Casablanca, The Chinese And A Marriage Proposal

A plane sits on a runway just outside of Casablanca. Victor Laszlo, Czech resistance leader and his wife, Ilsa Lund are due to make their escape. Rick Blaine gun runner and sometime bar owner waits with two letters of passage in the front pocket. Ilsa, deeply in love with Blaine fully intends to tell Laszlo just before he gets on the the plane, that it is Blaine she loves and she must leave him. In probably the one of greatest act of altruism ever seen on screen, Blaine realizing the importance of Laszlo in the fight against the Nazi’s makes Ilsa go with Laszlo, sacrificing his love for the betterment of the struggle against evil.

Ilsa gets on the plane, with more than deep regret. They leave. Colonel Strasser, the Nazi Overlord of the Vichy outpost arrives to stop the escape and is shot dead by Colonel Louis Renault, the local Vichy chief of police. Both Rick and Renault fully realize that their fates have just been deeply altered and their lies in no longer being neutral. Renault suggests to Rick that they join the Free French in Brazzaville.

As they slowly walk away into the night fog on their way to an uncertain future, Rick says, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Roll credits.

It is a movie made in 1942 that still captures our imagination and has made a deep impact on our collective culture.

Industry analysts had made the many claims about the summer of 2015. It would blow away 2014, revenues would be up maybe up to 15% than yada yada yada.

It has been a quiet Memorial Day weekend at the movies. Disney’s sci fi-adventure film Tomorrowland opened to an estimated three-day total of $32.2 million, and estimates have it on track to bring in about $41 million through by the end of the weekend. That gives it a slight lead over Pitch Perfect 2, which took in an estimated $30.3 million in its second week.

All in all, the box office totals this weekend won’t come close to past Memorial Day numbers. Big openings from Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III set the Memorial Day weekend record in 2013, with $254.6 million over three days and $314.2 million over four. This year’s totals are expected to come in around $150 million for three days and about $190 million with Monday added in.

Three-day total ticket sales were about $151 million, a decline from a year earlier when they tallied $186.7 million and much less than 2013’s “Fast & Furious 6”-fueled record take of $254.6 million, said researcher Rentrak Corp. This marks the first year since 2012 that the long weekend hasn’t seen a film open with $100 million in domestic ticket sales.

Walt Disney’s Avengers: Age of Ultron will cross the $400 million mark in America this weekend becoming the 20th film in box office history to do so. It also crossed $200m in China, but that’s another discussion. The film has earned $403m domestic as of today and a whopping $1.263b worldwide.

Here is what the balance of the summer predictions look like.

Given the bell weather that Memorial Day usually represents, it is this writers belief that all the summer movie predictions have been over-inflated by at least 20-25%.

A tell tale stat and a solid indication of where the emerging market focus is the fact that Avengers did $200 million in China Box Office. The Chinese average ticket price runs around $5.30 where the ticket price in the USA averages $8.17. Hollywood knows that very soon it’s largest market will be China and not the USA.

Because of the tendency for large effects laden behemoth of movies like 80% referred to in the list above will continue to be the product coming out of Hollywood. Five miles from where the airport scene in Casablanca was shot, Van Nuys Airport people shall be scheme and dreaming to gain the lions share of the Chinese market.

Smaller films, independent films, comedies will be ignored as the Hollywood money vacuum attempts to inhale as many dollars it can from the newly opened Chinese market. It is a classic tale of trying to be all things to all people. The Chinese culture is unique, with a distinct form of drama, action and storytelling in general. What Hollywood will keep producing is empty product that attempts to deal in some strange form of entertainment not satisfying either Western or Eastern culture.

This will be the summer that it will made more than clear that Hollywood has forgotten its base. It has forgotten that its foundation is making American stories about American people that the world is curious about. There is not more space from great human dramas like Casablanca, if made today it would find itself relegated to the Lifetime or Hallmark Channel.

It is really time independent producers, the folks that really care about the future of an American voice in world cinema reach out and partner with the drive-in and theatre owners. That they begin to ignore the studio machinations a define a far more holistic relationship based on proper windows. The crack are showing.

The time for change is now and hopefully if independents and theatres can come to the realization that they need each other badly. If the realization comes that they need each other to survive in this rapidly changing market, then hopefully in the words of Rick Blaine.

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”

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