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In Hard Times, Hollywood Does Something Right

With the rampant cynicism and sarcasm that blows in from online movie critics, one might think Hollywood’s ability to entertain is dead, buried, dug up, looted and thrown into a shallow stream. Though there is something negative to be said about the constant parade of comedy and horror retreads, fans (the people actually paying to […]

With the rampant cynicism and sarcasm that blows in from online movie critics, one might think Hollywood’s ability to entertain is dead, buried, dug up, looted and thrown into a shallow stream.

Though there is something negative to be said about the constant parade of comedy and horror retreads, fans (the people actually paying to see these movies) apparently don’t care. And why should they? They’re having a blast at the movies. In fact, even in the midst of our Great Recession, moviegoers are flocking to the multiplex in record-breaking numbers.

Why? Clearly, the reason is to be entertained, and Hollywood is doing that right, even if those who make their part-time living covering the movie beat say otherwise. Me included. I’ve splashed around in the nay-saying swamp as well and most times it’s well deserved. Pundits and critics can comment all they want about the loss of ideas and the tragic lack of vision in the industry, especially now in the runup to summer, but frankly, it’s not true for ticket-buyers. Despite all the complaining, it’s obvious that the studios are giving the fans what they want.

Example: "Fast & Furious" gave Universal an astounding $72.5 million and DreamWorks’ "Monsters vs. Aliens" took in $58.2 million, making it the largest debut for an animated film in history.

In 2009 to date, revenue has reached more than $2.9 billion, according to Media By Numbers. Ticket sales are up a solid 15.6 percent over this time last year. Even Lionsgate’s "The Haunting in Connecticut" shattered expectations and actually brought in audiences wanting to see a horror movie that didn’t exactly break the scare mold.

It doesn’t matter, because audiences don’t demand anything new, therefore audiences do not get anything new. Audiences want fun and so they shall have it, even if it’s been done over and over again.

If entertainment is king, then the American movie industry is, if you’ll pardon the sacrilege, God. Explosions, cruder and cruder jokes and TV-to-film adaptations are not just what audiences want, it’s what they demand. The beast is being fed, not with <insert your favorite hoity-toity food here> but with <your shameful secret low-brow food, i.e., Angry Whopper> and that’s okay. It gives writers something to complain and be miserable about.

And we love it that way.

Erik Buckman is the man behind ReelLoop.com and is a Denver-based entertainment writer, critic and purveyor of pop whimsy.