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By Doug Brunell | September 1, 2005

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hollywood lately. In particular, why the movies coming from its diseased loins have been so mind-numbingly bad. I’ve come up with a couple of reasons that have to do with it, though it’s the last one that really steers the ship. Before I get to that, though, I want to touch on the lesser factors.

First and foremost is the product. Hollywood is experiencing a slump because the movies that have been coming out are pure garbage. That’s so apparent it’s almost ridiculous to point it out. It has to be mentioned, though, because it falls in line with the last reason. If you look at the films of the summer 2005, you saw comic book adaptations, remakes, and re-imagings of old television shows. Originality, with a few exceptions, was nowhere to be found. These movies weren’t exactly intellectually stimulating, either. To make a strange analogy, there’s a reason healthy people don’t make meals of candy.

Another problem is ticket prices. People see them as unreasonable. When I get to the solution stage, I’ll hit on this factor. Until then, however, we need to move on.

The MPAA is another Hollywood problem. What’s wrong with it? It’s worthless. Its rating system is killing films and audiences are starting to pick up on that. Why go see the ”censored” film in the theatres when the director’s cut will be out in six months? There’s no good reason. Let’s face it, a smart parent will read reviews of the film first before taking his or her kid to see it, and a movie with a title like “The Devil’s Rejects” obviously isn’t for kids. The ratings system stifles creativity and hinders advertising. It is dangerous to the purity of film and needs to be abolished. At the very least, it needs a drastic overhaul. It’s the equivalent of using chemo therapy to cure a sinus headache.

All these things are contributing to the death of big budget pictures and a studio system more concerned with money than art. But there is one factor that overrides all these things and actually has the ability to render them moot.

The audience.

That’s right, the audience is the main reason Hollywood is dying. The unobservant person would say that Hollywood underestimates its audience’s intelligence by releasing stuff like “The Dukes of Hazard.” The realist would say that Hollywood got it exactly right, and I’m a realist. The audience demands nothing from film anymore. People see movies they are positive will suck simply because there is nothing else to do, and they don’t care about plot or originality. They want familiar properties and special effects. The audience goes into movies with low expectations and is rarely let down. And Hollywood continues to pump out product to placate these slobbering masses, and the masses don’t care, either. They are happy to part with their money. The proof is right there in the weekly box office totals, but those dollar figures are declining, and that’s the beauty of the audience. Eventually it gets tired of the same old same old and moves on. The revenue being lost is going at a rate just above a trickle, but once the well runs dry – that’s it.

There are some solutions to this problem that I haven’t touched on before in previous columns. The first is ticket prices. I actually feel they are too low. I’ll repeat that in case you think you read it wrong. I actually feel they are too low. Let’s face it, would the “Fantastic Four” have done as well if you had to pay thirty bucks to see it? No. There is a threshold, even for the idiots. I would’ve paid thirty dollars to see “The Devil’s Rejects” because I believed in Rob Zombie’s vision. I paid nearly thirty dollars to see “Haute Tension” the way it was meant to be seen. Cinemaphiles will pay. Easily distracted pig people will not. Higher ticket prices, exceptionally higher ticket prices, will mean we’ll see less crap like “Must Love Dogs.” It won’t pay to make those movies. So how do you determine the price of tickets?

The ticket price should be set by the film’s budget. The higher the film’s budget, the more you should pay to see it. After all, Hollywood can use the excuse that the more money that is sunk into a film means the more you’ll get out of it. Let the audience figure out for itself if that is true. Bigger stars and bigger special effects will mean bigger ticket prices. The car industry works the same way. Luxury cars cost more, and blockbusters should cost more to see than indie films. I’d love to see this come into play, and I’d like all of you who agree to start promoting this idea in every forum possible.

The next thing we can do to change things for the best is to ridicule the people who see these garbage films and make a promise to never give in and watch a movie we just know will be bad before we ever see it. I’d even go so far as to say we should see nothing that isn’t original. No remakes. No adaptations. (Sequels are still okay.) I won’t pay to see something that isn’t an original story. You should do the same. And for those who insist on seeing a movie “that looks like crap” because they “have nothing better to do”? Scorn. Embarrassment. Shame. (At the very least, make them justify their decision.) These are powerful motivators and controlling mechanisms. Use them accordingly. If enough people do this, we can make an even bigger dent in Hollywood’s profit margin.

Let’s face it, for those who love film and consider it more than simple entertainment, these methods I’m proposing aren’t just there to get rid of the crap. They are there to educate the public about this art form we know and love. They will be used to open people’s eyes. They may seem cruel, but this is a battle for the integrity of film. It has to be cruel. If ticket prices have to soar to keep people from seeing garbage, then so be it. If a person has to be made to feel like a moron for taking in “Bewitched,” what better reason? Maybe they’ll think twice in the future. And, hey, if they really like seeing crap, then there’s not much you can do for them anyway, so you can just ignore them and their recommendations in the future.

Higher ticket prices and shame. Who would’ve thought these two simple things would be enough to solve such a huge problem? In the end, everyone wins. Hollywood will make a profit (but only after taking an initial loss) because it will finally be able to pinpoint exactly what will make it money. Film lovers who appreciate the artistic side of things will get more films they can watch, and the fools who like sizzle instead of steak? They can pay for it, and pay dearly.

The problem has provided the solution. Make the audience pay, Hollywood. And you Film Threat readers — the ones who get what I’m saying — you make them pay, too. It’s your duty. It’s your call. If you can stop one person from seeing “Stealth,” you’ve done your job. And if we can get Hollywood to make the experience a bit more painful in the wallet, we will have won.

Get in the trenches, folks. This one’s gonna be fun.

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