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Some movies are just wrong for the holidays

By Barry Koltnow, The Orange County Register –

What kind of a society do we live in when people won’t flock to a delightful holiday movie that includes graphic scenes of war, atrocities, mass murder, rape and nudity?

Apparently, not as sick as I thought.

I am speaking, of course, of the new film “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” which was written, directed and produced by Angelina Jolie. If you didn’t catch it when it opened briefly in Los Angeles in December, then you might never see it in a real theater.

The scheduled Jan. 6 opening in Orange County was canceled at the last minute. The company distributing the film told me that it may open later in the month, but a final decision has not been made.

It’s no secret that “In the Land of Blood and Honey” has not caught fire with movie audiences, although I think the actress did an impressive job in her directorial debut.

What I question is the decision to release this brutal war film during the holidays.

It is possible that someone thought “In the Land of Blood and Honey” was an Oscar-worthy effort (delusion is the lifeblood of Hollywood), and therefore should be released in December with other Oscar-type movies.

And that in a nutshell is the problem with how Hollywood distributes its films.

There is a sheep mentality in the studio system, and they blindly follow the old rules, which essentially boil down to this: youth-oriented, big-budget blockbusters get released in the summer, and Oscar contenders get released in the late fall.

Those rules were not conjured out of thin air. There were good reasons for the rules — kids are out of school during the summer and can go to the movies during the week, and older Oscar voters suffer from memory lapses and can only remember movies released just before ballots are sent.

My contention is that times have changed, and the old rules no longer hold true.

If the nation’s box office continued to grow, then I’d say that my basic approach is wrong, and Hollywood power brokers should ignore me, just as they have ignored me for years. But the box office is not growing; it is shrinking — revenue is down 4 percent for the year, and more than 8 percent for the important movie season between Oct. 1 and Dec. 13.

I think that proves that Hollywood is doing something wrong, and it’s not hard to figure out the causes.

The two chief culprits are ticket prices and movie quality.

In a sense, they are the same problem, which is a general disrespect for the movie-going public.

Movies have always been a relatively cheap form of entertainment. Not as cheap as television, of course, but certainly more economical than Broadway shows and pop music concerts.

During the Great Depression, movies were an inexpensive way to escape the bad times. In this tough economy, Hollywood for some reason has determined that this is a good time to gouge the public.

We won’t even discuss the price of popcorn and Goobers because we’ve heard the excuses for too many years — the studios take such a significant chunk of the ticket price that the theater owners can only make their money from overpriced concessions. Let’s put that issue aside for the moment.

I want to discuss the rising ticket prices at many of the nicer multiplexes, and the outrageous and insulting “event pricing” on 3-D movies. Nobody asked you to make more 3-D movies. There was no public groundswell for this technology, so don’t charge us a tax for the privilege of watching movies in 3-D. It’s clearly just a money-making tactic, and we don’t appreciate it.

The second factor behind the dip in movie revenues — the quality of films — is even more aggravating.

This holiday movie season has the worst selection in recent memory. Not only have the films been disappointing, for the most part, but many of them should not have been released during the holidays. Nobody wants to feel depressed or beaten down when they go to the movies during the holidays.

It’s not Hollywood’s job to be a cheerleader, but it is not unreasonable to ask them to provide some films that might cheer us up.

My rant could be dismissed if not for the stark evidence at the box office, which proves that the public agrees with me and doesn’t like what Hollywood put out this season.

Even Steven Spielberg missed the mark during this holiday season, and he should know better. He released two films that have not exactly generated Spielbergian business. “The Adventures of Tintin” just didn’t click with the public, and I blame an animation glut for that, which has resulted in a public apathy for anything animated. And “War Horse” is just too violent for the holidays.

Why didn’t someone know that before it was too late?

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