". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why Hard Times Won't Mean Good Times at the Movies Again

Movie columnist for the Village Voice, J. Hoberman (one of the only writers the rag hasn't laid off or fired), breaks it down for us here.

A reorganized and self-regulated Hollywood bounced back in 1935, but times were different then. Movies were America's universal culture. Now, they're not even close. Like then, the technology is changing—but in a far different way. Movies are expendable. Folks will give up $12 tickets, cancel Netflix, and cut cable to save their high-speed Internet connection. With the president's fireside chats posted online, the new Hoovervilles will certainly have broadband. Is there a downsized future for Katzenberg's product? As one bankrupt mogul said to another, "YouTube?!"

Maybe free online movies are strictly for the indies. But if times get worse and the studios want to get real, they'll have to find the audience where it lives: Hulu for Hollywood.


K. said...

One of my first jobs out of college was with a movie theatre chain in San Antonio. It was 1978, and a movie was a cheap date: $3 per ticket and up to another $3 per person in concessions. Depending on the amount of money spent on concessions, a couple could see 25 movies a year for between $150-300. You could cut that even further by taking advantage of weekend matinees. I know that this was 30 years, but nonetheless...for someone making 15K a year, this didn't even qualify as a budget item.

Today, one movie can cost $35-$40 per couple when all is said and done. Few middle class people spend that amount of money lightly, nor should they considering the alternatives they have: Picking up a pizza and watching the next item in the Netflix queue costs half that. Throw a tough economy and he's right: Instead of more people going to the movies, less will.

The question is, how will Hollywood respond? Will they turn to lower budget films that also call for less promotion? Or will they up the ante and go for more special effects spectaculars and lure people in with gimcrackery? My guess is the latter, and it won't work. Which will bring on a crisis for this all-American entertainment and art form.

Foxessa said...

A ticket to the movies here runs over 13 dollars per person. Bloomie wants to stick an 8% tax on top of that too. Un New Orleans everything has a nearly 10% sales tax, and that includes movies -- there are about 2 theaters in the city proper. People drive to the suburbs to go to movies, which means poor people don't bother with the movies in theaters either. NO was always a huge market for video outlets.

There's the accompanying problem of people not able to afford television either, since somebodies in their non-wisdom declared that by law all televisions now need to have this expensive and complicated digital converter box or be new digital televisions (whatever it is -- don't have one so haven't been concerned). I have friends who are not just canceling their cable (prices for that keep growing too) but throwing out their televisions, rather than spend that money for a new one or the converter box, which isn't even available, and then struggling to set it up. They'll make do with their computers and their dvd players -- which is the route I went as soon as computers provided the capacity. One friend said, "Poor people aren't supposed to have television either any more."

I've lived happily, very happily, without television all my adult life, with the exception of the New Orleans period. A big television with basic cable came with our house. It was ... weird learning about all these things that no sane person supposedly can live without, like digital scent choice air freshners that you plug into your wall sockets, that I didn't even know existed. It seemed I caught up with America, as I watched with horrified fascination. I hadn't missed a thing and things were far, far worse than even I had imagined.

Love, C.