September 15, 2013

These Aren't Your Grandpappy's Movies

Hatched by Dafydd

I suppose that most of you have noticed that the price of "entertainment," broadly defined, is spiraling upward. You can't see a play in a major venue anymore without dropping $150 to $200 a ticket. Restaurants are so pricey, you think twice even about going to dim sum or a barbecue joint. The circus, the county fair, a concert, a ball game, even your kids' high-school recital is an occasion to balance the dang checkbook and make sure nothing vital will bounce.

In fact, the average American family has even been priced out of Disneyland -- something which I guarantee would never have happened if Walt were still alive! The cost of a trip to the Tragic Kingdom today runs $92 for "adults" (age 10 and up, one day, one park) and a scant $86 for ages 3-9.

So Dad, Mom, a sixth grader, and his fourth-grade sister sets the family back $362 just to get in the door... and remember, that's one day at one park. If you want to park-hop -- say, visit both Disneyland and California Adventures (right across the plaza) -- that same hypothetical, four-person family would have to cough up FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY-TWO SIMOLEONS... not counting food, t-shirts, Mickey ears, candy, and of course parking -- $16 per vehicle, car or motorcycle. And the resort hotel stay, hundreds more!, if you don't happen to live within easy driving distance of beautiful downtown Anaheim, California.

Most ordinary families would have to look for miraculous specials via some packager -- or winning the lottery -- even to think about it!

(Psst... It's even more expensive at Walt Disney World/Magic Kingdom.)

So ordinary kids will never again get to see Disneyland or Disney World; only the ultra-rich (usually liberal Democrats), and of course those on the opposite end of the scale, living in "poverty" -- that is, anywhere up to 150% of the so-called poverty line; they can probably get free tickets, and free bongs, if they prove they're reliable Democrat voters.

So I reckon only we, those of us stuck plum in the vast middle of the economic spectrum, are financially restricted to the dubious entertainment value of the latest blockbuster movies. Hey, at least a night at the movies is pretty cheap, eh?

Guess again, muggle. When Star Wars first came out in 1977, in most big cities, the cost was $3.00. (Remember the parody Hardware Wars? Its catchline was "You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll kiss three bucks goodbye!")

But today, in those same big cities, ticket prices range as high as $16.00. Inflation accounts for $8 of that increase; but the remaining $5 increase is just movie studios and production companies deciding they prefer to sell less product for more money per unit, than the other way round.

In other words, they're following the trend, pricing ordinary middle-income families out of going to the movies. (And if you want higher prices, you must pay for it with lousier movies. Anybody here sick of seeing CGI special effects take the place of real special effects, real stuntmen and stuntwomen, real actors, and real stories?)

And if you can believe George Lucas, director, writer, and executive producer of the orginal Star Wars, we can look forward to much, much higher prices for future blockbusters:

"Going to the movies is going to cost you $50, maybe $100, maybe $150," says George Lucas, the creator of "Star Wars" and founder of Lucasfilm, which is now owned by the Walt Disney Co., ABC’s parent company.

Lucas and director Steven Spielberg talked about the future of entertainment while on a panel at the University of Southern California Thursday.

Spielberg said studios were increasingly putting money into "mega-budget" movies, causing a tectonic shift in the entertainment industry.

"There’s eventually going to be an implosion, or a big meltdown," Spielberg said. "There’s going to be an implosion where three or four, or maybe even a half-dozen mega-budget movies, are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm."

The thrust of their discussion was the looming paradigm-change of "differentiated pricing depending on the film," as senior equity analyst Michael Corty puts it. And in theory, I have no problem with that; it's Capitalism.

But if a blockbuster starts to cost even a measly U.S. Grant, going to see a quiet, family picture is surely going to be significantly more expensive than sixteen buckaroonies. You'll get a "bargain": half the price of the next Avengers sequel!

And of course, when there's money (or a chance to kick the free market in the knee), would the Obamunist regulators lag behind? La Casa Blanca is giddy with excitement at the new regulatory regime about to be released anent the silver screen -- Warning! Extremely annoying commercial video begins playing immediately you click the link, and sometimes refuses to stop even when you click "pause," repeatedly:

The Obama administration is nearing completion of a proposal to require that movie theaters offer technology so blind and deaf people can go to the cinema.

The draft rule, which is part of a decades-long effort by advocates for people with disabilities, would likely require thousands of movie theaters across the country to offer devices that display closed captioning and provide audio narration of what’s happening onscreen.

Disability associations say that the new regulation will make sure that blind and deaf people can appreciate the latest blockbuster just like everyone else.

But theater owners worry that a federal mandate will force small, rural and struggling theaters to close given the costs associated with the rule.

"These theaters can barely stay in existence and often need community support to break even," the trade group wrote in a comment to the Justice Department’s 2010 precursor to the upcoming proposal. "To require them to install expensive closed captioning technology at this time is an undue financial burden that may result in these theaters closing."

But watching theaters close across (red-state) America is, of course, a miniscule price to pay for regulating all Americans -- requiring technology that will flash bright closed-caption LEDs in other patrons' eyes and loudly narrate all the ongoing visuals, minute by minute.

Heck, it's bad enough having to listen to the cell-phone conversation of some ninny two rows up, having a loud argument with his girlfriend about leaving the seat up in the "reading room." In the immediate future, we'll also have to listen to several sonic devices for the blind bellowing out, "Frank enters the room! He sees Manya! He throws a peanut-butter sandwich at her head!"

Well... well, I suppose we'll just have to buy DVDs instead, sit in our own living rooms, and make our own buttered popcorn. Cheaper that way anyway... Until Blu-Ray takes over completely, and we have to replace all of our $16 DVDs with $28 Blu-Rays -- which will shortly be jacked up to "$50, maybe $100, maybe $150." Of course, all those crappy, old movies -- low-res, un-CGI'ed, sans impossible stunts, no Transformers, maybe even silent! -- will still be free, more or less, on Turner Classic Movies.


I can live with that.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2013, at the time of 1:18 AM


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