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October 2017
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Movies Need Help!

In the thirties of the previous century, many theaters sold special tickets that gave unlimited access to all the films that were playing that week for a very cheap price. Going to the movie was considered a part of the weekly or even daily routine back then. But, as with anything, nothing can be at the top of its game forever. In the fifties, people started to care less and less about the industry due to the introduction of television, and as a result the cinema attendance has been declining during the latter half of the previous century. During the seventies and eighties, the industry tried very hard to regain its popularity, and as a result, Hollywood put out a lot of films that many people consider to be the best ever made (The Godfather, Star Wars and Jaws). Nevertheless, these films didn’t lead to a significant increase of attendance. As a result, I personally think the quality has been dropping since then, and we have an industry nowadays where the quality isn’t the prime objective anymore, but rather to fill the theaters with as many people as possible. This article will first discuss the public and critical consensus on recent films and compare that to television, followed by the reasons behind the trend.

The first question that comes up, of course, is: how do you measure or determine ‘quality’? It seems impossible to do, because everyone has a different interpretation of an artistic piece and therefore everybody’s opinion is different. However, if people give a negative score to a movie on the internet, they tend to do that because they thought that the quality of the film was not very good. Therefore, the rest of this article will use some sources where the public and critical consensus on a product is used in order to back up the statements.

Rotten Tomatoes (a site that compiles critics reviews and determines the consensus of them) has constructed a list of 100 movies that critics consider to be the best movies ever made. These movie scores have been adjusted, because there are more reviews for newer films (so the chances of a new film getting a 100% positive rating are slim), and people tend to be more picky on films these days as well, according to theater critic Catherine Rampell. Even when adjusting for these factors (that gives newer movies an advantage), the list still consists of only eleven films that were made after the year 2000.

IMDB is the website that keeps track of the scores that the general public gives to movies, and they also made a list of the best movies ever made. While there are some clear exceptions to the assumption (for example, The Dark Knight is at #4), it should be noted that there are only a handful of recently made films in the top 250.

As stated in the introduction, television has become much more popular since the fifties. The format has been growing since then, and according to French scholar Alexis Pichar, we’ve been living in a so-called “golden age of television” since the 2000s. This all started back in the late nineties when premium networks like HBO started putting out drama series of high quality (The Sopranos) and since then, cable networks have been copying their strategy, which has resulted into a wide array of quality television nowadays. IMDB also constructed a list of the best television shows ever made. It is unsurprising to see that there are only shows from after the year 2000 (The Sopranos being an exception), when looking at the top ten. The top three consists of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Wire. Their secret? According to Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff, its “the attention to detail in the storytelling and deep character development”. Furthermore, all these shows take their time to set up the story, dramatize relationships when necessary, and pay off the building tension at the right time and place. Funny enough, the lack of character development, tension and drama also just happens to be the most heard complaint in most public and critcs reviews nowadays.

So, why is the movie industry not doing the same thing? Simply put, it’s the amount of money that is being spent. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy cost $745 million (!) to make, yet there were a lot of problems during the making of the film. In interviews, Peter Jackson said that he “just winged it” when it came to shooting parts of the third movie, The Battle of the Five Armies. This resulted into people on the internet complaining about the artificial look of the film and the over reliance on CGI (Computer Generated Images). Peter Jackson also acknowledged that during the shooting of certain scenes, his mindset sometimes was: “we’ll just shoot it for now, and finish it in post production”. This puts a lot more pressure on the digital artists working on the film. His previous trilogy (The Lord of the Rings) used a lot less CGI, and as a result, the imagery and overall quality of the movies got better critical and public acclaim compared to The Hobbit. Game of Thrones is a show that has a budget of ‘only’ $6 million per episode, yet the show has received acclaim that cannot be matched by any film or television show. How, you are asking? Well, its lower budget forces the makers to be more creative and carefully plan out each sequence, and use minimal amounts of CGI.

As pointed out in the previous paragraphs, the movie industry needs help in order to reinvent itself. I think Hollywood should pay a lot more attention to the writing in the screenplays, and definitely spend less money on all its projects. Also, they’d do well to take a good look at the contemporary business model of television. Only that way, the industry can get back to its glory days from the thirties.


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