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Gina Hall

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Too Busy to Get to the Theater, But We Still Want It Now

Posted: 03/29/2013 5:47 pm

The Place Beyond the Pines is the type of solid crime drama they don't make more of because studios don't think grown-ups go to the movies often enough. It's a pity, because it's an interesting script with a story structure reminiscent of Psycho, the ambition of a Greek tragedy and committed performances by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, directed by Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance. It's not a movie that's likely to garner the awards attention that catapulted six of the nine adult-oriented Best Picture nominees to $100 million at the box office. It falls into the category of good -- just not great.

Now, with my mild recommendation of the film, you may or may not be compelled to race to the theater this weekend to see it. And if you don't see it this weekend, it'll likely fade from your memory. You kinda wanted to see it, but, you know, life happens.

But what if it was available, say, for the price of a movie ticket or two to rent on your video-on-demand (VOD) service? It might not sound like a bad way to spend a Saturday night after you put the kids to bed or on a weeknight you don't have business drinks. You could see it while other people are talking about it, while people on YouTube are still spoofing it -- you could see it while it was still relevant.

The film industry has been lagging on the potential of day-and-date releases -- debuting a film theatrically while making it available simultaneously on VOD. A friend of mine recently emailed me from Chicago over the holidays. She had the flu, a kid and enough snow to keep her from going out. She wanted nothing more than to catch up on all the great movies she couldn't get out to see in the theater. There are millions of people in similar binds every weekend. Why are people missing out on good films when they don't have to and why is Hollywood missing out on this money?

An MPAA study that came out this week found that in 2012, there were 5.8 million people ages 40 to 49 who saw a film once a month or more, up from 3.3 million in 2011. Adults want to see movies, and the industry needs to make it easier for them. Just like my friend, there are millions of people who might see more than one movie a month if it was just delivered it to their home, which we are currently fully capable of doing.

The reason we don't? Well, it's hard to change a business model. People complain. The biggest whiners are the theaters owners who think that if people can see a movie in their homes, they won't come see it in the theater. I hate to shock theater owners, but these people aren't coming anyway. And I would venture to say that if these adults got more used to seeing movies on a weekly basis, theaters actually might get these people to visit if they find out they actually like the product being sold.

And of course filmmakers complain that movies are meant to be seen in a theater, and releasing something like A Place Beyond the Pines day-and-date robs viewers of the communal experience. Don't get me wrong, as a filmmaker myself, I love the theatrical experience. I saw Pines in a packed theater. It was great. But if filmmakers want to make grown-up movies, they're going to have to accept that grown-up responsibilities get in the way of people seeing films -- busy schedules, children, budgets, etc.

I don't have children (that I know of!), but from what I hear, babysitters are really expensive, making an hourly wage comparable to psychiatrists and lawyers, and adding that cost on top of tickets, food and parking can create financial havoc on family finances. My friends who do have kids really want to see movies when they come out but unfortunately, they don't, and they forget about them after opening weekend. Studio marketing teams simply don't have the budgets to create awareness campaigns for these smaller adult films and they typically fade away.

So if you're one of those folks stuck not getting out to see The Place Beyond the Pines this weekend, what can you do to make Hollywood move faster on day-and-date? Do what Americans do best -- complain. Complain on your blogs, your twitter feed, your Facebook pages. Film executives now get paid to follow those things, so help them earn that money.

 

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