10 a head?
And, George, Red Tails had been percolating in your mind for years – I can’t remember a time that you didn’t speak about it being your ‘next’ project – so maybe, just maybe that meant you didn’t quite have a property audiences would embrace, certainly not in the same way they did the Star Wars franchise. Maybe, just maybe you should stick to what you do well … which, at this point, might be merchandising.
Star Wars Angry Birds? Really, George? Really?
Still, it looks like Hollywood may already be experimenting with exactly what Misters Lucas and Spielberg have been hypothesizing. The other day, I read a piece over on Breitbart.com about Paramount Pictures charging a whopping $50 a ticket to sit through an advance special screening of Brad Pitt’s latest, World War Z. (Yes, Max Brooks’ novel is the bee’s knees; yes, it should’ve been on TV as a huge, epic miniseries instead of reducing to a starring vehicle for Brad Pitt, of all people.)
What does your $50 get you?
Well, the five participating theatres were all IMAX theatres, so, at least, you get the finest image available to man. Also, Paramount was throwing in a digital copy of the film (once it becomes available, of course). They were also throwing in a limited edition poster, some special 3D glasses (which you’d need to see the film in this setting anyway), and (get this) a small popcorn.
$50 … and all I get is a lousy small popcorn?!
How’s that for premium treatment?
How about you keep the stuff and I get my $50 back if the movie turns out to be a stinking pile of crap?
Look, Hollywood, I get that you’re not making enough scratch to keep ponying up movies with budgets of $250 million or more, but, seriously, am I asking you to invest that much in any single motion picture? I get that you think it’s OK to pass these production and marketing costs along to me – the lover of movies – but at what point do you accept the responsibility for making a product that the marketplace economics don’t support?
I’ve always been of the mentality that, if it’s a good movie, people will see it. Somehow. Sometime. Somewhere. It may not be at the megaplexes – have you seen what it costs a family of four to actually go to these places today? The math of reality sometimes means that we can’t get to every one of your bloated blockbusters, and the fact that many filmmakers have grown more than a bit lazy about the finished product really makes me question paying a cent more than I am now to take in anything you and your ilk put out.
We’ve all been disappointed with movie returns, as of late. You? You’re disappointed with the financials. Us? We’re disappointed with the story. Reality is always somewhere in the middle. Let’s meet there, talk about it, and then – and only then – would I be willing to live with a price increase.
Otherwise, there’s always Red Box.