Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Our constituency? Our butts and our wallets.

The Movies:

"Keep in mind [that] one of the reasons why the FBI or the government or business are the villains is because everyone else has a constituency."
Former Motion Picture Association head Jack Valenti
This opus on Hollywood's decline in butts in seats is an eye opener, or an eye popper. City Journal's Brian C. Anderson opened my eyes and then details some history and statistics that had them popping. Did you know that Clint Eastwood's True Crime was written about a white man unfairly condemned to death so that the state could demonstrate racial parity in executions, then was re-written replacing the white man with a black man (the PC constituency)? Did you know that CAIR's lobbying, threats and extortion (the Islamofacist constituency) got Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears, about Islamofacist terrorists, changed to white supremacist terrorists?

But it is the numbers that are eye popping. Get this; from 1989 through 2003:
Only five of the 50 top-grossing movies of all time have R ratings, and 13 of the top 100. A big 2005 Dove Foundation study examined the 3,000 most widely distributed Hollywood movies from 1989 through 2003 in each ratings category. It found PG and PG-13 - rated films between three and four times more profitable on average than R-rated ones, and G films more profitable still.
R-rated movies; The average R-rated movie lost $6.9 million.
PG-rated movies; The average PG-rated movie made $30 million.
G-rated movies; The average G-rated movie made $70 million.
250 top grossing movies over the last three years; films expressing a strong traditional moral message, whatever their ratings, earned four to seven times as much as movies pushing a left-wing cultural agenda.

Anderson then delves into some of the specific big winners and why they were winners.

Lord of the Rings - three installments. The trilogy "teaches us about the need for free men and women to stand up with military force to totalitarian evil - and about the potential of power to corrupt even the most decent from within. Many observers have likened Mordor’s destructive horror in the movies to the Islamofascism that now threatens the West, just as readers of Tolkien’s novels likened it to Nazism." Cost to produce: about $300 million. Gross-to-date: Over $3 billion.

The Incredibles (2004): this movie takes on everything from spurious lawsuit-happy tort lawyers to PC parity in celebration of mediocrity to embracing the "bourgeois family, flaws and all." Domestic gross: $261 million - with overseas frosses and DVD sales, probably approaching a billion dollars.

Spiderman 2: "The movie is a fable about duty and heroism." Gross: about a billion dolars, domestic plus overseas plus DVD's.

Saving Private Ryan: "devastatingly realistic in capturing the horror of military combat, also extols martial virtues, in the heroism and honor of U.S. soldiers." Cost to produce and distribute: about $90 million; worldwide gross over $500 million with DVD sales at least another $100 million.

The Passion of the Christ: "the 2004 movie that became a flashpoint in the nation’s culture wars." Cost to make: $30 million (all Mel Gibson's own money). Gross: over $600 million plus DVD sales, or more than 2000% ROI, one of the all-time most profitable movies ever made.

Others mentioned: Cast Away which "makes us keenly aware of the benefits - the immense human achievement - of an advanced capitalist society", "depicts a big corporation as a caring and effective organization (when Noland returns after his rescue, FedEx takes him in like a long-lost family member)", and "quietly repudiates the sexual revolution, too. Reunited with his true love, Kelly, Noland discovers that she has married and is a mother. The meeting is overwhelming for both - it’s clear that Kelly still loves Noland, and his love for her, we know, has kept him going through his years of solitude. But Noland recognizes that his own happiness isn’t paramount. 'You gotta go home now,' he says to Kelly, tearfully: there’s now a family involved, and the family is the basic institution of the civilized order he has rejoined."

Finding Nemo, the low-budget smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "virtually an ethnic Father Knows Best", March of the Penguins, and Forest Gump ("which conservatives applauded as a repudiation of the sixties"), all highly profitable and carrying G or PG ratings and telling stories with mainstream values extolled.

I grew up watching the counterculture blockbusters like Bonnie and Clyde (1967), M.A.S.H. (1970), Shampoo (1975), and Martin Scorcese’s "urban nightmare" Taxi Driver (1976), all of which "wowed critics, who shared their anti-establishment and anti-American attitudes." These movies were all highly acclaimed at the time and were profitable, but the butts-in-seats declined by over 50% in 1967 alone - from 38 million in 1966 to 17.6 million in 1967. Butts-in-seats didn't hit the 30 million mark again until 2002 and 2003, more than 3 decades later. And the 1966 figure of 38 million butts-in-seats remains a dream, especially in light of this years 12% crash in movie attendance.

But is Hollywood listening? I don't think so, because Anderson's research shows that the "Hollywood of Barbra Streisand, Rob Reiner, and Alec Baldwin may still not get it."
Libertas’s Murty (Govindini Murty, actress and editor) says that a publicist for Ridley Scott’s expensive 2005 flop about the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven, asked her and her filmmaker husband, Jason Apuzzo, for advice on marketing the film to conservatives and Christians. Invited to a press screening along with representatives of various Christian groups, the two watched in disbelief as the movie opened with a Catholic priest beheading a woman and stealing her rosary - and went on in that vein, while also presenting the Muslims as noble and wise. "Every single person directly associated with the Church in the movie is a murderer or a liar. They really thought this would appeal to Christians," Murty recounts. "Some of these people live in this completely sealed world in West Hollywood and didn’t register how offensive the movie would be."
Keep it up guys, and your new icon will soon look like this:

Others commenting on Hollywood's headlong rush to irrelevency - and not all agree:

Roger L. Simon - the problems for Hollywood are deeper than politics
Cardinal Martini - Good and evil, truth, honor, and the rest of it are good stuff.
Mr. Blonde's Garage - He doesn't buy it.
Out the Spout - wonders if they have ever had love for country.
World O'Crap - isn't buying it either.
Professor Bainbridge - . . . their wallets are their Achilles Heel.
Kicking Over My Traces - the time may be a-changing.


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