From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]borderstan.com.
My grandchildren were visiting last week — a blast with the grandparents before school started. So I took them — two children — to the movies at $13.00 each. We saw ParaNorman, the film their hearts, full of ad lore, were longing for. And I took the parents — two adults at $16.00 each. And myself — a senior at 13.25. There was extra for RealD 3-D. The total bill was $71.25
But then, we had to have snacks. I was looking for popcorn and M&Ms. The popcorn was OK, but there were no traditional M&M’s for sale — only peanut or pretzel M&Ms.
I was so outraged that I bought a box of SnoCaps to pass around. The grandchildren were mystified and only ate a few of these; they didn’t blend with the popcorn to give that special chocolate/popcorn taste that’s familiar to every American movie-going kid. The total bill was upwards of $30.
In one of the many commercials before the movie started, the camera pans over the Alps, the sea, and other sites of majestic nature before going into a familiar explosion as the screen image becomes smaller and smaller, finally shrinking to the size of an i-phone screen. A voice intones something about the loss when such gigantic images are forced onto small screens. It’s clear that movie makers are worried that home movies will steal away their customers.
3-D seemed an answer until the TV industry introduced home 3-D television. And so now the only response seems producing blockbuster films that seem, by their size and special effects, to be inappropriate for the home screen.
If ParaNorman is any example, though, Hollywood needs a better response. It needs to produce smaller, more intelligent, films, and charge less for them. ParaNorman could have been that kind of film if the demands of 3-D hadn’t forced it to feature lunging ghosts in every second scene. The requirements of 3-D violated a simple little ghost story based on the Salem witch trials so as to fill every episode with close encounters of a too familiar kind where Puritan ghosts, all of whom needed the attention of a dentist, jump out of the screen. Confusing and Boring!
Hollywood seems infected by this too-much-or-a-good-thing strategy. I found it in The Dark Knight Rises and even in Hope Rises where there is a challenge at every turn, even when the plot lags. Meanwhile, little films like Celeste and Jesse Forever and Beasts of the Southern Wild keep people buying tickets rather than waiting till it comes out on Netflicks or Infinity. Those are terrific independent films that don’t require popcorn to add to their entertainment value.
I like to go to movies at theaters, with real audiences, who laugh and cry along with me. I like needing to get dressed to go “out” rather than flopping on the couch to stare at my small TV screen for a random hour. But I would rather do that than pay another $100 to treat my grandkids. Hollywood, are you listening?