The New York Times’ Sharon Waxman reports eleven consecutive weeks of declining movie attendance and revenue compared with last year, specifically noting that Ridley Scott’s crusader epic, Kingdon of Heaven, performed well below expectations. While I’m not particulalry worried about the profits of major Hollywood studios (after all, it’s a pretty safe bet that most movie executives will earn more money than I do this year), it’s interesting to speculate why this is happening–or more precisely to watch these executives speculate about why it’s happening.
President of Exhibitor Relations, Paul Dergarabedian, attributes the decline in box office to DVDs and home theater systems that make going to the movies less exciting, but given that DVDs have been out for some time, I don’t think that can be considered a major factor, and in fact, his comments seem to perpetuate the Hollywood practice that dates back at least to the advent of television of blaming new technologies for declining attendance. Nothing new there.
I’d imagine the biggest factor is simply the astounding (and somewhat unexpected) success of last year’s The Passion of the Christ, which brought out a large number of people who don’t habitually go to movies and probably artifically inflated last year’s box office in April and May. Ridley Scott’s Crusader epic, although it might portray historical events related to the church, is no Passion. Even my parents, who attend movies maybe once a year, were planning to see Mel Gibson’s film and knew enough about the controversial aspects of it (the violence, the possible anti-Semitism) to discuss it with me. This shouldn’t imply that the movies that have been released recently were mediocre movies (although Kingdom did get mostly negative reviews) but that The Passion mattered to many of the people who went out of their way to see it in theaters, and in many cases saw the film several times.
Again, I’m sure Hollywood’s gonna be alright. They’ve got Star Wars money coming in soon.