The Movie Business

I’ve mentioned from time to time my enjoyment of seeing old movies on the big screen, once again. You see it as the director wanted you to see it. Came across an article on a recent WSJ on how the movie business is changing. These days, Hollywood stars want a guarantee that their movies will play in theaters.

To win the rights to a new movie starring Will Smith as Serena and Venus Williams’s father, AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. had to agree to a nonnegotiable demand from the star, according to people familiar with the talks: The studio would release the film theatrically before streaming it online.

As streaming services proliferate, major Hollywood stars have become increasingly concerned with how certain movies are distributed, seeking guarantees that their higher-profile—and perhaps award-worthy—work gets the attention that generally accompanies a big-screen release.

The reason they want this is that they believe a big screen introduction enhances their Oscar chances.

We shall see.

Used to be, until 20 years or so, that the movie theater was the retail distribution method. A really bad movie was described as a “straight to video” movie. William Goldman, a legendary screenwriter, wrote an excellent book on the movie business from the Hollywood perspective. Although I read it years ago, one of the things I retained, besides “Nobody knows anything” , is the fact that for advertising, a studio will frequently spend as much – or more – as the direct movie production cost to “get the word out”.

If a movie was “straight to video” the studio figured it was so bad it wasn’t worth the additional advertising expense.

I guess what woke me up was seeing the Netflix produced movie The Highwaymen. It has been widely acclaimed and has Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the main stars.

Although it had a very limited big screen showing (the nearest one from me was 400 miles away), it’s main audience was (and is) the 150 million Netflix subscribers around the world. Even the economics are different. Other than their means of gauging how many have been watching it, they aren’t looking for any revenue from that particular movie, other than new subscribers.

The movie business is changing.

But with all that said if there is an opportunity to see one of my favorite old movies on the big screen, I’ll take it. And last night I saw Clueless (1995) at a local theater. Although I have the DvD and have seen it easily a half dozen times, seeing it on the big screen was a treat. Details that I missed on the small screen were up there on the big screen, the way director Amy Heckerling intended.

The movie has developed a cult following, and some of its teenage lexicon made its way to actual high schools.

Here’s a few more movies I thought funny…

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad,Mad World has generally been panned by the critics, but what do they know?

When it became known that Director Stanley Kramer was looking for any comedians who had made their mark, a few who were left out, such as Don Rickles, felt slighted. Years later, when Rickles was doing a Las Vegas show and learned that Kramer was in the audience, he would launch into a “What’s the matter with me? You didn’t think I was funny?” routine. Of course Rickles made it funny.

You see short cameos by comedians like Jack Benny (said to the the master of timing), and even the Three Stooges. Jonathan Winters is hilarious. And the famed Tallmantz Aviation had some of the best stunt flying you’ll see in the movies. I saw this on the big screen twice a couple of years ago.

Watch them put this Beechcraft Model 18 through its paces:

Another movie I liked was Down Periscope with Kelsey Grammer. Tasked by the Navy of testing to see if an old WW2 diesel sub can penetrate a harbor defense while guarded by a modern nuclear attack sub, a crew of misfits is chosen to man that sub.



Finally who can talk about funny movies without mentioning Blazing Saddles? I had just gotten out of the Army and stopped to see my Aunt, Uncle and cousin in West Virginia. My cousin and I went to see this movie and I was laughing so hard tears were coming. Saw this on the big screen a couple of years ago, too.

Director Mel Brooks makes fun of everybody. A bit of trivia I learned from my DvD:

Gene Wilder was not supposed to play the part of Jim – that was supposed to be Gig Young. But in the first day/2 of filming, Young was ill and Brooks phoned his friend Gene to ask him to take the part.

Brooks wanted John Wayne to take the part of the Waco Kid (eventually Gene Wilder’s role)

After reading the script Wayne declined, fearing the dialogue was “too dirty” for his family image, but told Brooks that he would be “first in line” to see the movie.

Favorite scenes? Too many to post here but here are a couple:

It’ll be interesting to see where all of this change goes. I’m wondering if movie theaters will be a thing of the past.



Filed under Media

3 responses to “The Movie Business

  1. mcthag

    The Tampa Theatre did a whole series of old films, including Blazing Saddles.

    Big screen and a packed large audience.

    Everyone in stitches!

    • Bill Brandt

      I was surprised-for clueless it must’ve been 3/4 full and a pretty big theater

  2. A movie that is both funny and serious is ‘Rhinoceros’, with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder…based on Ionesco’s play of the same name. The idea is that humans start turning into rhinoceri…very destructive ones…and those who have not turned are mostly making excuses for how we should love our rhinoceros bretheren. Inspired by what Ionesco observed personally with Nazi collaboration.

    An especially great performance by Mostel, who…without any special costume or even I think makeup….*becomes* a rhinoceros.

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