KAIJU and CHILL?
Many of you have probably already read the news of Pacific/Arclight Theaters shutting down with “No viable way forward”. Many of you have probably looked up, bleary eyed from your non-stop “Mad About You” marathon to vaguely recall the last time you were in a movie theater. You think back to that tinder date where you had right swiped on that cute brunette and, more importantly, she had right swiped you. You guys hit that sushi place. You made small talk about this new virus you heard about in the news. You considered seeing “Bad Boys for Life” but instead had casual sex in the backseat of your car. Good times.
Oh yeah, the last movie you saw in the theater was “Sonic the Hedgehog”. Sorry, I got off track there.
By the way, one of these events should be, rightly so, infused with a heavy dose of shame and embarrassment. Hint: it’s not the hookup in the parking lot behind “Kaiju Poke and Bento”…
Naturally I’m talking about even considering seeing “Bad Boys for Life”.
“Bad Boys for Life” or, as nobody calls it, BB4L was the biggest box office earner for the year of 2020 with a domestic take of $204 million. Or essentially what “Black Widow” would’ve most likely made in two weeks of release . $204 Million is nothing to turn your nose up at but in a year that was expecting “Black Widow”, “Wonder Woman 84”, “Tenet”, a Ghostbusters movie, a couple of Disney and/or Pixar joints and a James Bond flick that B.O. take should’ve, maybe, just rounded out the top ten for the year.
Instead those slots were filled by the dragon fart joke of “Dolittle” ($77 Million) and Harrison Ford and CGI fleabag of “Call of the wild” ($62 million). Needless to say movie theaters had a bad time in 2020.
It hasn’t gotten much better four months into 2021. The specter of death and ruination hangs over the very idea of going to see a movie in a theater in much the same way it hangs over a AARP swingers cruise or a Trump rally. Which is to say… pretty icky and absolutely no good will come of it. Even with vaccinations finally gaining ground and the rest of the world wearing their big boy pants and acting responsibly to combat Covid, movie theaters are hurting. The pandemic turned what used to be “dinner and a movie” into “Postmates and a dirty zoom chat”. Things are turning around but not fast enough. The Pacific Theaters chain and their high end Arclight sub brand are done for. Even the historical Cinerama Dome will close its doors permanently. Well, maybe. Odds are good that the historical significance and admiration by movie fans and filmmakers alike will keep the iconic landmark theater from being knocked down to make way for a Chiplotle to handle the overflow from the Chipotle from across the street. But then again this is LA; the only city where you have to digitally alter the background to accurately reflect 2017. So all bets are off.
So how does this affect movies?
Movies seem to be doing fine, thank you.
Godzilla Vs Kong has now been crowned the Box Office King of the pandemic era with over $70 Million domestic in two weeks ($330 Million global)! That’s more than the #8 grosser for 2020 (the Invisible Man, the last movie I saw in the theaters) made in its entire run! This is impressive for many reasons not the least of which is that 40 Million people subscribe to HBO Max. Multiply that by around a factor of 3 for all their friends and family that have “borrowed” their password and you got at least a 110 million pairs of eyeballs watching a giant gorilla and a fire breathing lizard beat each other up BEFORE people coughing up money at a theater. And it still has made over $70 million. Sure, people are subscribing to HBO Max for the archives of original programming that sets new standards for television production and boob exposure. But I’m sure even the premium TV snobs are, in their own version of shame, checking out how Kong deals with the Big G’s atomic breath.
It’s the same all over! Disney is releasing their first run movies on Disney+ although in a move that speaks to our mouse addiction, they are charging extra for some of their big titles, and people are paying for it. Netflix, the granddaddy of streaming, has Zack Snyder’s heist/bad-asses killing zombies/Tig Notaro meme “Army of the dead” dropping soon. All the streaming services have something that most of us want to watch. The fact that we can watch what we want from the comfort of our homes at 11:46 pm in our Batman boxer briefs with a bag of nacho cheese Doritos is not only eerily specific but vastly appealing to folks who don’t’ want to die of a vicious, invisible respiratory virus, deal with parking validation that falls just short of allotted time or pay $12 for a small popcorn and a soda.
I love going to movie theaters. I love the sense of community felt in the crowd when big exciting or emotional things happen on screen. I love the thrill of going out and doing fucking something after a year of being sequestered inside. But I think the clock is ticking for this particular activity. The studios have wanted to cut exhibitors out of the profit sharing for years. Remember the whole “Tower Heist” debacle? If not google it (or click the link, lazy ass). Then exhibitors had some leverage; people still went to the theaters. Movie going was still a popular social activity. The internet could barely handle flash animation!
Now, social activity has a real element of peril to it. There has been over a year’s worth of people being stuck inside and NOT going to movie theaters. There has been a year’s worth of studios and content makers owning or selling to streaming services. A year’s worth of us as viewers being trained to accept the new way. Our movie consumption habits have fundamentally changed. Effectively streaming doing an end run around theater owners. Going to the movies might not or ever will be again what it was. “Netflix and Chill” was already a thing before the pandemic. Now it’s the foundation for a whole new social paradigm!
