Return of the Blockbuster?

Much as a I bitch about the state of movies, entertainment, and the world in general, in my heart of hearts, I consider myself a hopeless romantic.

How else do you explain my foolhardy notion that maybe, just maybe, we’re entering a new age of great tentpoles?

Before we go any further, I’m going to be talking some about two movies I haven’t seen, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Snowpiercer. Obviously, since I haven’t watched either film I’m not going to get into great detail about them, but the chatter surrounding them is enough to make any film geek approaching thirty get a little mushy inside. I’m fairly familiar with the former, having seen its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes soon after it was released on home video. It was one of the first in what would turn out to be a series of happy surprises, which is to say, a  movie that I was so, so sure was going to be bad, that turned out to be great (the latest entry into this hall of plucky heroes is the delightful The Lego Movie). Again, there’s no accounting for taste, and certainly I’ve been let down by sequels to outstanding projects before (The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?), but the critical and popular reaction to Dawn seems to suggest that I’ll have a grand old time watching humans and apes collide in post-apocalyptic San Francisco.

Snowpiercer, on the other hand, is a film I know very little about. I know it’s release was held up by Miramax, that it features a Korean director, and that almost every person whose opinion on movies I hold in high regard has told me to see it, immediately, and not to read anything about it. Sold.

The few bits and pieces I have read about Snowpiercer have mostly been on facebook, and more than one writer has referred to Snowpiercer, along with Dawn as cause for celebration: blockbusters are getting smarter, and more important to the longevity of such developments, audiences are going to see them. Snowpiercer has made $82 million since it’s release in late June (granted, a paltry $2 million of that is from the US, but that’s not bad for a genre flick by an unknown Korean director that’s been on the shelf for two years), and Dawn has raked in over $113 million worldwide since last Friday (with $80 million coming from the states). Hell, let’s not forget the incredibly fun and competent Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, which has done $350 million worldwide since the first week of June (remember kids, in this global economy, tentpoles are too big to fail).

So what’s the upshot of all this? Well, attendance is still down overall, and doomsayers will probably continue to say that the theater is slowly on the way out as the home options get better and better, by I hold out hope that people like Tim League will continue to make the theater a place people want to go, rather than someplace they have to go. Of course, having quality four-quadrant movies like Dawn and Edge can’t hurt either. At the very least, maybe we’re now in a place where the accounting wizards at big studios are weighing the material costs of producing great content versus that of shitting out some warmed over garbage like Hansel and Gretl: Witch Hunters or The Oogieloves.



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