Does Hollywood Need to “Win Back” its Audience?

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On any slow news day, you can count on some major publication busting out a “death of Hollywood” story. This week, it’s the Guardian, whose Jeremy Kay has a piece entitled “Hollywood Must Plot a New Course to Win Back its Audience.” The gist: Hollywood is on the decline and has to come up with some game-changing plan to forestall its downfall.

Of course, this doomsaying comes at the end of the highest-revenue summer in movie history. Not discouraged, Kay nonetheless claims that the American movie industry is in trouble — why? As best I can tell, a couple of reasons. First: the movies this summer were bad. Well, yeah, by and large they weren’t great. (Curiously, he cites the exceedingly not-great Iron Man 2as a counter-example.) On the other hand, Inception, one of the summer’s biggest hits, was maybe the most ambitious and challenging tentpole blockbuster ever. Toy Story 3 was a near-masterpiece that busted all demographic barriers. Was there more than the usual number of stinkers? Slightly, probably. Was there a glut of franchise flicks and sequels? Yes, as has been the case for years. Does this suggest a systemic problem, or a new one? I don’t see how.

Second: attendance is down — 552 million tickets sold, the lowest since 1997 (540 million). (Here is the source for this.) First, this is a blip; by way of comparison, 563 million tickets were sold in 2005. Nothing to write home about during a by-all-accounts weak movie summer, especially since revenues increased. Second, weekly movie attendance has been declining in this country since 1930. Let’s not sound the alarms now.

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