With the summer movie season in full swing,audiences have more opportunities to rate films and the status of the movie-going experience.
According to a recent Gallup Poll,45 percent of Americans say movies are getting better,a 7 percent increase since 1993.
Age seems to play a significant part in Americans' opinions,with 69 percent of 18-29 year olds agreeing they are getting better.
While many of his peers are enjoying current movies more than ever,college student Mustafa Hersi,21,of Washington,D.C.,says they are getting worse.
“They seem more corporate and formula driven,” he says.
The poll also reveals 68 percent of Americans prefer to watch movies at home,compared to 23 percent that prefer a theatre.
At the annual ShoWest convention in Las Vegas,Jack Valenti,president of the Motion Picture Association of America,told theatre owners the marketplace is populated with “rivalries that were undreamed of a decade ago.”
He pointed to the popularity of the VCR,cable,satellite delivery systems,the Internet and other advancements.
“That's your competition. It grows steadily everyday,” Valenti said. “If one were a pessimist,there would be a gloomy forecast for our business. But the collision of all these claimants on consumer's time has had an extraordinary result.”
In 2000,the box office reached an all-time high of $7.7 billion domestically,keeping with what Valenti called “the longest stretch of ever enlarging box office takings in the history of the post-war exhibition era.”
Still,admissions in 2000 were down by 44 million from the previous year.
Americans are most dissatisfied with the costs of going to the movies,according to Gallup. The poll says 78 percent are dissatisfied with the price of food and drink concessions and 53 percent are dissatisfied with ticket prices.
For years,the movie theatre industry imposed an invisible barrier on ticket prices. That all changed early in March when the Loews Cineplex Entertainment Chain announced it would begin charging $10 a ticket in all its Manhattan theatres.
According to the MPAA's 2000 U.S. Economic Review,the average admission price that year was $5.39,up from $5.08 in 1999.
The average,compiled with information from the National Association of Theatre Owners,includes all admissions to movie theatres,including first runs,subsequent runs,senior citizen and child discounts,as well as all special pricing.
Hersi says prices are still high.
“It’s too expensive,so I rarely go,” he says. “Rather,I rent movies a few months after they are released.”
Blockbuster,the largest rental chain in the country with a 36 percent share of the market,reported an 11.1 percent increase in revenues from 1999 to 2000. The retail giant also increased the number of actively renting member accounts from 45 to 48 million,according to their 2000 annual report.
Despite a saturated entertainment market,Valenti said,“audience-alluring films are what make the box office and admissions go up.”
He told theatre owners that the new films coming out the rest of the year had the “sweet smell of success.”
“At least that's my judgment. We'll see if audiences agree with me.”
So far,summer 2001 has produced mixed results in the box office.
“Pearl Harbor,” touted as 2001's sure-fire blockbuster,opened to less-than-stellar reviews. Despite earning over $172 million as of June 24,it has nonetheless performed below expectations that some in the industry call insurmountable.
Likewise,“Dr. Dolittle 2”,the hyped Eddie Murphy sequel,opened a disappointing second this weekend,earning less than the original at $26.7 million.
However,it was not an entirely bad weekend for debuts. The thriller,“The Fast and the Furious,” came out of nowhere and grabbled the MTV crowd as it cruised to the top of the box office,earning $41.6 million.
Two weekends after its release,“Lara Craft: Tomb Raider” has responded to its hype with vigor,raking in $84.2 million so far.
The animated flick,“Shrek,” on the other hand,surprised even Hollywood when it was the first in the summer to cross the $200 million mark.
If the movie industry makes and markets films that many people want to see,then it will do well,Valenti said.
“So long as people refuse to be cabined and confined in their home day after day,night after night,so long as you provide customers with an epic viewing experience they cannot duplicate in their homes,so long as each new generation of filmmakers enlarges and beautifies the art of visual story telling,then so long will we travel that sweet road to success,” he said.
Hersi has other ideas.
“Watching a movie at home is best,” he says. “You can always pause for more popcorn.”