erik lundegaard

Movie Attendance Up Thanks to...WTF?

Can Michael Cieply and Brookes Barnes, the two reporters covering the movie industry for The New York Times, write any article that doesn’t piss me off? Are they bad writers or do they merely have bad editors?

In today’s Times, they have a front-page, below-the-fold piece on how the movie industry is doing well in tough times. And it is. So far this year, ticket sales — not just box office, which is inflationary and thus easy to mask — but tickets sales are up 17.5 percent. Then Cieply and Barnes give us other, interesting stats. Ticket sales also increased by double digits in 1982, a time of unemployment and inflation (and “E.T.”), and in 1989, a time —although they don’t mention it — of rising inflation (and Michael Keaton’s “Batman”).

I even like their insider quote for a change. Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society (who knew?), says, of this year’s attendance jump, “It’s not rocket science. People want to forget their troubles, and they want to be with other people.”

All well and good. Then more than halfway through the piece, Barnes and Cieply forget that it’s not rocket science. They give us this graf:
The film industry appears to have had a hand in its recent good luck. Over the last year or two, studios have released movies that are happier, scarier or just less depressing than what came before. After poor results for a spate of serious dramas built around the Middle East (“The Kingdom,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Rendition”), Hollywood got back to comedies like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” a review-proof lark about an overstuffed security guard.

What-the-effin’ eff, mother-effer!?!

OK, the big problems with this graf:

  1. Those serious dramas were released in the fall of 2007. “Paul Blart” was released in January 2009. Why compare these two items? Wouldn’t it make more sense to compare “Paul Blart” with what the studios released in January ’08 or ’07? Why go back to the fall of ’07 and those poor, over-commented-upon Middle East releases?
  2. The phrase “got back to.” Hollywood “got back to” comedies like “Paul Blart”? Sheeeeeeeyit. Hollywood never left comedies like “Paul Blart.” These things have always been around, particularly in the early months of the year. “Blart” is certainly doing better business than most ($123 million and counting) but I’d argue it doesn’t have much to do with “Paul Blart.” I’d argue it has to do with these tough economic times. In fact, isn't that what the whole article is about?

But of course the film industry wants to take credit, at least partial credit, for this uptake in attendance, and Cieply and Barnes are obliging them with this fatuous graf that compares apples and orangutans.

Dudes: Cover the industry. Don’t cover for the industry.

I’m also amused that we get the actual movie attendance numbers in a year when actual movie attendance is up. We don’t hear a whisper of it during years (i.e., most of the time) when it’s down. More good reporting.

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Posted at 11:09 AM on Sun. Mar 01, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office  

COMMENTS

Mister B wrote:

Personally, I tend to think that 2008 was an up year at the box office DESPITE the crap that took up most of the ad and theatre space.

There isn't going be a Dark Knight riding into your local googleplex in matte-black armor every summer.
Comment posted on Mon. Mar 02, 2009 at 09:15 AM

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