You ever get in that state where you’re counting down the days, even though you still got a while to go? You have the unformed possibility of awesomeness, all you have to do is try and bring your A game? There’s a world of difference in you when you’re looking forward to something, knowing that there’s more than the grind. When you know there’s something around the corner that might be special.
I’m talking about the 8/15 release of Clone Wars. Duh.
APPLES, ORANGES AND THE DARK KNIGHT
There’s a lot of talk about how The Dark Knight‘s doing. Fair enough, it’s already made over $400 Million dollars. More than the ransom of most Bond villains. It is likely to top out at around $500, if not more, making it the second most successful (non-adjusted) box office hit in the states, surpassed only by Titanic. But these stats are not fair to anyone, to Gone with the Wind, to Titanic, to even Spider-Man.
As someone in a Lord of the Rings or John Landis film said, “things change.” And so comparing what one film did to another requires totally different math. What has changed most substantially is how people watch films. With something like Gone with the Wind, you are talking about a film that came out when there was no television. You’re talking about a real, honest-to-goodness social phenomenon. Though the film played for a long period of time, there was an overwhelming sense that if you didn’t see it on the big screen, the chance of never seeing it again was likely, unless – as the film had – there were reissues. But even then, the film is an epic, and likely the prints that serviced those seeing it long after release were not seeing the entire cut. Unless you were there, which I wasn’t, it’s not a world we (or more to the point, I) know anything about.
E.T. was also a phenomenon. So was Star Wars. The world was different then, on the verge of home video. But even before the public was educated on the difference between widescreen and pan and scan (something getting obliterated by the growing presence of Blu-ray and HD TV). Adjusted, or non-adjusted, these were films that had to be seen on the big screen, and became events that my parents (who were never much for the cinema as I was) would drag me and my brother to dutifully. There was a sense of the culture being involved in these films, and to deny it to your children, to deny being aware or a part of it was tantamount to neglect.
But the influx of home video changed some things. It began to wear on repertory houses, it made TV cuts more obsolete, and it allowed people to begin collecting films. With laserdisc, the true fan could have the film as it was originally intended, if the distributor decided to release it as such. But with Purple Rain, Top Gun, and Batman came the introduction of the collapsed video window. This was abnormal, but if a film was a huge hit in the theaters, if you could sell it for $20, people would buy it. But this was thought for more collector’s items: Disney films and Star Wars, catalog titles that people loved. As time progressed, this too changed. theatrical to home video release windows collapsed, and not only did video become cheaper, Warren Lieberfarb introduced the idea of releasing Digital Video Discs at a reasonable rate ($15-$20) so consumers might – instead of renting, which had become a cottage industry unto itself – just buy the movie sight unseen.
For that, 1997’s Titanic will always be a milestone. People went back and back and back because it was a theatrical experience, it was something to be absorbed that way. In a way that can not be repeated now.
I tend to think of theatrical things like going to church. It’s a communal experience, and I’ve had a number of experiences that suggest that a cloud can form above a crowd that can make a film better or worse for what it is. Just as much as sitting next to someone who has never seen Silence of the Lambs, or Fight Club or whatever can reward the repeated viewer the experience of sharing something with others.
There’s also something about film, being projected (even if it is shot digitally) that rewards in ways that only can be expressed in large groups. I’ve watched audiences fall in love with The Adventures of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn version, bitch please) even when they were laughing at it as it began. And you get some of that today, especially with comedies, which don’t necessarily need a high price tag to get people to come in the door (as so much of Hollywood is chasing).
But, digression aside, the important thing is that with DTS 7.1, with Dolby TrueHD, etc. etc. With Plasma screens, with 1080P, with the prevalence of home video technology (as it has grown and consumed theatrical releases), the ability to talk about how one huge gross charts against another is meaningless, because there is no sense of staying power. Iron Man made over $300 Million, and is likely to be the #2 release of the summer. In six months anyone who wants it will have the DVD (or Blu-Ray), and it’s not a film that holds up under repeat viewings – except for Robert Downey Jr. performance. It was a film of the moment. And though the sequel will likely be rather successful, it is ephemeral. As most cinema is.
But when you talk about these numbers, when you talk about phenomenons, you now have to talk about DVD sales, numbers that the studios don’t like talking about. That’s one of the main reasons why there was a WGA strike. And one of the main reasons why the SAG hasn’t come to terms yet. There’s money that has been made of the ancillaries that was unimaginable ten, twenty years ago. And though The Dark Knight may not be the number one film of the box office of all time, it’s hard to say if it won’t clean the chronometers of both Spider-Man and Titanic in terms of home video. Which is just as, if not more so, profitable as any theatrical release. But – as has been the case – that bubble has burst in a lot of ways. Where you could get a lot of weird and interesting titles on to DVD, and people might buy them just cause, there’s no flash to it any more. And the studios know it. They poisoned the well a bit. But also, consumers were way more excited when Star Wars or The Godfather hit the format than a three disc set of Woodstock. Such is life.
ONE OR TWO THINGS I KNOW ABOUT PREDICTIONS
The Pineapple Express opened to $12 Million on Wednesday. The competition is Christian Bale and the Olympics. Stoners don’t give a shit about the latter, so I think it’s fair to say that the film will sail to the top of the pops, and dethrone Mr. grumpy voice. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 also opened yesterday. Other than Oscar nominations, it’s shit the bed. Let’s do this.
YOU JUST GOT KILLED BY A DAEWOO LANOS:
1. The Pineapple Express – $30.4 Million (close to $50 for the grand total)
2. The Dark Knight – Two and a half pounds
3. Sisterhood of the Sexypants – $15.8 Million
4. The Mummy 3 – $13. 8 Million
5. Mamma Mia! – $9 Million
And then Sunday, I hope to wake up in a bed that isn’t mine.