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2004 a Bad Year for Movies?
By: Ryan Parsons
Here is a case in point- 2004 was a strange, if not bad, year for movies. Now, I'm not talking about the quality of films, they were probably right on par. But, Hollywood has been growing scared. Scared to create films that fall away from standard conventions and afraid to try films that may tilt a couple heads or raise a few brows. If it wasn't for a few HUGE films in 2004, including some that distributors were afraid of, everybody may have felt that Hollywood was losing us. However, it seems that Hollywood is willing to turn a cheek and come stronger than it ever has this century [never mind Lord of the Rings] with the bringing in of 2005.
2004 Poor for Movies
I can understand how it may be hard to fathom that Hollywood did not have one of its best years during 2004. Sure, the film companies were still able to pull in film revenues with a little over nine billion, but ticket sales were actually DOWN by a startling two percent. Now, I know this doesn't sound like much, but it is! For the year of 2004, distributors were planning on conquering the box offices with films such as Troy, Alexander, The Whole Ten Yards, The Village and Van Helsing. However, all of these films flopped [Van Helsing is doing great with DVD though]. No matter how impressive the battles or sequences, audiences left the theatres feeling unsatisfied. So what was wrong with the films? And who saved 2004?
Four of the biggest hitters of 2004 came out of either CG animation or children's tales. Shrek 2 began with a bang and was able to gross somewhere just under $450 million in ticket sales. Then we had Pixar's The Incredibles, which proved that animated films with adult-style action and subject matter can still be successful [~$275 million gross]. Last of the animations was Spider-Man 2 [the fights were almost entirely animated]. I can call this an animation as the fight scenes were well animated and the film seemed to run like a perfect animated comic [~$370 million gross]. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, based of the 'childrens' book [I beg to differ], couldn't lose with a darker atmosphere set up by Alfonso Cuaron [pulled in $250 million]. Obviously, the four listed films were expected to do well in the theatres and all three performed gracefully. But what about the films that nobody wanted or were afraid to touch?
The two films that were handled like boiling water were Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Even though these films caused a lot of tension amidst their distributors [Einstein was pissed!], the two films managed to pull just under a combined $500 million in ticket sales. So that would make five big blockbusters for the year; not nearly enough. While Passion and Fahrenheit were more than plesent surprises, what about the other films?
The best thing to come out of 2004 is the amount of surprise hits that were able to maintain some theatre presence longer than just opening weekend. The only thing that hurt most the surprise hits for 2004 was the invisible barrier that would not allow a lot of films to break the $100 million mark. Here are some of the films that were able to break that mark [with a brief thought on how they were]:
Shark Tale- I would hope this out of a high cast CGI animation
I, Robot- I still don't know if I liked this film or not. Seemed a little rushed.
National Treasure- One of the best surprise films all year.
The Village- Only got passed $100 million thanks to hype.
Luckily, Hollywood did not have to rely on only these films. Even though the industry hoped to have at least double the number of films to get passed the $100 million mark, there were some other sleeper films that helped maintain high 2004 numbers. Some of these films include Mean Girls [a teenie bopper that anybody could like], Man on Fire, and The Notebook, Friday Night Lights and Napoleon Dynamite.
What's Wrong with Movies in 2004?
Eternal Sunshine takes you on a journey through love and the mind.The best example to give for what happened to movies in 2004 is the upcoming Academy Awards. Take a close look at the nominated films, what we have are dramas and bio-pics. People are losing interest; our top rated films are the ones that few people saw. We don't have a Lord of the Rings this year, or any other film that people want to sit down and root for. Want further proof? Why do you think Chris Rock is stepping in as host in order to atract a younger crowd?
Also, where the hell is Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind? I know it has a few nominations, but it deserves a few more. The film, starring Jim Carrey, only grossed $34 million in ticket sales [domestically] and was probably one of the most unique and plain out cool films of the year. Forget the biographies and the straight forward dramas, Spotless offers up an extremely unique outlook on love and the new ways to handle it. And, mind you, it falls entirely away from the simple conventions overly used in films during 2004.
In conclusion-- Hollywood needs to get people back in the theatres and buying tickets for films that deserve hyped attention. The best way to do this is by creating blockbusters that can actually remain in theatres longer than an opening weekend or two. Viewers are tired of films that just go through the motions and are now seeking something extremely polished or unique. Films of 2004 had lost the ability of 'word of mouth', but I expect that 2005 should regain all of this-- as Hollywood now seems ready to take some chances.
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