My Father Rails Against the Dog Days of Late-Summer Moviegoing ... in 1975
In early Sept. 1975, my father, movie critic for The Minneapolis Tribune in the '70s, and inspiration for the William H. Macy character in “Fargo,” wrote the below. Things haven't exactly changed. And if they have, it's in the wrong direction. Just look at that list of movies one could've seen in theaters in late-summer 1975: “Nashville,” “Love and Death,” “Jaws,” and a re-release of “Gone with the Wind.” Not to mention one of the Python movies. Wow. These days, we're happy if we're not too insulted by a late-summer movie.
I never did understand studio temerity during late summer and Labor Day, but according to the below it originated because the movies didn't want to compete with the new fall TV lineups. Yet with Netflix, amazon, et al., and a 365-day schedule, that's mostly a thing of the past. Isn't it? Surely a fun, interesting movie could clean up this weekend. But what did we get? A much-panned historical epic (“Tulip Fever”), a comedy from Mexico (“Hazlo con Hombre”) and various forgettable indies in limited releases. The result, according to the Box Office Mojo headline, is “the Worst Labor Day Weekend in 17 Years.” The highest grosser among new releases is indicative: The 40th anniversary re-release of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Which came out two years after Dad wrote the below.
Sep 11 1975
For years I thought that the term “dog days” owed its origin to the fact that the Dog Star was in its ascendancy in August. Nonsense. The phrase was coined by an irate moviegoer leafing through the amusement pages of his newspaper in a futile search for new, first-run movies in late summer. I haven’t seen such a profusion of canines since “1,001 Dalmations.” Most of them are such bombs they can’t be shown on airliners.
If you’ve already seen “Nashville,” “Love and Death” and “Monty Python,” and you don’t want to wait in line an hour to see “Jaws,” and you don’t want to see “Gone with the Wind” or “Clockwork Orange” for the umpteenth time, you’re out of luck these days. Unless, that is, you’re turned on by such turkeys as “White Line Fever,” “Blazing Stewardesses” and “Bucktown.” Or an Elliot Guould vehicle, aptly named “Who?,” that slipped into town last weekend, unheralded, and is departing today the same way.
Why is it that, with summer over for most of us, the kids back in school and a new television season starting, the film industry is still heavy on reruns and schlock? A local film distributor, who doesn’t agree with the policy but is at its mercy, says that the major companies prefer to wait “until the impetus of the new televion season has died down.”
And the prospects for the next month or so can be summed up by the name of one of the “stars” of “White Line Fever”: Slim Pickens. ....