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NYT: Big Films, but a Year of Smaller Audiences
New York Times ^ | December 20, 2004 | SHARON WAXMAN

Posted on 12/21/2004 10:21:35 AM PST by OESY

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 19 - Are movies growing bigger as theater audiences are becoming smaller?

That's one conclusion to draw from the box-office results of 2004, as Hollywood pursued its penchant for big-budget event films - from Warner Brothers' "Troy" to 20th Century Fox's "I, Robot," to Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man 2" - but the number of moviegoers in the United States dropped for the second year in a row.

With nearly two weeks to go before the end of 2004, domestic box-office receipts appeared likely to top last year's total of $9.27 billion, nearing $9.4 billion, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the figures.

But an increase can be attributed to a rise in ticket prices, up 3.85 percent to an average of $6.25, while attendance fell by 2.25 percent this year after dropping 3.8 percent in 2003.

That audience drop appeared especially troubling in a year in which Mel Gibson's controversial "The Passion of the Christ," distributed by Newmarket Films, brought many new moviegoers into the megaplexes and finished No. 3 at the domestic box office with $370.3 million in ticket sales, while Michael Moore's anti-Bush hit documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," from Lions Gate Films, became a magnet for political activists and sold $119.2 million in tickets.

"If you took the half-billion dollars of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and 'Passion' out of the marketplace, we'd be in a real dismal situation, and they barely got distribution," said Paul Dergarabedian, Exhibitor Relations president, referring to behind-the-scenes struggles that ultimately landed both films with independent distributors.

As the audience shrank, budgets continued to spiral upward, with blockbuster movies commonly costing upward of $140 million to produce, followed by tens of millions of dollars in marketing expenses.

Several expensive studio sequels were among the year's top performers, including the top-ranked "Shrek 2," which had $441 million in domestic ticket sales and $886 million worldwide for DreamWorks; "Spider-Man 2," which placed second in the United States with nearly $374 million at the domestic box office and nearly $784 million worldwide for Sony; and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," which ranks fourth with almost $250 million in domestic ticket sales and $790 million worldwide for Warner.

Blockbuster projects that did not find audiences included Warner's "Catwoman," starring Halle Berry; Walt Disney Company's "Hidalgo" and "The Alamo"; and Universal's "Chronicles of Riddick."

In the middle ground Warner's computer-animated "Polar Express" continues to play despite a disappointing debut, with about $124 million in domestic ticket sales, while Universal's vampire epic "Van Helsing" stopped short at $120 million and Disney's "King Arthur" took in just $52 million at the domestic box office.

Studio executives pointed out that expensive event films had strong international appeal and continued to find audiences in the thriving DVD marketplace.

"The U.S. theatrical market is a mature business, unlike the international marketplace, which is breaking records with box office and attendance," said Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Brothers. "That's where the expansion is taking place,"

But others acknowledged that many of the most profitable movies this year were medium-budget comedies and horror films that cost relatively little, and nonetheless grabbed the audience. They included Universal's "Along Came Polly," a Ben Stiller comedy that cost about $42 million and took in $171 million at the box office around the world; "The Grudge," a Japanese-inspired horror film, which had an astounding $124 million in worldwide ticket sales after Sony bought it for $10 million; and Fox's "DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story," another Ben Stiller comedy that cost $20 million and took in $166 million around the world.

This weekend "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," another big-budget film from DreamWorks and Paramount, opened strongly at $30.2 million.

Sony's comedy "Spanglish," directed by James L. Brooks, opened to unenthusiastic business, taking in $9 million on 2,400 screens, while Fox's "Flight of the Phoenix," starring Dennis Quaid, took in just $5.2 million on 2,600 screens. Miramax's sweeping drama "The Aviator," from the director Martin Scorsese, opened on 40 screens and took in $831,000.

"Meet the Fockers," a comedy from DreamWorks and Universal, is one major film left to open this year. It could break $100 million at the box office, according to market research by the National Research Group.

