It’s that most wonderful time of year again: the time when movie studios presumably offer filmgoers an embarrassment of riches; a big-budget spectacle, an Oscar-caliber drama, a heart-tugging family film, and who knows what else. November and December are typically when Hollywood pulls out all the creative stops to lure moviegoers free on holiday vacation.
Except this season it can’t help but feel like Hollywood decided to knock off early for the year.
Taking a quick look at what’s playing in your local theater seems like an invitation just to stay at home. Do you pay good money to see a dour and humorless half of a movie like Hunger Games? Or maybe you buy tickets for your family to watch a frenetic spinoff of a decade-old cartoon franchise like Penguins of Madagascar. It could be worse, you and your ‘bros’ could be heading out for a depressing evening of Horrible Bosses 2, which shows how willing good actors can be just to earn a paycheck.
The general ‘rule’ around theatrical holiday programming (or ANY theatrical programming) is to make sure that there is at least ONE option per demographic. All three movies mentioned above appeal specifically to kids and teens. So what is there for grown ups, you know, the demographic that makes up the majority of the world’s population? The demographic that’s also responsible for creating the kiddie-centric movies that are clogging the nation’s movie screens.
Adult-skewing movies like Gone Girl and Interstellar have become increasingly rare ‘events’, as studios clear the deck for superhero spectacles. This makes one wonder, without ambitious filmmakers like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan regularly providing product for the big screen, would the multiplex have any adult appeal, whatsoever? We’d be looking at a release calendar of nothing but pre-sold sequels and brand-name spectacles. I’m hardly the first person to sound the creative alarm on the movie industry, but it’s scary to think of what the movies would be like without our top directors willing to push the boundaries.
The rest of 2014 doesn’t look much better. More sequels (Night at the Museum, Hobbit), kiddie films and (TWO) musicals than anyone could reasonably ask for. A handful of promising bright spots could make things interesting, such as Ridley Scott’s Exodus, or Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Seth Rogen’s The Interview looks to be a much-needed blast of irreverent fresh air.
So where did all the movies for adults go? Turns out, they’re still being made, you just have to search harder to find them. Movies like Birdman, which has been out for over a month, light up the screen with the thrill of something new and audacious. A drama like Foxcatcher, with its remarkable performances, should have no trouble pulling adult eyes away from other frivolous distractions. Except the movie is only playing on 20 screens, and won’t be in most major markets for another month.
That leaves the rest of us adults to tide ourselves over with Dumb and Dumber To until the real movies arrive.