In the 1930s, eighty million people went to the movies every week, with weekly attendance peaking at ninety million in 1930′;s and again in the mid-1940s. Now at best about thirty million people go to the movies every year. This with with a population which is two and a half times the size that it is was in the 1930’s. We all can agtree that audiences havbe far more forms of distraction, but market shrinkage like that has occured in the cinema business, can be nothing but defined as alarming.
By the 1980s, due the machinations of such short sighted industry leadership like a Lew Wasserman and Sid Scheinberg the business of movies was altered to be largely event-driven. Larger release patterns, the rise of the multiplex diminished the experience. Names like Lucas and Spielberg began the bizarre dance of spectacle and over bloated CGI. Event movies that beckons an audiences away from their TV screens for the opening weekend then the demand quickly dies. We now have a movie business culture that is so out of skew with its audience that its ability to serve that the future of the art form and business known as movies is now in serious doubt.
I come from an age when I still fondly remember sitting in a packed 1200 seat theatre. The air hung with excitement, the anticipation prior to the feature presentation was palpable and it was more than cool to talk about movie you just saw. Films were released on a smaller basis and word of mouth was allowed to create a need to see as a result market demand could be relied upon. Reviewers like Pauline Kael, Charles Champlin, Roger Ebert and Rex Reed held great market sway and were guides on great cinematic adventures of discovery. Fellini, DeSica, Truffaut, Hitchcock, Godard were revered and often mentioned. The movies were at the same time both an art and a business. It was a marriage of convenience that from the outside seemed to work.
Slowly and purposefully the creeping kudzu of greed of the America business culture that arose out of the cult of Reaganism began to erode and pervert over 100 years of cinematic history. Movies started being about numbers, box office, marketing tie-ins, product placement and a movies bottom line became the sole arbiter of cinematic success and failure. The rising business culture which had the need to constantly measure wealth is the same cancer which gripped the film industry. The need to measure business success and failure should have remained pursuit that was best contained behind closed doors.
Hollywood as an industry and as a process has solidly abandoned independent and smaller cinema. They do not care about non tent pole movies, they do not comprehend independent films and they will at every turn seek to subvert its goals and its aspirations. No matter what pretense they exhibit yearly at the increasingly non-important Sundance Film Festival, independent and small cinema has been orphaned in a very final manner.
It is time to let an alternative process and business arise. The market is more than hungry for it, the market in increasingly antagonize and frustrated by the arrogance and capriciousness of Hollywood. The 10,000 independent theatres screens need the independent film industry to shake off its Hollywood aspirations. These folks are constantly under siege by an industry which demands 62% of every box office dollar for new releases. They are hungry to be offered a choice,.
There is enough talent looking for a new distribution avenue and they are desperate to keep the tradition of the American Movie alive. Sadly, the sickness inflicting American cinema right now is very real and it has been accelerating for the past three decades .The sameness of Hollywood releases is rapidly dulling and annoying the marketplace. Most of the time moviegoers cannot find anything to see. This industry is in terrible crisis which is not going to end anytime soon.
There is a future and that future means inventing a new form of distribution and better theatrical access. The future might reside in the crowded bowels of Youtube. The zero budget movies might even takes off if they assume the discipline and structure of film making when film making was great. It is time to re-invent this business of movies.
It is time to look back on the 1930’s and 40’s when the needs and aspiration of an American audience truly excited and compelled viewership.