Theater shuts down because of films

I love this story. A theater in central Illinois shut its doors not because of anything being wrong with the theater, but because of the low quality of the films.

He put his two screens here on hiatus rather than sell tickets to the gross-out and freak-out fare he said Hollywood distributors have made available in recent weeks. Boardman said he’d rather show nothing than such recent offerings as “Beerfest,” “The Covenant” or the “Jackass” sequel, which topped the nation’s box office last week despite getting savagely panned by critics. A Tribune review labeled it “an insult to sophomoric movies everywhere.”

“There’s just so much lousy material out there–people vomiting on the screen,” explained Boardman, 52, a local boy who now lives in California and uses the Internet to run the Lorraine from there. “I have one of the finest sound systems in the world, and I don’t want to waste it on such drivel.” 

Simpsons preview coming in November

Finally the other night I watched this past Sunday’s episode of “The Simpsons.” After the episode was done the announcement came on that the show would return in November, after Fox gets done airing the MLB post-season. As an enticement to tune in, they also announced that when it returns there would be a sneak preview of the feature-length Simpsons movie coming to theaters next summer. It’ll be interesting to see what they air at that point.

Putting all the eggs in one Summer-shaped basket

This MSNBC article gets to the heart of the problem of both big-budget movies AND release windows.

Many films released from January through April are of marginal quality, at best, and fairly inexpensive to produce. Production costs range anywhere from $20 million to $50 million and if these movies somehow make a nice profit, it’s considered gravy. October through December is the slot where Oscar hopefuls are brought out, those films that might hit big on the awards circuit and play for awhile, not only in theaters but on DVD as well.

So it’s important to understand that while a studio wants its movies to succeed every weekend of the year, those big summer popcorn releases pay the bills and can make the corporate bosses — and stockholders — very rich.

What other industry thinks like this? Yeah, retail outlets rely heavily on the November to December months for their profits but that’s a reality of the calendar more than anything. Studios have a choice as to whether or not to approve these grossly over-budgeted films that no longer have the sure-fire hit potential they once did. The money that’s thrown at them for production could be better used to fund some smaller, higher quality movies. (Also, comedies should never cost more than $30 million. They just shouldn’t. More money and CGI have never made something funnier. That’s just a reality. Stop this now.) And the marketing money that is needed to try and insure a big opening weekend could be spread around to those smaller films to make sure they connect with the niche that’s most likely to find them of interest. As I’ve said before, a movie will never find and audience larger than the one it should have. The key is to keep the number of people you expose to the marketing versus the number who have an active interest in it to a low ratio. Connecting with niches can help you do that. But that’s hard work and does not – I repeat does not – involve a huge TV commercial time buy. I know that might look pretty on a spreadsheet but it’s not going to accomplish this goal.

It also makes a case for the broken window release pattern. If half a movie’s business is going to be on DVD, but you’re trying to appeal to the entire  potential audience in the theatrical marketing push. So you KNOW that half the people who are going to eventually see your movie aren’t going to do so until the DVD comes out, but you include them in the target audience for the theatrical release campaign. Why not distribute the movie day and date on DVD, VOD and in theaters and be able to reach that entire audience at the same time instead of waiting five or six months? Broken window also means you can stop focusing on the Summer as the end-all-be-all of the release world. That means more movies have a chance to do better because they’re not all being crowded into the same 12 weekends, something that’s liable to just frustrate people who are interested in more than one movie coming out that weekend. Movies might be #1 for more than one week because there won’t be something just as big coming out next weekend that will syphon off the audience.
With the range of media choices available to people these days, theatrical features are never going to have the impact they once did. But the system in place still relies on that being the case. That needs to change soon or the studios and the theaters that rely on them are going to find themselves in big trouble.

The President just became The King

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall September 28, 2006 12:32 PM

Even if I didn’t so completely disagree with this particular President, the Constitution was setup to guard against just this type of system. The President is not supposed to have the power to deny people access to due process of law. This bill just granted him that power. He now officially live in a dictatorship.

Congratulations to all the fine Congressmen and women who just eliminated the role of the courts as well as gutted their power to keep the Executive branch – designed to be the weakest of the three – in check.

LOTD: September 27

  • Nope, you’re not the only one who believes that email may be the bane of your existence
  • If you hadn’t noticed the sponsorship news at Techmeme, clearly you’re living under a rock. In any case, check out what the fine folks at Socialtext had to say about getting on that train early.
  • BuzzLogic has released a $500/month web-based application that uses a variety of metrics such as inbound links and others to track conversations online, including among bloggers. It’s being sold as a product that will make online influencer research by big companies easier by identifying the most influential members of any given niche so that they can be more finely targeted.
  • At the DEMOfall 2006 tech conference, companies are showcasing software and hardware that extend the functionality of cell phones significantly. Not only can users take pictures, but some services will take those pictures and turn them into web-accessible documents that can be emailed or faxed. Other services are offering their own ways of manipulating pictures before sending them to friends, services that go well beyond today’s snap/email process. A company called FonPonds is letting customers subscribe to podcasts that are automatically delivered to the user’s phone. That could up listener number significantly without going through the sometimes painful education process.
  • Is Google good for your brand? It can be, depending on whether or not the company has and actively cultivates a good online reputation. Basically your brand reputation what people say it is so it’s important that that be focus of a company’s efforts. Google – and other search engines – are how a good many people are going to begin their interaction with a brand name so, as I’m fond of saying, your reputation is only as good as Google says it is.
  • To promote the new budget transparency act just signed by the White House, the Office of Management and Budget has reached out to bloggers of all political stripes to promote the bill, which creates a searchable database of spending appropriations. This is kind of huge since it was bloggers who got the bill, which had been on an anonymous hold by a couple members of Congress, out into the open and eventually passed.

There’s a difference

Daimnation!: The theocracy trap

I left the following as a comment on the above post.

As a Christian I welcome the inclusion of religious principles in public policy. But that’s as far as it should go. The government should in no way be involved in setting religious guidelines. If people are so eager to become subject to theocratic rule I suggest they convert to Catholicism and pay homage to the Pope. I’ll be over here using Scripture as the source of my belief (a very Lutheran philosophy) and realizing that God rules all while men rule for a fraction of time.

My main problem with the idea of a theocracy is this: Who decides which religious principles become the law of the land? Are they going to be strictly Episcopalian? Strictly Catholic? Or will the laws be drawn from a variety of faiths and homogenized until their unrecognizable? I would prefer a government that fights to make sure I can worship as I prefer instead of one that decides how I should worship. That’s kind of what the First Amendment says the government should be doing and not setting up some quasi-religious group that uses God as cover for all its bad decision making.

Theocracys seem to be based on the idea that man can – on any level – divine God’s thoughts. That’s a faulty premise and anyone who claims to do so immediately becomes suspect. It means they’re trying to make their ideas bulletproof and completely unavailable for questioning or debate. Man is faulty because, as the Bible teaches us, we live in a fallen and sinful world.

I have no problem with government using religious principles to guide their decision making. But the institutionalization of religion by government is a process that’s tailor made for abuse and suppression. I’ll let God, through the Word He’s given us in the Bible, show me how to live my life and would like government to not try and interpret that in a way that’s motivated solely by their selfish interests.

Listen to me

Alex Billington, one of the guys behind the FirstShowing site and series of screenings, invited me to add my thoughts to their podcast by interviewing me. You can listen to the whole show here.

As a fun drinking game, take a drink everytime I pause inappropriately between words like I’m five years old and/or make myself giggle. You’ll be drunk two minutes into my segment.

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