Some industry experts suggested that the trend toward high budgets for epic, effects-heavy films would come under new scrutiny as a result of this year's performance pattern.

"It's not that the grosses are getting smaller, it's that the budgets are getting bigger," said Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax Films. "You cannot have that rise in production and marketing costs of 20 and 30 percent each year, even though attendance is down. Your gross is only going up 2 or 3 or 4 percent."

But executives at major studios, all heavily invested in making blockbusters, disputed this notion.

Jim Gianopulos, co-chairman of Fox, said that despite the success of smaller genre pictures, studios still needed to maintain the diversity on their slates, which includes so-called tentpole pictures, meaning movies that draw a broad audience. Fox has several coming up next year, including the animated "Robots," Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" and the last installment of the "Star Wars" saga.

"You can't only make one kind of movie," Mr. Gianopulos said. "The key is not the type of movie you make, but the manner you go about deciding what to make. Is it fresh? Is it original? Does it have a vision? Who is it for? And how many of those people are there?"

Chuck Viane, president of distribution for Disney's Buena Vista unit, agreed. "If all you try to hit are doubles, I don't believe you can hit a home run," he said.

Sony will end 2004 with the largest domestic market share, with an estimated $1.3 billion in ticket sales. Warner Brothers is expected to be second with an estimated $1.1 billion, followed by Disney - supported by the Pixar-produced hit, "The Incredibles" - which expects to end the year slightly behind Warner Brothers.

Buoyed by "Shrek 2" and "Shark Tale," DreamWorks took in $924 million despite its limited slate of pictures. Meanwhile Fox and Universal fell at the middle of the market-share pack, with Fox having a strong early part of the year and summer, but lacking films to hold the box office through the end of the year. Universal, meanwhile, stumbled through the summer, but made up ground with movies like "The Bourne Supremacy" and the anticipated hit "Meet the Fockers."

Paramount was dogged by a series of box-office flops and lagged far behind the other studios. It is expected to end the year at a domestic total over $550 million.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2004review; buenavista; bush; dergarabedian; disney; exhibitorrelations; fahrenheit911; films; fox; gianopulos; gibson; harrypotter; hollywood; irobot; lionsgate; michaelmoore; miramax; movies; paramount; passionofchrist; shrek2; spiderman2; troy; viane; warnerbrothers; weinstein

The reporter, Sharon Waxman, led the movement at the Times to blacklist Mel Gibson for "The Passion of the Christ."

1 posted on 12/21/2004 10:21:35 AM PST by OESY
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To: OESY

"The Passion" was the only movie I've seen in the past five years. I probably will not go to another movie for five more. I have no interest in the garbage they are promoting.


2 posted on 12/21/2004 10:24:32 AM PST by johniegrad
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To: OESY
The made-for-boobuss-toobus industry cut into their sales. Those movies go straight to DVD, even without ratings.

Besides, WHO CARES?! The older I get the more garbage I see produced. It MUST be me. Lol.

3 posted on 12/21/2004 10:25:18 AM PST by starfish923
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To: OESY

Hmmm, I saw..let's see...exactly 3 of those. Van Helsing, Spider-Man 2, and DodgeBall. I do want to see Princess Diaries 2 and National Treasure, though.


4 posted on 12/21/2004 10:26:12 AM PST by TheBigB (Smartass remarks $5.00...with extra pithiness $2.00 more!)
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To: johniegrad
Hey, now that I think about it, it is the only movie (The Passsion) I went to . Sherk 2 will be the only other one I want to see. Most of these actors are so anti-American anyway.
5 posted on 12/21/2004 10:28:22 AM PST by marmar (Faith is a beautiful thing.....)
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To: OESY

In all his long analysis, it never occurred to this clueless idiot the real reason why attendance is down - LEFTIST HOLLYWOOD HAS COMPLETELY ALIENATED ITS AUDIENCE!!!


6 posted on 12/21/2004 10:28:42 AM PST by aquila48
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To: OESY

Is it me, but were movies this year, with rare exception, dismally awful?

