Art house theaters ignore movie audiences like an onion glass at their peril

At Slate Annual Film clubFor 2022, film critic Dana Stevens emails fellow critics–Bilge Ibiri, Beatriz Loaiza, and David Sims–about the film year. Sometimes other critics interrupt. Read the first entry here.

Welcome everyone!

Let me work my way through the conversation to take in what Peleg wrote about theatrical success Everything everywhere at once—one of the few bright spots in another year full of bad box office news. The audience returned in great time to Top Gun: Maverick And they are definitely flocking to the new one symbol picturebut the news was much bleaker on the adult film front, such as FablemansAnd the Armageddon timingso infinity of memory storehouse, and hit theaters with a lackluster failure. Cate Blanchett’s movie about cancellation culture seems to have been a hit with airplay — people sure want to argue about what happens on its latest show — so it’s not that people didn’t want to watch it. They just don’t want to see it in theaters. (See also Emily the criminalNothing theatrical jumped straight into the Top 10. Netflix’s Top 10.)

The art-house audience, which tends to be older (and whiter and more urban), doesn’t seem to be returning to theaters in the way starved theaters (and Oscar-winning directors) hope. But success Everything is everywhere It makes me wonder if there is more hope in the future of cinema than we think, if not necessarily where we expect it to be. I think there’s another movie this year that showed a similar ability to get people hooked, despite not featuring Tom Cruise or even a single alien whale: glass onionRian Johnson’s sequel Take out the knives.

I was proud to see you glass onion With a packed house at the Toronto Film Festival in September, especially because at the time, there was no guarantee he wouldn’t screw up in front of a live audience again. Netflix chose an odd compromise for the release: put the movie in 700 theaters over Thanksgiving weekend, then take it away until Christmas. As frustrating and confusing as this strategy was, they did one thing right, and they may have taken a lesson from it. EEAAO: they opened it in the multiplex, not in the role of art. And it totally worked, because like EEAAOAnd the glass onion is a film whose audience turns out to be younger than the audience because of the typical art house fare. Most importantly, it’s an absolute blast to see in a packed theatre. Johnson’s script is full of risqué jokes, like the fact that Edward Norton’s musk-y billionaire entertains guests on his private island with bottles of “Jared Leto hard kombucha,” and the film’s twisted plot is even more fun when you’re in a room full of people trying and failing to think it through.

The conventional wisdom was that audiences wouldn’t pay to see a movie when they could wait a little while and watch it for free. (Jamie on how people have come to think of Netflix as a free service even though they pay for subscriptions will have to wait until next year’s outage.) glass onion It included the Netflix release date — displayed more prominently than the theatrical release date, even — and people showed up in droves anyway. Why? Because watching a smart, sharp-acting comedy with an auditorium full of people who enjoy it as much as you are is a great time. Because when you’re watching a movie full of great gags, colorful performances, and huge twists, the experience feels incomplete without someone next to you turning over and going: Have you seen that? People showed up to see glass onion Because they wanted that Which is different from the kind you get from sitting on the couch and pressing play.

See, even, in success food menu. Too bad I think this movie is, a light-hearted comedy whose foodie satire is at least a decade old. (I mean…foam?) While $61 million worldwide isn’t MCU money, it’s pretty impressive – almost 7 times the amount Fablemans I pulled out. Chalk some of it up to cleverly marketing Searchlight to horror fans, who are particularly loyal to theaters and blockbuster hits. barbaricAnd the black phoneAnd the smiling. (Not only are horror movies more fun in theaters, but they’re more intense; barbaric Made me so wired at times it practically triggered a fight-or-flight reaction.) But if you break the audience’s loyalty to the faces on food menuPoster, I bet you’ll find a lot more Anya Taylor-Joy fans than Ralph Fiennes fans.

I don’t know that this younger audience will “memorize the movies” per se. But I think they communicate the joy of watching certain kinds of movies in ways that savvy distributors and exhibitors need to take better account of — and which art houses whose regular staff are so worried about COVID they ignore at their peril. Over the past few months, my social media has been filled with accounts of young movie fans getting ecstatic while watching the play. $$$$, the Indian blockbuster whose gritty action and bizarre CGI put most Western filmmakers to shame. Even though the movie was already on Netflix, they turned out hundreds, sometimes several times, to binge on three hours of spectacle with a bustling crowd. (In fact, the movie’s distributor opened it up again this week in New York — ingeniously offering free tickets to great fanfare.) It’s the kind of experience that made most of us fall in love with the movies in the first place, and it’s heartening. To know that even masses who didn’t grow up with this default are still looking for it Outside.

Read the following Movie Club entry: All Hail “Let’s Go See a Movie” movies, such as black phone

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