Box office: the massacre of as Hollywood flopped this summer
For Hollywood, summer has been a disaster movie. US ticket sales are the lowest of the last decades, the landscape is littered with the tired franchise, and broken tentpoles, and the majority of studies do not have two blockbusters to rub together. That is a shame, because the blockbusters are now the only game in town. The studios have always been to paint themselves into a corner through the release of less, the most expensive film at the expense of mid-range drama, which has practically defected to the television.
In conjunction with this trend has been a steady increase in ticket prices. Effects movies the application of state-of-the-art projection and sound, 3D, Imax, Dolby Atmos, all with a prize. A night at the cinema, now is a great investment, especially in the UNITED kingdom, which has some of the highest prices in the world. (UK average in 2016 is £7.41, but in a decent London cinema you are looking £20). A problem is that the price of the ticket is the same for any film. Punters want to get their money’s worth, so you can hardly blame them for choosing the big-budget popcorn splurge on-Screen 1 on thoughtful indie on the Screen 12. It is not a “level playing field”; more like a Premier League football team competing against the local minnows.
Pyramid scheme … The mother of Tom Cruise, shields, co-star Annabelle Wallis from the film less the box office takings. Photograph: Universal/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock
So, here’s a hint: a two-tier system of the cinema. The blockbuster in a league, and a separate circuit for the low-budget film, with much cheaper tickets. For a long period of time, this is how movies work. The term “B-movie”, now applies to something vaguely low-budget and/or trash, but from about the 1930s to the 1960s, B-movie and second level: more economic, more short film that often played before the “A” feature. A-movies were the prestige star vehicles and B-movies are often lowbrow, formulaic genre fare: horror, sci-fi, action movies, often part of a series, in other words, the stuff of modern-day blockbusters.
Now it is in serious dramas that are B-movies, pushed to the margins, along with what we used to call “arthouse” films: challenging, non-mainstream, perhaps the foreign films. These are the cinema’s endangered species. So why not put them all in a separate type of cinema, and charge half the price? It would be much cheaper night out for the punters and a testing ground for new talent. Many directors and actors cut their teeth on B-movies, from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, Val Lewton, Sam Fuller, don’t forget Roger Corman B-movie production line, which pumped new blood in Hollywood the last time needed a transfusion (Jack Nicholson), Coppola, Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron). Might do it again.