With no less than an average of four new
films released every week - sometimes more - audiences are
offered a huge movie menu. From big budget mainstream fare like
Face/Off, Conspiracy Theory, Con Air and Men in Black, to the
lower budget but interesting films like Chasing Amy, Different
for Girls, Fire, Brassed Off and Albino Alligator, new films pile
on top of each other as the distribution system spews them out in
a relentless torrent.
Some would argue that this is a good thing, it feeds the
growing film appetite of the nation, and offers diversity. Maybe.
The latter is true: there is diversity allright, with foreign
language films, low budget debuts by new directors, and the big
action films - not to mention a smattering of Australian films.
In September 1997, there are three of those being released: Kiss
or Kill, Paws, Doing Time for Patsy Cline.
But while a large volume of releases may appear to be a
consumer benefit, it can be argued that it is no such thing.
How much time can people
devote to movies?
For one thing, only we film critics have the time (and even we
are stretched) to keep up with the volume. Even allowing for the
fact that the diverse menu caters for a variety of market
segments, the sheer volume of new releases excludes all but the
most obsessive film lover from enjoying even half of it. How much
time can people devote to movies? Currently, every Australian
visits the cinema almost 3 times a year: of course the reality is
that a core group go often, others hardly ever. But even the core
group has other commitments, a life outside the cinema.
Sept: 22 films are
scheduled for release
Letís look at the rest of September 1997: some 22 films
are scheduled for release (as at the end of August, but this may
change). Of these, at least seven can be considered mainstream
movies, not counting any of the four Australian films, all of
which have broad appeal.
Then there is the cost: tickets, popcorn/candy purchases,
transport/parking and other incidentals can turn a movie outing
into a costly one, no less than about $30 for a couple.
Individual films donít
fully reach their potential audience - or revenue
The end result of an oversupply of films is that individual
films donít fully reach their potential audience - or
revenue. This means the investors receive less than they might.
The producers donít. (The exhibitors and distributors make
it up on the next one.) The producers (and the studios) are the
ones whipping the volume along, and while the studio executives,
other investors and the banks continue to let them, they will.
More than a year ago, the majors in Hollywood announced they
would cut back on production, recognising the problem. To date,
there has been no sign of a cutback. In fact, according to
UIPís marketing manager Sam Hamilton, their slate is even
longer than last yearís.
How about a scheme for
movie fans which works like frequent flyer plans
Perhaps itís impossible to cut back production at the
studio level: too many executives, too many entrenched empires
and too many jobs riding on throughput. Maybe the only thing to
do is to manage the volume: how about a scheme for movie fans
which works like frequent flyer plans: the more you go, the more
you build up credits that can reward your patronage. Each ticket
earns points which can be accumulated and redeemed for discount
or free tickets.
It may not cut down the time needed to enjoy the diversity,
but at least it helps cut the costs and so encourage audiences to
benefit from the glut.