Those on the list that outgrossed their worth are Shrek 2, Harry Potter, The Day After Tomorrow, Shark Tale, I, Robot, Troy (Dreck) 50 First Dates (Terrible, terrible, terrible) Van Helsing (Possibly the worst action movie EVER) Fahrenheit 9/11, and The Grudge. Turdsmears on film.

APf


7 posted on 12/21/2004 10:29:21 AM PST by APFel (Humanity has a poor track record of predicting its own future.)
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To: TheBigB

Saw three, Bourne Supremacy, The Passion and Polar Express.
There could be a clue in this.

Make better movies.


8 posted on 12/21/2004 10:30:00 AM PST by Patrick1
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To: johniegrad

20 years ago, my area had 6 movie movie house for a total of 37 screens. Today it has 2 movie houses for a total of 34 screens. Yet, in the last 20 years, the population has practically doubled along with the number of schools, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, gyms, soccer fields, etc. etc.


9 posted on 12/21/2004 10:30:41 AM PST by bobjam
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To: aquila48

That and most of the movies just stink. There are some good ones on that list and I've gone to them. Just got back from Blockbuster with my son today though. Couldn't even find much in the "New Releases" that I even wanted to rent, much less would have gone to see. I mean, how many movies can you made from old TV shows? There is no creative talent in Hollyweird for the most part.


10 posted on 12/21/2004 10:31:30 AM PST by TXBubba ( Democrats: If they don't abort you then they will tax you to death.)
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To: APFel
'Van Helsing' was one of the worst films I've ever see in a theater. And the director dedicated it to his late father! How can someone connect a parent who passed away with so frivolous.
11 posted on 12/21/2004 10:31:35 AM PST by Borges
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To: bobjam
Very astute observation. Yet that tee vee still treats the paid pretenders as royalty and we their subjects.
12 posted on 12/21/2004 10:33:22 AM PST by AD from SpringBay (We have the government we allow and deserve.)
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To: OESY

Are movies growing bigger as theater audiences are becoming smaller?

Maybe it is just Hollywood spending more money on crappy movies.


13 posted on 12/21/2004 10:33:38 AM PST by weshess (I will stop hunting when the animals agree to quit jumping in front of my gun to commit suicide)
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To: OESY

People forget that industries have life cycles. It is easy to assume that because film is a big and growing business today, it always will be. But if you take a long term look at things, industries tend to grow, plateau, shrink, and become niche, diappear or evolve into something fairly different. Music industry is on the way down, and film will follow.


14 posted on 12/21/2004 10:35:26 AM PST by MrShoop
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To: weshess

It would be interesting to compare the top grossing films of this year say to 1984 or 1964 or 1944. Just wondering what would come up?


15 posted on 12/21/2004 10:35:27 AM PST by Patrick1
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To: MrShoop

In the 1970s the American film industry was near bankrupt...and had one of its great periods as well.


16 posted on 12/21/2004 10:36:30 AM PST by Borges
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To: Patrick1

Highest grossing films of 1984:


1. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
2. Ghost Busters (1984)
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
4. Gremlins (1984)
5. The Karate Kid (1984)
6. Police Academy (1984)
7. Footloose (1984)
8. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
9. Romancing the Stone (1984)
10.Purple Rain (1984)


17 posted on 12/21/2004 10:38:47 AM PST by Borges
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To: OESY
The real issue this year is that we are a nation at war. We have learned about real heroes. About real men. They make the hollywood heroes pale by comparison. Brad Pitt vs Pat Tillman. No way. The Marlboro Marine vs George CLooney?
The success of the cartoon movies indicates a need for escapist entertainment, but the characters are not people with liberal political views.
18 posted on 12/21/2004 10:40:53 AM PST by ProudVet77 (Beer - It's not just for breakfast anymore.)
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To: Borges

Gag..so much for 1984. Though Romancing the Stone was good.


