by Lewis Manalo
This past weekend I had the experience of watching Dominic Sena’s Whiteout at the movie theater, then watching Ed Harris’ Appaloosa at home. Despite Whiteout‘s bad reviews, I wanted to see the snow. Watching it on screen is better than being in it. Based on Robert B. Parker‘s novel, Appaloosa is a solid Western that got some mixed reviews when it first came out, but I think Ed Harris should be proud of it.
Comparing the two films (in a dangerously simplistic way) Whiteout got a wider release (2,745 screens) than Appaloosa ever did (1, 045 screens) , pushing the icy thriller’s grosses higher than the Western’s best weekend. On a per screen average, Appaloosa’s a no contest winner in terms of gross, and I cringe at the thought of the difference in net. Appaloosa was hands down the better investment, but Whiteout was without a doubt the bigger one. (Stats take from http://www.boxofficemojo.com/).
From a film lover and book buyer’s point of view, it’s quite ironic that the conventional thinking in film, as illustrated by the investments made in these two films, is that a film audience will spend their money on a frenetically busy movie; whereas, the conventional thinking in publishing is that readers only buy books (like Robert B. Parker’s) written in economical prose.
Yes, it’s equally ironic that I spent more money on Whiteout, but that’s the point. The common ground of the two industries (other than the conglomerates that share their ownership) is that “they” think audiences on the whole are stupid. (Or they at least treat them like they were idiots.) They’ll invest more money in the works that are easier for audiences to handle, and they’ll grab a bigger share of the market for a film made so an fifth grader can handle it rather than use those screens for a movie that actually attempts to have characters.
Art is a business. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is trying to sell you their own art. But are audiences really stupid? You’re part of that audience, Cochise. Perhaps if you – and me – stopped wasting our money on crap, we’d get more respect, our industries would not have to spend their money producing the poop that they know they can sell.
Or maybe we really are idiots. It’s your culture. You decide.