Dear Hollywood

I thought I’d share this letter I wrote a couple of years ago for laughs. It is my response to all the furor of the Hollywood types who simply can’t understand why movies are failing. I never did manage to find a magazine that was interested in it:

Dear Hollywood,

Hello, old friend. I hear you’re in a bit of a slump, and being the kind of buddy that I am, I decided I would try and help. I mean, over the years you’ve done a lot of good things for me; Virtuosity was one of the coolest presents I ever got, it would be remiss if I didn’t try and give you something in return. And who could forget the fright I got from the original Hellraiser? Good times! In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you made me laugh so hard iced tea came out my nose.

First off, you shouldn’t feel ashamed; everyone has their slumps. Me, as a writer I’m having a bit of one myself. The low box office returns are probably pretty alarming, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. I know you’re at that terrible stage in depression where you think that no one understands your problem; certainly that’s what the market researchers in your head seem to be saying. But trust me, I know what you’re going through, I want to start by helping you get a few things straight in your head. I’ve been there, buddy, I understand better than you think.

Okay, I know you don’t like them, but you can’t blame DVDs for all of your problems. Anyone with a depression problem needs to realize that the problem always starts from the inside. Other people are never the initial problem. Hell, you helped me learn that when I was a kid, yourself, or don’t you remember all those important things you said in The Breakfast Club? You seemed to have it right in Girl, Interrupted, too. Look, I’m your friend; I’m not feeding you your own words for nothing.

Remember, you said the same thing in the 70s and 80s about VHS: that they’d ruin you. They didn’t, did they? They actually made you more money and brought back Auteurism, and we know how much you missed it. I mean yes, it started the phenomenon of people designating “renters,” but that kept you honest. You couldn’t pull another stunt like The Towering Inferno again after that, and I know you feel guilty about it. VCRs pressed you to work harder to make better movies, better previews, and the like. DVDs are doing the same thing only faster; now you have to make your movies even better to get people into theatres.

Let’s face it: The Island was a renter, a good renter, but a renter nonetheless. And with DVD technology people just aren’t waiting a half a year to see it anymore, so you don’t get the impatient types rushing to the theatres anymore. It also doesn’t take five or six years to be able to buy a really good movie at to-own prices like it did when I was in high school. Man, I remember waiting for The Crow to come down to private ownership prices until 1999. I rented it at least five times between when it was in theatres and when I could buy it for myself.

And you were so cool about not judging my angsty teenaged goth tastes, either you did something for everyone. What happened there?!

You used to be so cool: the popular kids could go see Titanic and I could get my mind-bending twist in with Lost Highway at the same time. Even the burnouts had George of the Jungle to trip out to at the same time. To be honest, I think you’ve become a little snobby in your old age: now you’re only making screwball comedies for people who like that kind of humour; I mean, come on, not all of us liked There’s Something About Mary and Ace Ventura. I can only take so much Will Farrell (more on him later.) Frankly you couldn’t pay me to go see The Forty Year-old Virgin. Frankly, Trey Parker’s sense of humour offends me, why are you trying to make all of your comedies feel like South Park?

And if it isn’t the screwball flicks, it’s movies based on books Oprah likes or on 1960s television; it was only the golden age of TV for the people who grew up with it, by the way; I hate “Leave it to Beaver,” I grew up on “Punky Brewster,” and I’ll stick with her. I don’t always want to be “uplifted” by a movie. Sometimes I need brooding.

You’ve forgot all of us mind-trip lovers, angsty ex-goths, goremongers, artistes, and B-movie insomniacs. I’m sure the drug crowd and the romance lovers feel the same way. When’s the last time you did a good action-romance like Jewel of the Nile or Romancing the Stone? Those were really good movies. Was The Paper really the last of that tradition? I sure hope not!

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you’ve sold us out, just because we didn’t turn every movie into a multimillion grosser. Now you won’t make something unless it will make a fortune. On the rare occasion that you do make an audience-oriented movie these days you don’t want to risk the big bucks on it. Would it have hurt you to hold out for a good script of Dungeons and Dragons even if you knew we FRPG geeks wouldn’t fill the theatres?

You used to be happy if you made a movie that its target audience (remember that term? You used to throw it around to us writers all the time,) enjoyed and that paid for itself, plus a little on the side. Now you have to make movies that only reach the big audiences, and the have to gross more than Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles or Batman did. You should have seen that as a happy fluke, not a raising of the bar. Nobody can do that every day. Frankly you’ve burned yourself out trying. That’s partially my fault, as one of your many, many friends I should have seen it coming and intervened earlier. I’m sorry about that.

