Commentary

Independence -- From The Multiplex Screen

Whether you were in The Hamptons, the Berkshires or lolling about your backyard somewhere in Westchester or Brooklyn this Fourth of July weekend — lolling about almost anywhere pleasant on earth — chances are your smart set of pals weren’t gassing with anticipation about what great movie was in the works.

No, that chatter was probably an enthusiastic pitch for what Netflix or Amazon series to binge on. Conversations lakeside or seaside were much more likely to be about the recently released fourth season of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” or “The Mindy Project,” rescued by Hulu after being canceled by Fox.

Two decades ago, you might, like me, have been looking forward to doing your patriotic cinematic duty, heading to “Independence Day,” and anticipating being bathed in air-conditioned popcorn splendor. So there we were, on July 4, 2016, and asked to see…“Independence Day: Resurgence?” Are you f---in’ kidding me?!?

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Some important streaming data that Nielsen released last week at a client conference tells a big part of my story — and, my bet is, your story, too. The premiere episode of the new season of “Orange Is the New Black,” for example, was watched by 6.7 million viewers in the first three days of its release on Netflix. That’s a Trumpian-level yuuuuge number. As The Wall Street Journal reported, that’s the kind of number “Game of Thrones” delivers, and that’s the biggest hit in HBO history.

No doubt there is a strong connection to this streaming data, and the dismal current box office numbers. So far this summer, movie revenues are off by about 20% from only a year ago. In the wake of the July 4 weekend, The Hollywood Reporter dubbed what’s happening as “freefall at the multiplex.” It’s a perfect storm of a dearth of quality this summer on the big screen.

Look no further than this week’s Top Box Office releases on rottentomatoes.com. Only “Finding Dory” got a better-than 90% favorable ratings from critics and fans alike. Just about everything else on the list ranges in ratings from just OK, to execrable. So forget “Finding Dory” — how about finding view-worthy movie fare?

Meanwhile, there’s a perpetual flow of quality TV streaming on the home screen, with your own popcorn and A/C control nearby. The biggest complaint from consumers is how can they keep up with all the good stuff.

The day before Nielsen gave a peek into the ratings for some popular streaming service series, it released another study, one that revealed how many households subscribe to streaming services. The Nielsen presentation said 52% of U.S. households now have some form of subscription streaming video service, up from about 40% two years ago.

That stat made me hit the pause button, because it speaks volumes about today’s TV Everywhere landscape.

I know these truths to be self-evident, up-close and personal. When spending time with family and friends on Independence Day: The Reality, the rain came to my neighborhood, which made watching fireworks from the roof a washout. That’s when someone suggested a trip to the local movie house. After a quick search, we realized there was absolutely nothing anybody wanted to pay to see, let alone watch even if free passes were available. Same was true when we stayed in and I perused the on-demand new releases and came up with bupkes.

You probably can guess how the Fourth of July weekend ended. For us, it was with a catch-up episode of “Game of Thrones” and the finale of season three of Netflix’s “Peaky Blinders.” For you, it may have been some semblance of this. But certainly, not with “Independence Day: Regurgence”— sorry, “Resurgence.” That would have been too much to ask even of the most red, white and blue patriot.

Isn’t this something we can all agree on, regardless of anyone's politics? Perhaps. And until they Make the Multiplex Great Again, I’m sticking at home, where the real viewing action is. And I know I’m not Home Alone.

6 comments about "Independence -- From The Multiplex Screen".
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  1. Sunil Soman from NCM Media Networks, July 6, 2016 at 6:20 p.m.

    Sure summer box office is down slightly (TV ratings never do that...), but at NCM we're still seeing huge numbers of people turn out at our theaters.

    Over the past 3 weeks, NCM's weekly audience (NCM is roughly 60% of US theatrical admissions) has been around a 15 rating on Adults 1849 as measured by Nielsen - or in other words, around the size of the NFC Championship game every week. 

    But more importantly, summer has just begun and we still have several tried-and-true blockbuster franchise releases coming up including Star Trek Beyond, Ice Age: Collision Course and Jason Bourne.

    Whether the box office is up or down on a given week (YTD admissions are up), the fact remains that the movies are one of the longest standing and most stable entertainment venues and (and now media channels) out there. 

    So when it's 95 out and you feel like you're sticking to the sidewalk, pop into a theater, grab a cool drink and enjoy a flick - that's what everyone else is doing. 

  2. David Wiesenfeld from Tru Optik, July 6, 2016 at 6:54 p.m.

    Totally agree with the author's point. Another way to think about it is to ask if movie theaters would have been invented had the in-home technology we have today been available 100 years ago.

    My guess is no ... 

  3. Sunil Soman from NCM Media Networks, July 6, 2016 at 7:20 p.m.

    Interestingly enough, we've seen that moviegoing frequency in svod households is just as high as those without.

    At the end of the day, viewers will gravitate towards wherever they are having great experiences with great content. I'm sorry the author had a bad weekend, but there have been a steady 25 million people a week over the past decade that feel otherwise.


  4. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, July 7, 2016 at 10:01 a.m.

    Nice column Max. Obviously there are a lot more entertainment choices than there once were, but it is still mind boggling to consider than in the 1940s, upwards of 60 million people went to the movies every week, when there were less than 150 millon Americans out there.

    TV was once movies with small budget. Movies are now TV with a big budget-- better explosions, mainly. No self respecting couch potato needs to spend time at the Cinema 28.


  5. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, July 7, 2016 at 10:04 a.m.

    should be "fewer" than 150 million Americans. Hate making that mistake! 

    Fewer than thirty children each year develop the disease. Use less when you're referring to something that can't be counted or doesn't have a plural (e.g. money, air, time, music, rain). For example: It's a better job but they pay you less money.

  6. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, July 7, 2016 at 10:04 a.m.

    should be "fewer" than 150 million Americans. Hate making that mistake! 

    Fewer than thirty children each year develop the disease. Use less when you're referring to something that can't be counted or doesn't have a plural (e.g. money, air, time, music, rain). For example: It's a better job but they pay you less money.

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