Cinema box offices sales have hit a twenty-year low, but such troughs have been weathered easily before. This time around, though, it’s a bit different. The problem is 3D, which has artificially raised cinema’s profits, and the fact that the so-called revolution turned out, once again, to be a fad that the public doesn’t really care for.
3D remains curbed by the need to wear glasses. If the effects are showy, they adversely affect the viewing experience by looking cheesy. If they’re subtle, the mind stops reading the dimensionality at all. In the accidentally hilarious new trailer for ‘Titanic 3D’, a swooping movement down past Kate Winslet’s hat makes her appear the height of the Empire State Building – it’s a classic example of 3D Gone Bad. Now theatres are requesting more 2D prints than 3D ones.
Then there’s the emergence of China as a massive growth zone for cinema – but there are a lot of films they won’t take from Hollywood – the latest to be banned is the crummy remake of ‘Total Recall’, which brands its dystopic city as Chinese. As effects become easier to produce and the old Hollywood action model is copied, more countries are discovering audiences for home-grown flicks.
One solution would be to break from demography and produce films that are interesting, but that means firing Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell and ditching categories like Bromance, Wedding-Chick Flicks, Gross-Outs, Supernatural Romance etc and just go for great stories.
The system still produces intriguing films, but these often seem to sneak out more by accident than design, and power is still too tied up in stars. One big problem remains in methods of publicising movies. It’s much easier to relaunch a known brand with a slightly different spin on it than to laboriously explain that audiences will be seeing something new.
In the seventies, a healthy number of original, intelligent films were made that returned respectable box office receipts. For Hollywood, original stories would surely now represent a step too far.