Movies? We Don’t Need No Stinking Movies

Are less and less people watching movies in the cinema because movies expect less and less of them?

The movie business is in a hole. Every year films are becoming more and more cartoony and less and less culturally relevant.

You can point the finger at Hollywood. Ever since studios started chasing younger and younger audiences with more and more blockbusters, lots of people have been steering clear of the 20th century art form.

A New York Times article by Michael Cieply depicts an industry slashing its own throat.

Last year’s shocking decline in the number of tickets sold has left many people reeling. Hollywood is losing its grip on the popular imagination, particularly when it comes to the more sophisticated films.

George Stevens Jr., the founder of the American Film Institute, is concerned that a steady push toward viewing on phones and tablets is shrinking the spirit of films. In the past there was a grandeur to films with the likes of “A Man for All Seasons,” “8 ½,” and “The Searchers” delivering long-form storytelling on very large screens.

But the prospect that a film will embed itself into the cultural and historical consciousness of the American public in the way of “Gone With the Wind” or the “Godfather” series is greatly diminished in an era when content is consumed in thinner slices, and films that play broadly often lack depth.

Movies are getting smaller. Audiences are getting smaller. Release schedules are getting smaller too. (And executives wonder why the industry is shrinking.)

Films released by specialty divisions of the major studios, which have backed Oscar winners like “Slumdog Millionaire,” fell to just 37 pictures last year, down 55 percent from 82 in 2002.

Studios are not even taking risks on films they don’t have to pay for.

Critic David Denby believes the enduring strength of film will depend on whether studios return to modestly budgeted but culturally powerful movies.

If they don’t build their own future, they’re digging their own graves.

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