19 posted on 12/21/2004 10:42:28 AM PST by Patrick1
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To: aquila48
Yup, I used to go to movies all the time, these days I spend my money else where. If a really good movie comes out, like Sea Biscuit I'll wait on a DVD. The movie has got to be really good before I'll send Hollyweird any of my money.
20 posted on 12/21/2004 10:44:43 AM PST by jpsb
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To: OESY
Here is the statement that is defeating them, "I'll wait for it to come out on video."

21 posted on 12/21/2004 10:52:03 AM PST by William Terrell (Individuals can exist without government but government can't exist without individuals.)
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To: TheBigB

Three more than me. I didn't see a single one. Just re-upped for NetFlix after a year off , so some of these will make their way to my "small screen".


22 posted on 12/21/2004 10:52:52 AM PST by Betis70 (I'm only Left Wing when I play hockey)
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To: OESY
Most people hated King Arthur but I thought it was good because I am a history nut and Keira Knightley didn't hurt either.


BUMP

23 posted on 12/21/2004 10:53:16 AM PST by tm22721 (In fac they)
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To: OESY

Liberals love parity. The U.S. is just as bad as the Soviet Union. Israel is just as bad as the Muslim terrorists. "The Passion" and "Farenheit 911" are equivalent.

In the first place, "The Passion" was #3, and "Farenheit 911" was #15. What was the reason for headlining these two movies in particular and "taking them out"? "The Passion" made three times as much money as "Farenheit 911," in spite of the fact that the MSM virulently attacked it and gave Moore's film unprecedented publicity.

Finally, "The Passion" was a brilliant movie, artistically, while F911 was a piece of turgid cr*p.


24 posted on 12/21/2004 10:54:04 AM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: jpsb

I saw Sea Biscuit on an airplane flight. It was much better than I thought it would be.


25 posted on 12/21/2004 10:55:33 AM PST by Betis70 (I'm only Left Wing when I play hockey)
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To: aquila48

Agreed. They have ignored the heart of real people. Their big bucks, and tech., does not take the place of what Hollywood used to be. Hype and Fright are over.


26 posted on 12/21/2004 11:01:20 AM PST by Old anti feminist
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To: Betis70

I got it on advice from friends, very good flick, I also liked the Lord of the Rings flicks and currently on TV (SciFi) is Earthsea, another very good story.


27 posted on 12/21/2004 11:04:54 AM PST by jpsb
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To: OESY

We saw one movie this year in a theatre, the Passion.

As Follywood continues to drive republicans away from their new movies, their movies become more expensive.

Pretty soon their financial houses of cards will cave in on them.

Below is the trend that will be gutting Hollywood over the next few years:

"With nearly two weeks to go before the end of 2004, domestic box-office receipts appeared likely to top last year's total of $9.27 billion, nearing $9.4 billion, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the figures.

"But an increase can be attributed to a rise in ticket prices, up 3.85 percent to an average of $6.25, while attendance fell by 2.25 percent this year after dropping 3.8 percent in 2003.

"That audience drop appeared especially troubling in a year in which Mel Gibson's controversial "The Passion of the Christ," distributed by Newmarket Films, brought many new moviegoers into the megaplexes and finished No. 3 at the domestic box office with $370.3 million in ticket sales, while Michael Moore's anti-Bush hit documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," from Lions Gate Films, became a magnet for political activists and sold $119.2 million in tickets.

"If you took the half-billion dollars of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and 'Passion' out of the marketplace, we'd be in a real dismal situation, and they barely got distribution," said Paul Dergarabedian, Exhibitor Relations president, referring to behind-the-scenes struggles that ultimately landed both films with independent distributors.

"As the audience shrank, budgets continued to spiral upward, with blockbuster movies commonly costing upward of $140 million to produce, followed by tens of millions of dollars in marketing expenses."

Merry Christmas to Follywood and may 2005 be even more of a financial disaster to Follywood.



