By Dane La Born
This summer marks one of the worst blockbuster explosions in recent times, but it’s become all too familiar a motif for movie-goers, whose summer-fare for years has consisted of huge budget superheroes or remakes, sequels and series. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily — not for someone who is a fan of the source material for many of the things that hit theaters (Hunger Games, Marvel movies, Harry Potter, etc.) but for fans of Scorsese, Coppola, and a multitude of other talented directors, the theater seems like it offers very little anymore.
Meanwhile, over on television, networks are stuck on an archaic system for finding out what people watch. The Nielsen Ratings have been around as long as television has, and take into account the people who tune into certain shows on the original air date. Lately, they’ve added a 7-day-plus ratings system, separate from the standard ratings. Wonderful television shows have suffered, and even died, because networks adhered to what the Nielsen Ratings said. Often times, fans have saved the show by proving to a network in any way except actually tuning into the show that the fan base exists. The NBC show, “Chuck,” is a great example of this, as fans saved it from cancellation every year starting with the first season, and it ended up running for five.
More and more, networks are trying to listen to the fan base, but they still make mistakes. Smaller internet based television networks like Netflix, Amazon, and even Yahoo have begun to step in and pick up shows that other networks have let fall to the wayside. “Arrested Development” was revived famously by Netflix, and more recently, beloved cult hit, and a personal favorite of mine, “Community” was saved from death by Yahoo, in a move no one saw coming.
That’s the thing that big movie studios don’t seem to realize; people are turning more toward streaming their entertainment than watching it live on the network or at the theater. Why pay $10 for a movie and another $20 for the snacks when you can rent something at home? There have been a few successes with movies either instantly released on demand or that came out for rent a month after hitting theaters. With the rate at which Blockbuster movies get pumped out, that is the best thing a studio could do for one of its films. Our national attention span shifts so rapidly; this summer alone we’ve had “Captain America 2,” “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men Days Of Future Past,” “Godzilla,” “Transformers 4,” “Fault In Our Stars,” “Maleficant,” “22 Jump Street” and “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.” Still to come are “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.” These are all parts of franchises or adaptations, none of them are an original creation, but they are the money makers of the summer.
People are consuming more and more of their entertainment online. The popular HBO series “Game Of Thrones” is the most pirated show in the world, and HBO has made no secret of how much that has helped them, encouraging people to instead share their HBO Go passwords with friends so they get the numbers from online views. HBO has figured it out. Netflix has as well, tailoring shows to fit their viewers and making so many available, both old network and cable fare and their own original content, that viewers could disappear for weeks into a black hole of fantastic television, something I have done many times. On top of that, they’ve reached a landmark development deal with Marvel that will see them creating four character specific mini-series culminating in one team-style miniseries, using their Avengers formula in a longer-run setting.
Something has got to change with the way studios release content. Flooding the theater summer after summer with giant, insane, franchise movies gets exhausting to keep up with. If it weren’t so expensive to go to the theater, I would be more inclined to see every single one. That’s why I’m a fan of the quick-to-release plans some studios go with, or the simultaneous on-demand thing. Let me stay at home on my couch to watch robots fight, I don’t need a giant screen for the brain-rot, I do just fine from home.