Out of the Ordinary

In the future, everyone will want to see movies this shiny!Slouched out to darkest Mississauga this morning for Disney’s 3D screening of “Meet the Robinsons”, and found myself in an outtake from Gary Burns and Jim Brown’s upcoming suburbia study “Radiant City” — an almost entirely deserted cluster of big-box stores, where people (myself included) wandered through the fog towards the only things that seemed open — the movie theater, a Tim Horton’s, a Starbucks and the theater.

You know the opening reel of the “Dawn of the Dead” remake? Kind of like that, but with fewer filters.

My traveling companion on this one was friend and colleague Adam Nayman, and one of the things we talked about was Peter Bart’s recent Variety piece on how the success of “300” and “Wild Hogs” is proof of the growing chasm between moviegoers and critics — or so Bart thinks.

The whole thing proceeds from a false premise, of course: As Jim Emerson points out in this post to his invaluable Scanners blog, the first-weekend grosses of a movie don’t actually tell you how many people enjoy a movie. They just tell you how many people went to see it. It’s an indicator of interest, not approval.

Here’s an example: Remember when “The Blair Witch Project” laid waste to the box-office in the summer of 1999? Try to find someone who admits to liking it now. (I mean, besides me.) But “The Sixth Sense”, which opened just a couple of weeks later, so thoroughly permeated popular culture that M. Night Shyamalan became a household name.

Large numbers of people saw both films. But only one attracted a return audience. I suppose you could argue that “Blair Witch” doesn’t really demand a second viewing the way “The Sixth Sense” did, but people don’t go back to see a movie they didn’t like.

Anyway, Emerson says it all quite eloquently — and make sure you check out the comments section, too — and I have seven reviews in various stages of unfinishment. Time to get on it.

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