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Dead At The Box Office
By Ed Driscoll · March 6, 2007 07:24 PM · Hollywood, Interrupted

Clive Davis links to a Neal Gabler piece on theory number 1,237,325 on why the Era Of Big Cinema Is Over (to coin an article title). Gabler's take? The tabloids killed it:

Today, movies just don't seem to matter in the same way — not to the general public and not to the high culture either... Two years ago, writing in these pages, I described an ever-growing culture of knowingness, especially among young people, in which being regarded as part of an informational elite — an elite that knew which celebrities were dating each other, which had had plastic surgery, who was in rehab, etc. — was more gratifying than the conventional pleasures of moviegoing.

In this culture, the intrinsic value of a movie, or of most conventional entertainments, has diminished. Their job now is essentially to provide stars for People, Us, "Entertainment Tonight" and the supermarket tabloids, which exhibit the new "movies" — the stars' life sagas.

Traditional movies have a very difficult time competing against these real-life stories, whether it is the shenanigans of TomKat or Brangelina, Anna Nicole Smith's death or Britney Spears' latest breakdown.

Isn't that bass-ackwards though? The reason isn't the rise of additional outlets for gossip, but the fact that Hollywood can't craft stories compelling enough to overcome all of the existing tabloid talk and give moviegoers a reason to return to theaters in numbers sufficient to be consistently profitable.

Nina and I had dinner at the Museum of Modern Art's new restaurant on Sunday with a movie theater owner who cited many of the recent theories being proffered regarding why the industry isn't raking in the same level of box office as it used to: including texting cell phones, videogames, and, as Gabler wrote above, the tabloids and reality TV. But to me the answer is closer to these 2005 pieces by Mark Steyn and Brian Anderson: political correctness has both dumbed down the writing and severely limited the stories the movie industry can tell.

Clive Davis writes in response to Gabler, "perhaps that means that the grown-ups will be allowed to go back to telling serious stories for serious, non-popcorn audiences. Or am I just starry-eyed?"

I'd like to think it's possible, but at the moment, I just can't see the industry rising above the severe mental handcuffs it has imposed upon itself. As for talent outside of mainstream Hollywood, as Jason Apuzzo writes, "We live in an era in which there may be better — and cheaper — film equipment available at your local Apple Store or Fry’s Electronics than is available at your film school (or at your Hollywood studio, frankly)". But until someone emerges who can put all the pieces together, for the foreseeable future, the movie industry has a Red Queen's Race of its own to deal with.

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