Post pandemic what will the movie going landscape look like? Who knows? I think that, as with everything for the last 20 plus years, there will be more fragmentation of markets and demographics. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If “Blood Quantum” wasn’t a Shudder exclusive it probably would’ve only been out in a handful of theaters, even here in LA, before fading into obscurity on redbox. Instead it garnered glowing reviews and a cult following. Though I’m not interested in seeing “Blood Quantum 2: Operation Tomahawk” starring Eric Roberts. Maybe movie going will have the vibe of a hipster thing, like buying vinyl records or avocado toast and cold press coffee.
I think that the gap will grow; you go to the theater to see the new Marvel movie (Agents of Atlas, pleasepleaseplease) or the small, buzzy, SXSW festival acquisition. But both will show up on one or more of the streaming services sooner than later, maybe on the same day as it debuts in the theaters. It’s very likely that the mid-budget material like, say, a comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Alia Shawkat will eschew theaters altogether. They’ll drop on Hulu or Amazon Prime, coast off of name recognition for a bit and then sit there forever, waiting for a slow night during mid-week when your waiting for your pizza and hot wings to be delivered and the algorithm catches you in a vulnerable state. “Because you liked “Spy” and “Arrested Development…”
So essentially like it is now except you get the content quicker.
Is this good, bad, the same?
I’ll finish with the list of Academy Award Nominees, when they were released and how you can see them currently (aside from being in theaters in large markets). I know this is prestige Oscar bait stuff but the writing should be on the wall, regardless.
“The Father” – (Released wide in Feb 2021) for rent on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, On Demand
“Judas and the Black Messiah” – (Debuted on HBO Max in Feb) now available to rent from most services.
“Mank” – (released in October 2020) Now on Netflix
“Minari” – (released wide in Feb 2021) Available to rent from Apple TV, Vudu and most other streaming services.
“Nomadland” – (released in Feb 2021) Hulu.
“Promising Young Woman” – (Theatrical December 25th 2020, Streaming Jan 15th 2021) – Available to rent on most services.
“Sound of Metal” – (Theatrical Nov 20th, 2020. On Amazon Prime Video with subscription).
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” – (Theatrical release October 16th, 2020. Now on Netflix)
If theaters go the way of the dinosaur, for the most part, they will be fossilized with some pretty impressive company like the CD, video rental stores, DVDs, video game cartridges, Suncoast Video, Tower Records, Sears, MP3s and a host of other retailers and formats that time and technology made extinct.
What won’t change is us doing some version of “Netflix and chill”.
Thoughts tangential to the main column but I couldn’t work in organically
Here is the link to the Pacific Theaters announcement.
My wife is currently binge viewing “Mad About you”. As a result I’ve learned more Mad About You trivia than I’ve even needed or wanted to know.
For example: Paul Reiser’s character, imaginatively named “Paul”, was a documentary filmmaker. Whereas I thought that his occupation was the same as most sit-com guys in the mid-90’s “Neurotic white guy”.
Boy, “Paul” would be doing killer business in today’s streaming world. A world where a documentary about Levi Jeans collectors or The history of hot dogs can get distribution on a major platform.
In fact, a funny joke for the show’s revival could be him doing a documentary on the glut of documentaries available now. Except that the show wasn’t funny to begin with so they’d never do that joke.
I am in my early 50’s and married so I have no idea how Tinder works. I had to research for the right swipe tidbit.
That being said, after my research, I wish I had tinder when I was in my 20’s!
“Godzilla Vs Kong” was good fun, visually better than “King of the Monsters”. Now “#Monsterverse” is trending. Hopefully leading to more Toho licensed Kaiju movies. I want Gigan and Jet Jaguar in the next one.
Just to be clear: I F’N LOVED “Godzilla King of the Monsters”!
I had considered talking about “Zack Snyder’s Justice League ” on HBO Max but that is (another) whole column in of itself and I don’t feel like getting my house firebombed.
Mostly my thoughts on Snyderverse are HERE anyway.
I worked with Tig Notaro for two seasons on her show “One Mississippi” which was for Amazon prime if I recall. It filled the gap between seasons of “Speechless” which kept me working for 10 1/2 moths of the year for a few years straight.
Streaming may bring about the death of the movie theater but its been a boon for film crews. There is always content being shot nowadays.
Another pro in favor of streaming is that I’d give some movies a try I otherwise wouldn’t. “My Spy” was dopey, formulaic fun. “The Old Guard” kicked ass! I have “Boss Level” on deck and there is a shit ton of stuff on Shudder I wouldn’t have had the time to check out otherwise.
“Tower Heist” starred Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and directed by savant auteur Brett Ratner was Universal’s attempt to cut distributors out of the loop by releasing a big movie directly to on-demand. Theater owners, rightly so, had a conniption fit and threatened a boycott of Universal movies.
“Paul” would have done a documentary about it and tepid fits of hilarity would ensue. Mostly anything involving the dog, Murray.
I intended to do an Adult Continuity covering “The Smurfs XXX” (part three of my porno apocalypse trilogy) but this felt more timely.