Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Movie Season

The Hollywood film releasing pattern gets more and more condensed and bizarre every year when it comes the Holidays. The supercondensed release of virtually all the quality/artistic movies in the matter of a few weeks does nothing to help those movies find an audience, or build a consistent cinema culture over the course of the year. Why is a movie like Wendy and Lucy, which is very unlikely to get any real academy love, getting a release during the busiest part of the Oscar season? Surely it would be more likely to find an audience during the summer when a quality drama stands out, and isn’t struggling just to get on a screen.

But, it’s not just arty movies that are piling up, the next two weeks are just absurd with the amount of huge budget, big star films colliding into each, searching for the same limited audience on a small amount of screens. Was this simply a case of nobody blinking, or did they really think it was a good idea to release all these movies at once? Take a look at what’s coming out between now and Christmas on the blockbuster end of things: Seven Pounds, Yes Man, Bedtime Stories, Valkyrie, The Spirit, The Tale of Desperaux and Marley & Me. These are seven movies that would easily win a weekend in September or March, why are they being clumped on top of each other? At least three of these movies are going to get totally lost in the shuffle and bomb, I’m thinking Valkyrie and The Spirit will be at the top of that bomb list. I get that a lot of people go to the movies on Christmas, but this is like trying to get people to go to an all you can eat buffet right after Thanksgiving dinner, there’s only so much room.

And, the art film world is just as full. Benjamin Button is going to have a hard type competing against all these films, and if it gets a lukewarm reception like Australia did, it’s going to lose a lot of money. The problem with studios is that they feel like the only way to make money off quality films is to get Academy Award nominations. So, they dump every good movie made during the year out in a few weeks, all in the hopes of being one of the two or three films that will actually get nominated, and parlay that buzz to big box office. Good movies get lost in the shuffle, and that means that fewer good movies are going to be made in the future.

I think it hurts everyone who really loves film when a movie like Australia bombs. Say what you will about the end result, but it’s so rare that an auteur gets the chance to make a movie on that scale, we should support them when they come along.

The arrival of the holiday season means we’re nearing the end of the year, and that means top 10 list season. I’m going to start writing up my various top ten lists soon, nothing too radical this year, but there’s some surprises. And, I’ve still got a bunch of films to see before my list is finalized.

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