28 posted on 12/21/2004 11:06:15 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Rummy Phobia is the new mental disorder of the left. It is similiar to Hate GW Syndrome!)
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To: APFel

These are just domestic numbers. World wide many of these films did well enough overseas, to make a good profit.


29 posted on 12/21/2004 11:08:55 AM PST by KC_Conspirator (I am poster #48)
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To: Cicero

F/9-11 is a joke in more ways than one. They consider it a documentary, so it is worthy of acclaim because it surpassed other "documentaries" in box office. The rest of us know it is fictional propaganda. 119 may seem like a lot based on budget, but it barely deserves notice when compared to the film that is it's natural competitor, "The Day after Tomorrow".

The real note of attention is that of films supposed to rake in a lot of money, only two surpassed TPOTC and one only barely. Considering TPOTC was spoken in a foreign (dead) language and concentrates on material that is neither entertaining nor humorous, was made on low budget against numerous obstacles that stood in the way of distribution and advertising, TPOTC is THE story of the year. F/9-11 is the Leftists poor substitute of a religion that will be lucky to be remembered as a footnote a hundred years from now.

The only film I went to the theaters to watch this year was TPOTC, and I went more than once. I've seen Spiderman II on DVD. That's it. It's partially due to politics in some instances, partially that the films they make aren't worth a dime of my paycheck. I'd rather check out an old classic.


30 posted on 12/21/2004 11:09:32 AM PST by Soul Seeker
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To: Borges

Thanks for posting this list. What is interesting is my wife and I saw 8 of these films then and have watched many since then on tv.

We didn't see #4 & #7.

1. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
2. Ghost Busters (1984)
3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
4. Gremlins (1984)
5. The Karate Kid (1984)
6. Police Academy (1984)
7. Footloose (1984)
8. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
9. Romancing the Stone (1984)
10.Purple Rain (1984)


31 posted on 12/21/2004 11:09:35 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Rummy Phobia is the new mental disorder of the left. It is similiar to Hate GW Syndrome!)
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To: Borges

I saw every one of those in the theater, except #10.

'Course I was 14 at the time. I would guess most 14 year olds have seen just about all of the top ten on this list.


32 posted on 12/21/2004 11:12:49 AM PST by Betis70 (I'm only Left Wing when I play hockey)
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To: OESY
the number of moviegoers in the United States dropped for the second year in a row.

Just like readers and viewers of the "old" media. They don't get it. I paid for (went to) one movie in 2004, Passion.

33 posted on 12/21/2004 11:17:18 AM PST by 1Old Pro
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To: marmar
Not only anti America but too stupid to knnow they are so stupid. Hitchcock called them "cattle" and who should know better than the master himself.


When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?, ' I say, 'Your salary.'

34 posted on 12/21/2004 11:31:03 AM PST by eleni121 (Best AG ever: John Ashcroft; Best Supreme Court Justice too)
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To: Patrick1

Hey now, nothing wrong with Beverly Hills Cop.


35 posted on 12/21/2004 11:32:01 AM PST by Terpfen (Gore/Sharpton '08: it's Al-right!)
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To: Patrick1

FYI: top 25 Highest grossing films of all time and The Passion is on the list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_films


36 posted on 12/21/2004 11:33:17 AM PST by eleni121 (Best AG ever: John Ashcroft; Best Supreme Court Justice too)
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To: Grampa Dave
I found this article interesting because a couple of weeks ago, our local paper ran a story about all of the huge new multiplexes with giant 2-story screens that are opening in the area. The story claimed that attendence is UP in theatres, thus justifying the enormous capital expenditures that the theatre chains are making.

I was skeptical about the reporting, as always, and now I find it to be a lie.

37 posted on 12/21/2004 11:36:48 AM PST by A Citizen Reporter
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To: aquila48
In all his long analysis, it never occurred to this clueless idiot the real reason why attendance is down - LEFTIST HOLLYWOOD HAS COMPLETELY ALIENATED ITS AUDIENCE!!!

And we have a WINNER!!!!!!!