Speaking of people you’ve alienated, don’t you think that you need to let up on the Video Pirates, just a little. Okay, so they’re stealing your movies, yes. But you don’t really have any evidence that they are doing you a lot of damage. Do you know how hard it is to get a reasonable rate? I don’t have the patience to spend seven hours on the Internet trying to download a movie. I’ll admit it, some guys in my dorm were passing Hannibal around back when I was in college, and I tried it, but frankly, I didn’t like it: poor quality, tiny screen, crunching popcorn over the speakers, not to mention the rude comments of the theatre-goers made it a miserable viewing experience. I decided I couldn’t be bothered.

As for Hannibal, I’m kind of glad I didn’t see it in theatres, I feel it was a really bad addition to the series, and kind of ruined the whole franchise for me, and I’ve been a fan since Manhunter. I thought you’d gotten over the bad (greedy-feeling) sequel syndrome back after Ghostbusters 2. I would have been angry with you if I’d spent the money to rent it.

And those adds with the stunt man complaining about his movie being ‘stolen’ and the NO PIRATES signs in some theatres, well, frankly they’re preachy. I’m not there to steal a movie, and I don’t like to be talked to like I’m a twelve year-old or accused of being a thief the moment I walk in the door. That’s why I don’t watch CNN or shop at Fry’s Electronics. I dare you to call your father a liar or a thief to his face! It’s rude, plain and simple. I sure as hell don’t want to pay $7 to get into a movie just to be called a thief the moment I it down with a $5 bucket of popcorn.

The RIAA could use a lesson in manners as well; you’d think jackals brought them up.

While I am in this “tough love” mode (and I hope you’re still reading,) the theatre experience just isn’t worth it anymore. The costs have kept going up, but the movies have gotten less appealing. When I’m with my parents in California I have to watch people (and not just teenagers) let their friends sneak in the emergency exit and then cluster up behind me, and then chatter through the whole movie, light up their watches, and swap text messages on their über-phones. Not just kids, either, even grown-ups are doing this. Didn’t you used to have ushers who were there to ensure that we got where we paid for by silencing or ejecting noisy audience members and preventing the theatre from being overcrowded by non-paying customers?

Half the time I go I am being forced to listen to the hecklers or gossips behind me instead of the dialogue. Even if you ask them to do something about these Chatty Cathys you get no results. I actually watched Wolf to the sound of a sewing circle of 70-year-old grannies talking about their grandkids. What a way to ruin a perfectly good werewolf movie! I don’t even want to think about how a drunken trucker ruined ID4 for me, or how I had my posterior pinched by some jerk in the IMAX at Great America when I went to see Ring of Fire (I had long hair and it was dark, I guess he didn’t see my beard.)

For crying out loud, if I am going to be forced to sit through thirty minutes of ads after the latest rubbish from the Dave Matthews Band or incessant Hip-hop, I should be allowed to enjoy the movie at least. I was 20 minutes late to Zathura last month and still didn’t miss the beginning! You REALLY need to take care of business in the theatre experience department. It’s just not fun anymore.

And the ads! Why do I have to see advertisements for soda, television programmes, or cars before my movie? I stopped watching TV and started buying programmes I liked by the season years ago because I was sick of them, I thought you were making pretty good money, cost of SFX and the ridiculous price you’re paying actors aside. I’m not some kind of pinko-commie alien, you know me! I just got sick of TV ads.

I really am saying this because you’re my friend. I mean it! I think you could be so much happier if you just took some time to be honest with yourself, and tried to get back to the good old days we had together when you didn’t have to make six million on every film, and where you treated every audience right, rather than only serving the biggest crowd. Don’t you want to be my friend anymore?

As always, Yours Truly,



~ by Brian Rideout on 08/02/2010.

One Response to “Dear Hollywood”

  1. Ah, yeah. I’ve been there. I was really pissed about the ads the first time I saw them, but I came to a compromise on it. Previews of up-coming movies are essentially ads, but they’re *related*. I *love* seeing the previews. So, if there are going to be ads, I’m ok with the following: music in the form of soundtracks, straight to dvd movies, straight to tv movies, tv mini-series, and tv programs in the local market. Music from the rest of those is cool too. I can’t count how many times I’ve caught a song on something and wished to god I knew what the hell it was so I could go find it.

    That aside, there’s an incredible difference between now and “way back when.” Total production time might be one month. ONE MONTH! Movies were coming out *all the time*. Now, they’re lucky to get done with shooting in a month. Editing, scoring, etc. take similar time and then we end up waiting a YEAR for a movie to come out in the *theater*. Who knows how long we’ll have to wait after that for a movie to come out on DVD? Oh, and releasing them to on-demand tv before DVD does *not* solve the problem. Seriously: streamline the process, make it more efficient, and maybe you’ll keep up with our relatively short attention spans.

    Oh, and I think the writers’ strike was the best thing to happen to movies in quite awhile. Overall quality went up, and has stayed relatively high. There will always be dogs though. You just have to accept that. Also: Kudos on forming subsidiary production companies to let new writers, directors, and actors get a foot in the door. Many of those movies have made my day throughout the years.

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