The holidays have sunk their teeth into the meaty flesh of middle-America’s soft underbelly, gripping their prey like some kind of lock-jawed Komodo dragon that only releases its victim when it can feel the pulse beat out its last faint thump.
This, of course, is entirely fair, what with the brain-dead consumer-base infecting all elements of society in such a way that the most recent Twilight installment can beat out a multi-genre-spanning powerhouse like The Muppets, along with a slew of other pictures too frightened to even seriously compete.
Initial holiday box office receipts suggest that Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Pt. 1 raked in an astounding $62.3 million, and that in its SECOND week. The newest Muppet movie brought in an entirely respectable $42 million according to Box Office Mojo, which would be an encouraging thought if it hadn’t played second fiddle to a film and franchise so wretchedly devoid of substance that it would make the writer of a Mexican soap opera blush.
If one wanted to get especially morose about the state of the nation’s cinematic tastes and proclivities, one might look at the numbers for the other new releases that came out this week, which included Scorcese’s newest (and very well-reviewed) film Hugo, which brought in a paltry $11.35 million (Friday to Sunday totals). Maybe the most highly regarded and anticipated film of the year, Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, came through the gate at just $9.24 million, which was an astonishing total for the extremely modest 400+ locations where this was actually playing.
This is the holiday movie season! This is when the studios are supposed to be releasing the very best of the stable, the crème de la crème of the year’s offerings. This is one of the hottest times of the year for people going to the theaters, and it’s also fabulously close to “Oscar season.” While moviegoers are on vacation, stuck with family members or in-laws they’d sooner abandon for a rabid mountain lion than hear speak for even ten more minutes, the movie theater offers a peaceful oasis few other amenities can provide. Theaters exist pretty much everywhere, they’re dark, and the rules dictate that you can’t speak while the picture is going.
Talk about perfect!
The studios have people out in the theaters, near enough Oscar-time to hopefully create some buzz leading up to the awards, and what do they have out there? Three movies aimed at children that are getting dominated by a soft-core vampire porno, and a few adult pictures (The Descendants, The Artist, A Dangerous Method) that are so clearly afraid of getting mutilated in this Hollywood thresher that they’re afraid to do little more than dip toes into the water.
Sure, The Descendants will get a wider release in the next couple of weeks, and will likely go on to crap enough money to feed a small nation for a day, but look at what’s going on out there. The Hollywood machine is so locked into a desire to crack the 8-14 demographic with the next season’s Shrek-like sensation that they’ve begun trading substance for sand. The holiday season used to be the one time of the year that people could count on a good movie. Sure, you dumped the kids off at the holiday playpen offering, but the adults could at least count on a good show.
Nowadays, even the kids don’t get good movies, they get Twilight. They get Twilight and the fading promise of decent offerings for their demographic with the sagging returns of a Muppet movie that did good, but not good enough to justify another venture in that realm. No, that’s not going to happen when sure-fire bets involving teenage vampires humping each other whilst werewolves gnash teeth in the wings promise ludicrous returns on pictures even the fans admit are increasingly sub-par (yet still get re-watched three and four times).
Why go wide with promising pictures like The Artist and A Dangerous Method when you can simply dangle their edges in the pool to create a scent? Indeed, drop it in any further, and the holiday monster of 2011 might bite, and sink its teeth in further than can be retrieved.