Sacking Hollywood

In the past two weeks we have seen Sony Pictures in a cataclysmic free fall. They had pulled the film, “The Interview”, then at the last minute re-instated the release for Christmas day on a much smaller level. On Christmas Eve in wanton act of ill measured thought, Sony released the film out on various video on demand platform effectively giving the film a day and date release, poison to most theatre chains. The film did some business but not much. On Christmas Day true to it’s promise Anonymous released the film free onto the internet. A myriad of sites hosted free screenings of “The Interview”. It has been a disaster for Sony and the film industry in general with an approximate 3 million non paying views of this film. Sony fell on its own sword in a spectacular fashion. We live in interesting times. The situation with Sony and the rampant hacking still hang heavy in the news. Now various independent sources have moved blame away from North Korea and toward independent networks of hackers. What the whole episode revealed with diamond like clarity, is that the movies studios, all of them have ceased being able stewards of America cinematic tradition and as well repeatedly fumble the financial interests of the motion picture industry. There exists within Hollywood a crisis of competency and execution. The foundations of the movie studios was built by men who knew how to theatrically exhibit motion pictures. They knew the full value of the collective cinematic experience and when television and VHS arrived they knew the value of distancing the release between various mediums in order to extract a premium revenue in each market and sub-market. The lessons of the past have been forgotten as cable executives grab the reins of the theatrical exhibition industry. To be crowned the head of movies studio is the sweet dream of all hordes of the cappucino sucking bureaucrats who have been installed to address the needs of their owners business cores, none of which ( with the exception of Lionsgate) is the pure business of cinema and cinema going. These companies either serve ultimately their cable and tv needs (Universal, Warners, Fox, Paramount, Disney) or they serve an ever confusing focus of a diminishing hardware manufacturer like Sony. The movie industry in its best form always flows from the theatres. It is the river from which all other windows DVD, VOD, Television and Foreign flow from. If you do not take care of that window then all other windows suffer. The theatrical exhibition of a motion picture is the accelerant for all other markets period. Ignore that market and the other markets suffer. It is simple but Hollywood has forgotten this key lesson. Within Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the fourth and final self-evident truth of this brilliant document is that is that when a government destroys rather than secures its citizens’ unalienable rights, those citizens have a right to revolution. This follows logically from the preceding principles. Government exists to protect rights; if it isn’t doing this, the people should get rid of it and set up a new one. I am strongly making the argument that it is time theatres and theatre owner apply this truth to their industry. It is time that the reins of cinema are taken away from these cable companies and placed into the hands of the theatre owners. It is time that the natural order of film and film distribution be put back into place and that a diverse and re-imagined industry based on lessons from the past be put into practices. Virtual Print Fees (VPF) should be recognized as an instrument of control and should be refused. In fact I would make the argument that there should be a fund which acknowledges the market impetus theatrical exhibition provides and maybe let theatres owners draw down co-ops advertising to improve box office performance. The hands around the throat of the theatres should be removed and the theatres should be allowed once again to build their markets around regional realities and not national programs. Theatres once again should give the audiences what they want and not what is spoon feed to the them by Hollywood. Lower budget releases, regional faith based releases, art house releases should be promoted aggressively into the theatres. A more diverse product offering should be encourage, enticing long forgotten demographics back into the theatres. What plays in Peoria does not have to play in New York. Smaller releases should be encouraged. The theatres industry should be reminded that in its heyday companies like Brenner, brought Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the screen, Compass launched Halloween upon the world and Roger Corman’s New World introduced to the wonders of Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut to American. Like in society and in business diversity means strength. There is a world of foreign cinema being denied American audiences. Every year hundreds of worthy film are being ignored because of a stratified market. Films of the quality of La Dolce Vita, 400 Blows Cinema Paradiso are falling by the wayside because of the lack of an open cinema market. Smaller American films like Easy Rider, Meatballs, American Graffiti, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail and the The Last Picture Show today would not be able to find their rightful place on the American Theatre screen if released today. The bloated infrastructure of movies studios and the constraints of publicly traded companies have adversely affected distribution efforts. Plus for the most part studios are lazy and are unwilling to do the work. The re-establishment of regional film exchanges controlled by a collective of regionally motivated theatres could be a first step. Cinema is dying because of the stifling choke hold has placed on it. It is time for theatre owners regain control of their own destiny and bring back the tradition of diverse film going. The large film studios have failed, “The Interview” have opened the drapes and have exposed the extent of Hollywood’s fumbling and lack of focus. They are no longer capable of moving cinema forward. For love of movies….. Hollywood needs a pink slip.