Blockbuster fatigue: Why I’m giving up on summer movies and movie theaters

Summer is upon us… the time of year where beaches are packed, the kids are out of school and Hollywood cranks out blockbuster after blockbuster to entertain the masses. I can’t remember a summer that didn’t have at least one high-profile film that I just had to see on opening weekend. As a movie fan, I embraced the spectacle of the Big Summer Movie and gladly bought my tickets.

Not any more. I’ve broken the cycle… or, to be more precise, Hollywood broke it for me.

I love movies, but more than that, I love GOOD movies… and I am tired of being disappointed. More and more, movie studios have rewarded my continued loyalty with a product that frustrates and disappoints more than entertains. The last three movies I saw, “event” films, were bloated overhyped films that were pedestrian, predictable and, in one case, awful.

But more than disappointment, I’m tired. Tired of the hype, tired of the idea that you simply MUST see a movie on opening weekend. You don’t. Just like I broke the “upgrade cycle” when it comes to buying new technology, I’m breaking from the summer movie (and moviegoing experience) altogether.

Let me detail the many reasons I am giving up on going to movie theaters for the foreseeable future:

Cost

Even though I make a nice salary, I also have a family of five… and taking everyone to see a movie costs almost $50 for tickets alone. Add in snacks and you’re looking at $70 to 80 bucks for two hours of entertainment. When the movie is good, it’s totally worth the cost. But when the movie is sub-par… not so much. As Dirty Harry asked in Sudden Impact, “Can you afford to take that chance?” Especially when the movie will be on DVD and blu-ray within six months for around $20.

Spoilers

Why should I go when you have basically shown me the whole film in the trailers? I skipped Prometheus for that exact reason. And it’s not just some trailers… all of them seem to showcase big scenes and plot developments before the title card even shows up. This doesn’t get me excited about seeing the movie… it makes me think I’ve seen it already, in bite-size thirty-second chunks.

And when the plot isn’t spoiled by trailers, it’s often completely given away by people on the web, through social media. I already know exactly what happens in Star Trek Into Darkness, and I didn’t even need to search for the information… it was foist upon me when I unsuspectedly clicked on a Twitter link. Sometimes spoilers are exactly that… spoilers.

Bad writing

Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness… hoo boy. The spoilers (and, later, reviews) I read gave me pause. Even the good reviews let me know that the writing… well, it wasn’t very good. It was, like many modern blockbusters, a thin plot stitched together to connect huge action set pieces. And when I read about the plot device used to save a main character… good grief.

(You know how people mocked the midichlorians in the Star Wars prequels? Well, Trek fans, we have our own version of that now).

Why does a studio spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to film a bad (or unfinished) script? The reason why, I’m afraid, is simple: Most of today’s audience don’t care about story or characters, they just want to see things blow up. When you add that the growing dependency on foreign box-office, where dialogue-filled movies “don’t play well”… well, you can see why there’ more BOOM than story.

There are exceptions of course, but when I compare movies today to films like The Godfather or Chinatown, expertly plotted films with sparkling dialogue and rich characters… it makes me sad. Hollywood, I’m not willing to pay you my hard-earned money to have you insult my intellect. Hire better writers.

The experience sucks

I have one big-screen TV, a projector in my family room, and a portable projector I can watch in my backyard. I have hundreds of movies in my collection, and with Netflix I have thousands of hours of content I can watch on demand at any time. When I watch at home I can eat what I want, pause when I want, and go to the bathroom without missing anything. When I go to the movies, I’m a captive audience… literally.

I like freedom, and more than that I like that quaint old-fashioned concept called an “intermission.” Making my bladder sit through a bloated blockbuster so i don’t “miss anything” is not my idea of a good time. And I’d rather not lose the feelings in my legs because I’ve sat in an uncomfortable chair for three hours.

And, let’s spend a few moments talking about courtesy and decorum… It’s going away. People in movie theaters act like they are just in a really big room in their house, and they chat and text with each other before and during the movie… distracting and annoying attentive viewers around them. One of the arguments for the moviegoing experience is that “seeing a movie with an audience is a special experience you can’t do at home.” Well, several recent experiences have made me HATE people. And this from a guy who in general likes my fellow human beings. So… umm… yeah.

Television is where the talent is

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but what I do watch is excellent. We are in a new golden age of television, with incredibly good programs filling the airwaves. Where has all the good writers gone? TV, that’s where. I only have so much time to invest in entertainment, so when it’s a choice between a known quantity like Breaking Bad and Mad Men and a “it looks good, because it’s based on a beloved comic book character” blockbuster… TV will win every time.

Sequels, Remakes, and Reboots

Originality is dead and gone at the movie studios. I like a good sequel as much as the next guy, and I admit I love movie series like James Bond and Star Trek… but COME ON, Hollywood. If you want me to go to a movie, bring me something new and interesting. No way am I going to see the new Robocop or The Thing remake when I know that it will never compare to the original… and I can rematch those originals anytime I want.

There you have it, the reasons why I won’t be at theaters this summer or in the foreseeable future. If you go, have fun! It just doesn’t work for me anymore.