38 posted on 12/21/2004 11:38:25 AM PST by JoeV1 (The Democrats-The unlawful and corrupt leading the uneducated and blind)
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To: Borges
Go back another 10 years to the highest grossing films of 1974:

1. Blazing Saddles
2. Towering Inferno
3. Trial of Billy Jack
4. Young Frankenstein
5. Earthquake
6. Godfather: Part II
7. Airport 1975
8. Grizzly Adams
9. Longest Yard
10. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I love some of these flicks, especially the two Mel Brooks entries and The Longest Yard. But except for The Godfather II, there isn't much in the way of artistic masterpieces here. Fantastic movies like Chinatown, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and The Conversation didn't make the top 10 list. Those who claim movies were much better "back then" either weren't alive back then or haven't really noticed that there has always been and will always be schlock, and that box office receipts are no way to judge a movie's quality.
39 posted on 12/21/2004 11:39:45 AM PST by drjimmy
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To: A Citizen Reporter

Could your local fishwrap be lying and shilling to get more AD $'s from the owners of the new multiplexes?


40 posted on 12/21/2004 11:40:53 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Rummy Phobia is the new mental disorder of the left. It is similiar to Hate GW Syndrome!)
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To: Terpfen

Gotta put a plug in for Ghostbusters as well. I saw that one four times in the theater. :) Murray, Ackroyd, and Ramis at their absolute apex.


41 posted on 12/21/2004 11:43:12 AM PST by TheBigB (Smartass remarks $5.00...with extra pithiness $2.00 more!)
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To: eleni121

Now it is affecting their pocket book. Maybe it will give them time to read up on things and study. Knowledge is power......


42 posted on 12/21/2004 11:44:11 AM PST by marmar (Faith is a beautiful thing.....)
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To: marmar

Actors may know how to read, but except for a few, do not know how to critically evaluate what they read.

Thankfully, that responsibility is left to the directors and others who are trained to interpret and frequently get it wrong too. Put it this way: great performances are the result of accidents.


43 posted on 12/21/2004 11:49:25 AM PST by eleni121 (Best AG ever: John Ashcroft; Best Supreme Court Justice too)
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To: drjimmy

Exactly. Movies that make the most money are usually teenager driven. TPOTC was unique. Though there are exceptions, great movies generally don't cost a lot...or make a lot.


44 posted on 12/21/2004 11:52:22 AM PST by Borges
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To: tm22721
Most people hated King Arthur but I thought it was good because I am a history nut

Don't you mean "even though", not "because"? The "King Arthur" movie bears the same relationship with history as Michael Jackson has with family values.

45 posted on 12/21/2004 12:04:51 PM PST by LexBaird ("Democracy can withstand anything but democrats" --Jubal Harshaw (RA Heinlein))
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To: TheBigB
I can do you one better:

I only saw The Incredibles. It was pretty good....

46 posted on 12/21/2004 12:10:12 PM PST by Cogadh na Sith (--Scots Gaelic: 'War or Peace'--)
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To: KC_Conspirator; Grampa Dave

And let's not forget video rental and sales, and pay and TV rights.

These ALL probably made a profit. Don't think for a second that there were bombs here financially. The reporter is just doing what MSM reporters do: being stupid and ignoring a big consideration to score points as a cynic.


47 posted on 12/21/2004 3:16:07 PM PST by LibertarianInExile (NO BLOOD FOR CHOCOLATE! Get the UN-ignoring, unilateralist Frogs out of Ivory Coast!)
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To: LexBaird
The "King Arthur" movie bears the same relationship with history as Michael Jackson has with family values.

Can you envision a two hour Capital One commercial ?


BUMP

48 posted on 12/23/2004 7:14:48 AM PST by tm22721 (In fac they)
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To: tm22721
Envision it? I've lived it!


49 posted on 12/23/2004 10:02:03 AM PST by LexBaird ("Democracy can withstand anything but democrats" --Jubal Harshaw (RA Heinlein))
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