October 26, 2006


The Era of Big Cinema Is Over (Edward B. Driscoll Jr., 26 Oct 2006, Tech Central Station)

Prior to the 1970s, Hollywood aimed its movies at a mass culture. But by the late 1970s, the first signs of political correctness began to increasingly separate movie makers from their audience, beginning perhaps most visibly with Warren Beatty's Reds in 1981. But even during that decade, Hollywood balanced films such as Platoon and Salvador with Rambo and Top Gun. And it was pretty clear that the characters played by Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis were on the side of Truth, Justice and The American Way.

Jump cut to this past summer, where that Superman movie that Warner Brothers was counting on to kick-start their perennial superhero franchise instead became infamous for having Perry White utter "truth, justice and all that other stuff", because the film's writers were ashamed of, well, the American way.

This wasn't all that new a development—even before 9/11, Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor was chided for its revisionist history and moral equivalence. But after 9/11, Hollywood's PC freefall merely accelerated, causing further alienation from the industry's domestic audience. The 2006 Academy Awards ceremony was something of a watershed. As blogger Charlie Richards noted this past February, "it's a big year for films nobody will see", to the point where March of the Penguins, which won for best documentary, made more money than any of the Best Picture Nominees. And as author and blogger John Scazi wrote at the time, "When Hollywood's best films can't compete with chilled, aquatic birds, there's something going on."

What was going on was that Hollywood had alienated a wide swatch of its audience-perhaps to the point where relations are irreparable. Like television networks, the two mediums once shared a monopoly on viewers. But these days, technology such as videogames and DVDs, hundreds of channels of satellite TV, the "Long Tail" of the Internet, and the do-it-yourself "prosumer" movement have made Hollywood just another niche market that competes for audiences' eyeballs.

And the consumer electronics industry increasingly challenges the movie going experience as American middle class home contain technologies that make the den the equivalent of a 1930s private Hollywood screening room.

That's the environment that Hollywood must compete in. And increasingly, its movies just aren't up to the task.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2006 8:19 AM

"Hollywood balanced films such as Platoon and Salvador with Rambo and Top Gun"

Rambo I and II were anti-american, thus leaving Top Gun (Tom Cruise, cocky punk) as the sole defender of America. This is balance!

Posted by: h-man at October 26, 2006 9:03 AM

We love going to the movies, yet we haven't been in at least six months. We'll check the new films opening tomorrow as we do every Friday, and hope for the best.

Posted by: erp at October 26, 2006 1:07 PM

We really try to not let politics enter into our movie selections but we just can't bring ourselves to rent a Susan Sarandon or Sean Penn movie. We haven't been inside of a movie theatre in years.

Posted by: Rick T at October 26, 2006 1:12 PM

Going to the movies is different from seeing a video nice as that is and we miss it.

The "politics" of the rabid left are just too objectionable. For instance, Gregory Peck's ad against Robert Bork was so packed with lies and intoned with those deep faux sincere dulcet tones, he's not welcome in our home -- ever. I don't care the film.

Victims of BDS like Baldwin, Whoopi, Penn, etc. are intolerable. Too bad Jack Nicolson's new film employs a bunch of them otherwise it might have made the cut.

Posted by: erp at October 26, 2006 3:07 PM

Hollywood has written off the domestic market and now aims for the international one, where anti-Americanism always plays well.

Posted by: jd watson at October 26, 2006 3:15 PM


Not with the new large screen HD-TVs.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2006 3:21 PM

political correctness began to increasingly separate movie makers from their audience, beginning perhaps most visibly with Warren Beatty's Reds in 1981.

Reds wasn't political correctness, it was out and out commie-worship. It glorified the Revolution and the Soviets.

Posted by: pchuck at October 26, 2006 4:37 PM

The best parts of Reds were the clips of old folks who were actually around at that time (like Henry Miller), and seeing the fascinating Max Eastman portrayed in a film.

Another factor in the decline of the box office is that you're more likely than ever to share a movie theater with people who talk all the time or have crying babies.

BTW, there's a typo in the article: the author quoted in John Scalzi, whose book Old Man's War I highly recommend to anyone looking for classic Heinleinesque science fiction.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 26, 2006 6:28 PM

oj, alas we can't afford all those new-fangled TV's what with living on a fixed income ... Our TV is 20 years old and so small my 9 year old granddaughter thinks it's cute.

Posted by: erp at October 27, 2006 4:55 PM

Sell the kid--buy a real tv....

Posted by: oj at October 27, 2006 5:04 PM