Box office figures are no Hollywood ending


    By Jon Tollestrup

    This past summer?s roster of superheroes and wedding crashers seemed to be headed towards another season of box-office bliss. But the final figures of the 2005 summer-movie season showed the lowest box office results and attendance numbers in four years, which left many Hollywood analysts wondering why the box-office force seemingly disappeared.

    While a few summer films like ?Revenge of the Sith? and ?Batman Begins? did manage to become hits, the majority of movies this past summer failed to create any bewitching buzz among moviegoers. As a result the national box office stumbled downward a steep nine percent, hauling in $3.15 billion compared to the previous summer?s record haul of $3.45 billion.

    This dive in box office revenue signaled bad news for theater attendance numbers as well. The Hollywood Reporter, a box-office tracking firm, found that from Memorial Day to Labor Day the admissions count for this past summer was an estimated 486.9 million, marking a 13 percent drop from last summer?s 557.4 million. This dramatic drop-off in attendance marks the lowest turnout in the past eight years.

    Many in the film community have speculated that the low numbers reflect an increasing trend of people staying home because of negative theater experiences, a decline in the quality of movies being produced and Hollywood sacrificing quality to make a little green.

    ?The primary answer is that the film must be good,? said Tori Baker, the executive director of the Salt Lake Film Society. ?Hollywood?s refined system actually implodes when they listen too much to test screenings, look too hard at demographics and push too hard for an easy palatable sale to earn the quick dollar.?

    Hollywood?s increased focus on earning the quick dollar is something Baker said is trickling down to affect other categories of films like the art-house and independent markets. This trend is causing film as an art form to become more diluted the more it becomes like a Hollywood production, Baker said.

    ?Since the popularity of such independent films like ?The Blair Witch Project? and ?Napoleon Dynamite,? everyone in the independent world is looking for that independent blockbuster,? Baker said. ?So what happens is that independent film trends toward a Hollywood model and gets stuck just like a Hollywood film.?

    The 2005 summer-movie season is just the latest example of how remakes and sequels seem to be creeping more into the definition of a Hollywood film. This past summer featured nine remakes and two sequels, which made up nearly one-third of all the major movies released from May to August.

    This seeming lack of something new and interesting in the local movie theater has caused some students at BYU to reconsider if putting up with cell phones and sticky floors is really worth the price of admission anymore.

    ?Going to the movie theatre is expensive for one thing,? said Jennifer Harms, a senior from Elkridge, Md. ?If I?m going to go to a movie, I?m going to wait until it comes to the dollar theater.?

    But with ?King Kong? and ?Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? leading a strong class of new films set to invade theaters over the next few months, Hollywood hopes muggles will create some magic by going bananas at the box office.

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