Medved is wrong about films – as always

Michael Medved, the so-called film critic, who has now become another cranky conservative radio talk show host, wrote an Op-Ed piece for USA Today, on July 25, about why he thinks the film industry box office is in a slump this year. At least USA Today did the correct thing and put his peudo-critique in the Op-Ed section.

He writes:

Revealingly, none of the studio honchos talked about reconnecting with the public by adjusting the values conveyed by feature films, and replacing the industry’s shrill liberal posturing with a more balanced ideological perspective.

Something clearly changed between 2004 and 2005 to cause an abrupt drop-off at the box office, and the most obvious alteration involved Hollywood’s role in the bitterly fought presidential election. The entertainment establishment embraced John Kerry with near unanimity — and bashed George W. Bush with unprecedented ferocity.

Michael Moore became an industry hero and the most visible symbol of the Hollywood left. Innumerable callers to my radio show expressed resentment at the strident partisanship of top stars; no one ever complained about the lack of 3-D digital projection or alcoholic beverages at concession stands.

Despite efforts by entertainer activists, a majority of voters cast their ballots for Bush. If even a minority of those 62 million GOP voters — say, 20% — reacted to Hollywood’s electioneering by shunning the multiplex, it could easily account for the sharp decline in ticket sales after Bush’s re-election.

Another values-oriented phenomenon of last year similarly contributed to missing moviegoers: The Passion of the Christ earned $370 million by drawing religious-minded patrons who had long avoided movies altogether. Amazingly, no major release in the 17 months since the opening of The Passion attempted to appeal to that huge, wary churchgoing audience. Walt Disney Co. hopes that the faithful will flock to theaters during Christmas season to see the adaptation of the Christian allegory by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but that promised deliverance is still five
months away — an eternity in show business time.

Hollywood’s disconnect

So Medved believes that increases in DVD sales, high ticket prices, lack of a tent pole movie, tons of dreck retreads, and poor experiences at theaters had little to do with the current slump? He believes that Hollywood needs “Bush Love Fests” and more “Passion of the Christ” at theaters?

He claims that callers to his show prove his claim.

Meanwhile USA Today printed a poll on the same day and out of the 200 who responded, none mentioned the politics of the actors or the “values” of the film for the reason they do or don’t go the movies.

Movies as you like them

Which poll is more correct? One based on a narrow sample of people who agree with the host or the poll where 200 different people with different backgrounds responded.

The conservatives have gone to great lengths to discredit Michael Moore and his film “Fahrenheit 9/11” because of their petty political bickering. The fact is the film made more than $100 million in release and at one point ranked number one in American box office receipts despite being on the fewest number of screens than its mainstream competition. $100 million in domestic ticket sales is one mark of a successful movie in the US.

Why does Medved praise the high box office receipts of “The Passion of the Christ” yet dismisses Moore’s film which was also successful. If he wants to play the “popularity means it must be correct” then what spin can he put on the fact that Shrek 2, also released in 2004, grossed more money than Passion by June 27th 2004 – Fahrenheit’s opening weekend.

2004 had 4 films, including Passion, that had made more than $150 million by June 27th In 2005, there were only 2 films to make more than $150 million by the same date and only one Star Wars: Episode III made more than $300 million by the same date in 2004.

On June 27th 2004, 7 out of the Top 10 movies were “new” films – not remakes or sequels. On June 27th 2005, 5 of the Top 10 were “new” films.

Getting people in the seats is the goal of every studio and having good product will do that. People will spend the money and go to the trouble of going to a theater if they feel they have a reason to go. Like most businesses, movies run in cycles. For the past few years box office receipts have gone up each year and in 2004 there were several movies bringing in the people but in 2005 the studios have hit a dry spot. It has nothing to do with “values”.


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