I remember catching a fleeting screening of Tree of Life at a local theatre last year and thinking how worthwhile was the matinee price ticket I purchased. Well, now it’s a delightful November with an overwhelming barrage of quality film. Argo remains a draw, Cloud Atlas, Flight, Skyfall arrives next week and after that? The Skyfall’s the limit. At such a time, one can get their money’s worth when they purchase a ticket to the movies. Yet, quality so seldom impacts the outcome of the box office draw of any particular movie.
Am I a snob in feeling this way about film goers typical aversion to critical consensus? Isn’t one’s taste in movies simply relative? I guess I have to pre-suppose that this isn’t the case. Now, don’t get me wrong, people like what they like. Yet, at the same time there is an obvious gulf that separates the effort, ingenuity and craft that goes into particular movies. It isn’t being a snob to expect that restaurants that employ a master chef charge more for dishes than standard fare created with haste and no eye towards craft.
Now, don’t get me wrong, ticket prices as they are, I certainly don’t want to pay a surcharge because a movie is made by Scorsese or Alexander Payne. I just can’t seem to fathom how anyone would pay such high prices for some of what is offered. I won’t name names. Yet, the utter disregard of reviews and consensus is baffling. Does the technology that is used so often now to list films alongside a critical ranking have no impact on ticket sales?
Okay, maybe I’ll name names. The weekend Argo opened, it could not stand beside a second week of a second Taken movie. I haven’t seen either, granted, but nevertheless the reviews, even reviews by people who liked the first one, even by audiences in general were not so rave. Argo offered that “potboiler thriller”, no promised such and delivered, but finished behind a second week of a second Taken.
But this line of complaint is just all too familiar and repetitive by now I suppose. Nonetheles, I believe that the food metaphor offers some fresh perspective. Certain movies are charged for being “challenging”, “inaccessible”. I just believe this means they’re not the types of things you scarf down on your drive to work. A cinema offers an enveloping experience like a downtown restaurant, with the lights down, even a poor designed big box theatre. There are redboxes that offer quick entertainment for around a buck, right next to restaurants with similar price ranges.
Fortunately, stretching the food metaphor even further, I have been able to enjoy in Birmingham some meals by master chefs right on the dollar menu. We have a “dollar theatre” (though now, 1.50 theatre, and 3D for 3.50) here in town. The older structure, for my taste is as adequate as any more modern multiplex. Either for the first or second or etc. screenings, I have enjoyed Drive, Midnight in Paris, Synecdoche, New York, War Horse, Black Swan, and others. And at a bucki’m a bit more comfortable with folks paying the same for what’s playing next door in such a circumstance.