Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Somebody's Missing the Boat

The film industry recently released statistics indicating that theatre attendance and ticket sales were down drastically in recent years.

The industry can't seem to comprehend the drop. Why have the audiences thinned?   In response, studios have vowed to win back fans with special effects, 3D themes, sequels to tried-and-true franchises and other devices.

Here's an idea: Why not just make films that will appeal to someone older than the age of 12?

I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to a movie theatre in the past ten years. Throughout most of my life, I have frequently attended movies that tweaked my interest or sparked my intellect.   If I saw a trailer that offered a film worth seeing, I would make sure to see it.

Things have changed.

Significant films are still being released. But I usually opt to wait a few weeks when the movie will be available in my home either as a rental or "on demand." Going to the theatre can cost upward of $10 per person, plus the hassle of sitting in a theatre to view a film with people I otherwise would hasten to avoid.

The majority of movies which producers hope will bring in business is -- simply put -- junk.  Film makers seem to think that movies such as "Bridesmaids" are relevant to the general public. Note to the film industry: Get a clue.

Once upon a time, women were overlooked by advertisers as a worthwhile market. Cars, cigarettes, fashion, furniture -- nearly every type of advertising was prepared by and driven by men for men, who were the most important audience. With the evolution of women's rights and independence, this began to shift. If women didn't actually sign on the dotted line to purchase household goods or a new car, they at least had input as to what was purchased. Advertising came to grips with this realization and women became a market to pursue.

I recently was reading about the film industry in the 1950s. With the spark ignited by James Dean, first in films and then by his unfortunate death in 1955 at the age of 24, the "press" found it was onto something. A large portion of America was growing up after the war, a new demographic with money in its pockets and a thirst for movies about themselves. That awakened an explosion of movies about teens from "I Was a Teen-Age Werewolf" to the beach blanket/surfer drivel, all bursting onto the scene from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

I have several friends who are either unmarried, divorced or gay. These folks used to feel slighted in print and media advertising. As their lifestyles became less important to advertisers than their disposable income, this, too, changed. Women without a spouse became valued for what they did have -- money to spend on luxuries. They had no one to placate besides themselves and were free to splurge as they pleased. They took cruises, bought designer clothes and browsed art galleries and antique shops. Eventually, this previously invisible group had also found its voice.

It now appears that the newest invisible audience consists of senior citizens. We are not the demographic they might seek (the infamous 18 to 30 year olds) but we have plenty of time to pursue matters of interest.  We would appreciate seeing worthwhile films. We don't mind paying the $10-plus or so for admission.  Problem is, there are few films worth our effort.

I see a pattern here. When times are lean and the audiences either get stale or stop coming, advertisers have consistently moved on to discover a new market. Movie producers would be wise to reinvent their wares and appeal to folks with mature judgment and money to match.

Is anyone out there listening?

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