Everyone's a Critic

Picture this.

You're sitting in a movie theatre, the lights go down and the coming attractions flicker on the screen.  In a mere minute and a half they promise two hours worth of intrigue, suspense, wonder, love and entertainment.  And as soon as each trailer ends everyone becomes a critic:

"That looks good."  "I totally want to see that."  "Um, maybe."  "Wow.  Seriously?"  "What happened to you, Nicholas Cage?"  "Is there anything John Travolta won't do?"

Everyone, of course, has their opinion but it makes me wonder: how do people decide what movies they will see versus movies they'll pass up?  Is it the trailers?  Movie star power?  Are people relying more on word of mouth?  And do film critics still have the kind of influence they once had?

All too often you hear the words "I'll wait until it comes out on DVD" concerning a new release.  Why is that?  It's certainly cheaper to rent a movie than to go to the movie theatre (it's about ten dollars at the theatre versus the one dollar-a-day deal at Red Box); is this particular movie not worthy of the extra money?  Most people it seems watch their wallets when it comes to movie entertainment.  I know this because I worked at a Blockbuster Video before the corporation went bankrupt.  Is it not worth the effort?  People have their busy schedules and it's not always convenient to work around theatre show times.  Or maybe it's because home entertainment has developed to the point where you can have the theatre experience in your own living room.  So then why would anyone ever go out  to the theatre if there are so many reasons to stay on the couch?

Seeing movies is a social event; we have to mind our manners by not talking during the show and silencing our cell phones.  We tend to go with friends and family, not that there's any interaction between those we choose to see the film with but rather a shared social experience.  And when the movie lets out everyone can release that inner critic: "That was awesome"" or "What was the deal with that part?"  It's important for us to have this social experience lest we hear the words "You mean you haven't seen that movie yet?  Really?"  And no one can deny that it feels good to give a quick movie review to someone who trusted our opinion, whether it's good or bad.  So our social lives play an important factor in our decision; is this a movie I want to see with my friends?  Will my friends ask about it if I see it without them?

Movie stars, of course, are huge when it comes to movie marketing.  A film with a major star is more likely to draw audiences; people have their favorite actors and actresses and will see just about any movie they're in no matter what.  I remember when the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels came out and how each one seemed to get progressively worse in quality.  When the fourth installment "On Stranger Tides" was released I resolved not to see it because of the likelihood that the story line would be terrible.  My co-worker however was very excited to see it; when asked why she stated simply "It's Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow."  My personal opinion is this -- a good actor or actress can put me in the seat but it takes more than a movie star to make a good movie.

Finally there are the film critics, professional writers whose job it is to review the films we consider seeing.  Once upon a time the film critic seemed crucial to the decision to go out to the movies or not; Siskel and Ebert, Pauline Kael and Leonard Maltin were all juggernauts in their hey days.  Now anyone can be a critic on Twitter and Facebook and online blogs.  The respect for the professional critics I think has gone down; I heard that they had to shut down Rotten Tomatoes recently because any critic who offered a negative review of "The Dark Knight Rises" was rebutted with profanities and obscenities.  People certainly feel passionate about the movies they choose to see and don't like film critics messing with them.  Some people will simply not allow anyone to tell them that after seeing all the trailers, hearing all the hype and talking with their friends they made a bad decision to see a sub-par movie ( I haven't seen "The Dark Knight Rises" yet so I have no idea if that's the case here.  I really hope not).

Whenever system you have, be it personal recommendations or online reviews or catching a glimpse of the hottest movie trailer, we all seek that elusive show that is worth the price of admission.  So happy hunting.

See you in the movies!


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