Thursday, October 06, 2005

2005: Year of the DVD

One of the most overblown entertainment-section stories of 2005 is the box office “slump.” Every Monday all summer long we had to endure the latest installment of “The Sky is Falling in Hollywood” as weekend returns continued to “disappoint” and fall well behind the pace set by a record-breaking 2004. The theories have all been out there: too many entertainment options, the rise of DVDs and home theaters, etc.
It’s all garbage—much like this year’s offerings at the movie theater.
2004 was a great year for movies because several of the movies were—gasp—great (check out my February entry for further review). 2005, on the other hand, has been absolutely awful. Dreadful. Terrible. Stinking out the joint.
Hollywood, I guess, believes people will just wander into a theater like glassy-eyed sheep no matter what schlock is thrown up on the silver screen. And to some extent, that’s probably true; after all, “The Longest Yard” made $158 million.
But at some point moviegoers will actually demand good movies, which have been in very short supply this year. Consider the top 10:

1. “Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith,” $380.2 million
2. “War of the Worlds,” $233.3 million
3. “Wedding Crashers,” $206.5 million
4. “Batman Begins,” $205.1 million
5. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” $204.5 million
6. “Madagascar,” $193 million
7. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” $185.8 million
8. “Hitch,” $179.5 million
9. “The Longest Yard,” $158.1 million
10. “Fantastic Four,” $154.1 million

Wow, isn’t that a lively bunch? I’ve seen half the titles on that list, and only two (“Batman” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) were worth my money. Now, let’s compare this sad group with last year:

1. “Shrek 2,” $441.2 million
2. “Spider-Man 2,” $373.6 million
3. “The Passion of the Christ,” $370.3 million
4. “Meet the Fockers,” $279.3 million
5. “The Incredibles,” $261.4 million
6. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” $249.5 million
7. “The Day After Tomorrow,” $186.7 million
8. “The Bourne Supremacy,” $176.2 million
9. “National Treasure,” $173 million
10. “The Polar Express,” $162.8 million

Actually, there is no comparison, which is why there is a two-pronged answer to why 2005 has been an “off” year at the box office. More than just this year’s lineup being not worth watching, there may not be another year like 2004 in a long, long time (come on, three of those films are in the all-time top 10!). It’s ridiculous to think back-to-back years of such stunning success were even possible. That’s why this “slump” is so overblown, even by today’s mainstream media standards. (All is not lost, of course. The fall/winter schedule is chock full of films I want to see. Whether they will be box office hits or not, I'm not sure.)
The pundits are right about one thing, though: DVD is a viable alternative. I love going to the movies, but since this summer was so bad, I turned to one of those mail-order rent-from-home programs to fill the Friday night void. I don’t have the energy to write full reviews for each and every one, but just in case you’re curious, here are the grades for everything I’ve seen on the home screen the past few months:

“24: Season 1” A
“Before Sunrise” B
“Before Sunset” B+
“Coach Carter” B
“Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 2” A-
“Elektra” D
“Entourage: Season 1” B
“Firefly: The Complete Series” B+
“The Forgotten” F
“Hard Day’s Night” B
“Hitch” B-
“In Good Company” B+
“Kung Fu Hustle” A-
“The Longest Yard” D
“Man on Fire” B
“Mr. 3000” C+
“National Treasure” C
“The Office: Season 1” A-
“Sahara” C-
“Searching for Bobby Fischer” A-
“Smallville: Seasons 1-4” A-
“The Sopranos: Season 5” A
“The Upside of Anger” B+

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