by Louis Otero
The summer was rough for Hollywood. It’s hard to look at sales figures that sit in the hundreds of millions and see that as a sign of bad business, but this is the summer box office we are talking about. These used to be the months where Hollywood reigned supreme. Hollywood execs would release big tent poles, collect their earnings, and then presumably swim in a room full of gold like Scrooge McDuck. This summer, however, Hollywood has faced a steep 15 percent decline in revenue.
Last week, The New York Times published an article in which Brett Ratner, director of several terrible movies (“X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Movie 43”), blamed Rotten Tomatoes for the decline in box office sales. Rotten Tomatoes is a website that complies critics’ reviews from hundreds of different sources online, assigning each a “fresh” (positive) or “rotten” (negative) status. Those reviews are then boiled down to a percentage. So if the horror film “IT” currently sits at a 85 percent, that means that 85 percent of “IT” reviews were positive. Note, this doesn’t mean the movie received glowing reviews. Even a lukewarm reception could be marked as a “fresh” review.
Now that you understand how it works, hopefully you can see what the real issue is here: Hollywood is churning out a lot of garbage movies, which are, in turn, receiving low scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Unsurprisingly, people don’t like to pay for things they won’t enjoy. It’s the same reason why you don’t see a ton of services where you pay to get punched in the face. To blame a website that saves consumers from paying for Hollywood’s lazy, soulless, cash-grabs is a frustrating and offensive response to its failures.
Given this current state of the industry, it is difficult to comprehend AMC’s reaction to MoviePass, the service that allows you to pay a low monthly rate to see as many movies in the theater as you’d like. Maybe 15 years ago, negative reviews wouldn’t have had such an impact, but going to the movies is very expensive in 2017. In some theaters, standard movie tickets can cost up to $20. So, why would a suffering company like AMC try to turn away a service that would not only promote ticket sales, but in turn promote concession purchases? In its statement, AMC condemned the service, claiming it would set unrealistic expectations for audiences. Whether or not MoviePass’ model is sustainable should be of no consequence to the theater chain, as all ticket sales are going to be paid, in full, by the service.
Take a step back and look at how significant sectors of the industry have reacted to the events of the past few months. Within a month, they blamed negative reviews rather than looking inward for their poor sales, and then condemned a service that could help them bounce back without actually fixing their movies. This regressive attitude leaves us wondering just what the future of the movie industry looks likes, when instead of changing with the times, they avoid innovation like old, flaccid men. Let’s just hope they don’t try to fix their problems with a new, overpriced, and unnecessary format like 4D.