Saturday, April 30, 2011

This is the Recession the Box Office has to Have

For those of you out there that follow Australian politics, you might remember this quote by former Treasurer and Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating.

"This is the Recession that Australia had to have"

And at the moment, it would seem the Box Office is going through the same thing, with 4 lacklustre months in the Box Office (the current top grosser at present is Rango which is about $117 million dollars), it would seem that this may be the recession the Box Office has to have.

But what caused this, what events led to this happening, well dear reader let me count the ways:

1. Limited Sessions:

Cinemas depend very much on the right session times and in some cases of late, the movies only seem to get the ideal session times at times when people's chances of getting to those films may be limited and when they can get a chance to get to it, that film will have played for about 2 or 3 weeks and as a result it will most likely be on its final weeks or final week.

Which only makes things worse if that person happens to be a traveller also and doesn't have the luxury of having that movie in their living area, as a result they either have to miss that film or wait for the disc.

2. Limited Showing Weeks:

Recently I had a chance to see Google's Amazing News Archive of old newspapers from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, two major newspapers here in Australia and in one of those issues it showed Top Gun playing for 47 Weeks, almost a year in cinemas.

In this day and age that is absurd but reading that got my thinking, what if theatres returned to that as a way of getting people back to the cinemas because most movies these days run on average of about 2-3 weeks (the recent release Sucker Punch comes to mind) if some films are lucky (Avatar and The King's Speech being two of them) they might go on longer for about 4 or 5 weeks but again it feeds into the first point, which is that limitation of cinema showings which can also be incredibly damaging to a movie's theatrical run.

3. Emphasis on Children's Films:

At the moment, most of the prime time sessions are going to children's films, no doubt due to it being School Holidays at the moment and cinema chains will be eager to entice young kids and their families to come to the cinema.

But it also I think feeds into a much bigger problem, and that is a complete lack of movies for adults as most of those like Wall Street 2 to use as an example are pushed back to very late in the afternoon and the evenings, as a result it becomes harder for those movies to make some money from the sessions and justify staying in cinemas for longer than the exhibitors will be wanting to keep it if it's becoming nothing more than a drain on session bookings they might want to start using for future pictures or ones that are more successful.

But lastly, even if that movie and for this example I'll use Peter Weir's The Way Back, there's also every chance that the studio backing it may decide not to give it a wide release which again can limit on its exhibition and grossage which is what happened to Way Back, it was given a very small and limited theatrical release in Feburary and was gone before most people had a chance to see it.

4. High Prices

Probably the last reason on this list is the issue of high ticket prices in some cases, which for adults can be as high as $20 on average plus on top of that you add another $10-$15 on average for Popcorn and Drinks plus the surcharge if it happens to be a 3D screening.

Now for most people that is a fair chunk of change and that again can limit the number of people that go to a cinema session or out for that night altogether as they might decide to stay in that night feeling that they won't be able to afford it and as they say, it's the little things in life that make it worth living.

But some of you are probably asking the Question "What can be Done about it?" and to be honest with you, I just don't know, I guess it will depend on how the rest of the year plays out, what with the blockbuster season just now starting to kick off with Thor and in all honesty, there may very well be little that can be done about it.

But for now it seems, it would appear that we are indeed in a Box Office Recession, whether it's a short or long one remains to be seen.

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