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Raising the bar

Laura A. Ball
AP photoBrad Pitt and Angelina Jolie heat up the big screen with "Mr & Mrs. Smith." But will the film heat up box office sales as well?
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Rising DVD sales, inclement weather and the length of time tourists stay in Vail are all factors that can lower box office sales in the Vail Valley, says theater owner Steve Lindstrom, but perhaps the biggest reason for lack of ticket sales this year are the movies themselves.Without films such as last years phenomenons The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 911, it hasnt been a blockbuster year at the box office, says Lindstrom of Cascade Village Theater Inc., which includes the Crossroads Cinema, Cascade Village Theatre, Riverwalk Theatre and Capitol Theatre.The same is true on a national level. The New York Times recently reported that since 2002, attendance has been down about 10 percent for million the comparable period, to about 433.7 admissions from about 485 million.It definitely hasnt been a big year for us. It kind of comes and goes with the movies, Lindstrom said.When it comes to the success of films, the peoples vote rules, and its hard to determine ahead of time what that vote may be.Its the American and the worldwide culture that tends to dictate these things. Its like music. You cant predict it. The filmmakers are trying to predict this thing all the time, and theyre having a hard time doing it, Lindstrom said. I mean, who would have thought Harry Potter would have been such a big deal?Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith, which opened huge nationally, has been the biggest weekend opener for the Cascade Village Theater group this year. However, Lindstrom says, it remains to be seen if it has the staying power, which would determine the films real success.For better or for worse, the movie industry has been fixated on this weekend box office. Just because its done a lot of business the first weekend doesnt mean its any good. The focus is very front-loaded now. Everything feeds on itself, and if they dont go big right away, then no one else goes to see it, he said.So what does give a film the edge it needs to hit the ground running and survive opening weekend?Theres just not enough imagination in films today, said Robert Wagner of Edwards, a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Theyre just remaking everything. Thats just a big sour point to me as a movie-goer. I think movies come in cycles. Right now its in a cycle where they cant just come up with good ideas. I dont think the public is that stupid either, because its 10 bucks to see a movie, and theyre just sitting on it. Its the public that decides whats going to be a success and of course word of mouth is the best advertising. If they start telling a friend thats its a terrible movie, its done in 10 seconds.Wagner said movies like A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and Meet the Fockers are examples of what filmmakers should be striving for. A good story, he said, is the number one ingredient.The Passion of the Christ, even when it was a language barrier, the message still got across, he said. To me, even low-budget movies are doing a lot more than commercial successes they tell the story. They dont have the same marketing budget. Thats a problem.One of Wagners all-time favorites is Braveheart. He said the film has a universal appeal with fight scenes for the guys, a love story for the women, and overall, a sense of history.The bottom line is that people need to get out there and get more creative, Wagner said.The bar of entertainment value has been sinking. Movie-goers are seeking a mental challenge rather than films that evoke utter boredom.Movies like Monster in Law, and I know its not supposed to be a realistic relationship of a family, I think are a little bit too goofy. Im not that big of a fan of anything you would call pop culture, said Pat Zimmerman of Avon, who used to manage a handful of movie theaters. There are better characters in nonmainstream culture. I find them to be much more interesting than pop icons. Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, to be honest, neither one of those people strike me as interesting. I really like the out there movies like the Quentin Tarantino movies. It tended to have a little bit of everything in it like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. I dont like the structured blockbuster movies. I tend to see comedies or a bizarre science-fiction type movie. Zimmerman is also a fan of movies like Anchorman and Old School, which, he said, are good comedies with unusual story lines.I usually have to talk my girlfriend into coming to see them with me though, he said.With summer flicks such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, War of the Worlds, Cinderella Man, the box office may still have a fighting chance this year.The public really makes the decision. All we can do is put it out there, and they ultimately decide what the poplar movies are, Lindstrom said. On paper they look good, but when they come out you never know.Although this years Memorial Day weekend was down over last years, Lindstrom is optimistic.People still like to find something to do thats not at home, he said. And looking back over the years, the years that looked dismal, all it takes is one or two good movies to change your outlook.Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or laball@vaildaily.com.


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