Saturday, August 04, 2007

On the stupidity of movie audiences. 

People are only as dumb as you treat them.

I state this right off the bat as a kind of thesis statement, to myself more than to anyone else. It's a mantra, and one I often forget in my race to become a crotchety, misanthropic old man roughly 40 years ahead of schedule. I forget that at heart I'm basically an optimist. This doesn't mean that I see only good in people, or some such nonsense as that; I just assume that everyone deserves at least as much respect and consideration as myself. Considering some of the boners I've pulled in my life, and have subsequently been forgiven for, I should give other folks some slack.

Anyway. The mantra:

People are only as dumb as you treat them.

And my experience tonight at the theatre (I can't ever spell it "theater" for some goddamn reason) brought that thought to the fore again. I'd gone with my mom to catch The Bourne Ultimatum, whose three prime time showings (7:00, 7:45, and 8:30) turned out to be sold out. We opted instead for Ratatouille. My mom hadn't seen it yet, but I have, some two weeks before its release at a critic screening. Oh well; it's not like seeing a Brad Bird movie a second time is a chore.

We walked in during the previews, which I hate doing. And what previews did we get, shown before this masterful entry into the Pixar catalogue? What movies were advertised, with the theatre chain's implicit belief that those who would like Ratatouille would also enjoy?

Daddy Day Camp.

Mr. Bean.

There is this belief in mainstream movie making, I guess, that the only way to snare kids is with lame bathroom jokes and physical comedy so broad you could sail the Titanic through it. And, for that matter, that the only way to get teenage girls to get their asses in the seats is to talk to them as if they are all shallow, superficial shopping addicts.

They believe our kids are fucking idiots, in other words. Adults, too. I'm not sure how else you explain the existence of No Reservations.

And yet, here I was seeing a family movie (remember: in a perfect world, family movie means appeals to everyone in the family, not pratfalls with pop culture references) some five weeks after its release... and it was a full house. While the studios are doing everything they can to pump out a release that will make the majority of its box office take in the first 7 days before bowing out three weeks later in a desperate attempt to nail meaningless honorariums (highest grossing comedy starring a fat guy and a skinny guy opening in June!), this one was still packing them in. On the other side of the movie theatre, The Bourne Ultimatum -- the third in an action franchise whose primary reason for being a "sleeper success" is that it doesn't think its audience is, you know, made up of fucking morons -- had sold out three showtimes in houses that seat 400+ people. Nevermind how it did last night or how it'll do tomorrow afternoon.

So, you know, people are responding to the good stuff. I've got no doubts there were a lot of people seeing Bratz or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Stupid Bullshit. But I wonder which audiences will have had a more fulfilling experience? I wonder which audiences will remember anything -- anything at all -- about their viewing experience a week from now? And I wonder what the audience size will be for Bratz in 5 weeks' time... if Bratz will be showing in five weeks' time at all?

Those are rhetorical questions.

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