In the 1956 classic The King and I, the King tries to explain to Anna the polygamous nature of men and the monogamous nature of women by use of an old Siamese saying. The saying goes: “A girl is like a blossom, with honey for just one man. A man is like a honey bee and gather all he can. To fly from blossom to blossom a honey bee must be free. But blossom must not ever fly from bee to bee to bee.” Now, that way of thinking didn’t fly with Anna nor would it find a sympathetic ear today. Despite that, today, I feel like the honey bee. But, instead of blossoms, I’m flying from topic to topic to topic.
Box Office Mojo reported Tuesday that April had a record month for box office revenue, topping $1 billion for the first time ever for the month of April. February similarly had a record breaking month. These are traditionally quiet months at the box office. Here’s the question. Are they quiet months because people don’t want to go to the movies during these months or is it because producers traditionally don’t release movies that people want to see during these months? Disney gambled that it was the latter and that gamble has paid off big time. Disney released Black Panther in February and Avengers: Infinity War in April and movie fans came out in record numbers. Are these movies breaking records because of the lack of competition? Maybe. But we won’t really know, will we, until other studios make the same gamble as Disney and really test whether fans are drawn to movie quality in whatever month it is released.
One of my favorite websites to visit this time of year is Awards Circuit Oscar Predictions. Even though it’s over eight months until the next Academy Awards presentation, this site doesn’t shy away from making an assessment of which movies are Oscar caliber. As of now, they are predicting a rematch between the two directors whose movies were both announced (one mistakenly) as the Best Picture of 2016, Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Damien Chazelle (LA LA Land). Jenkins is bringing James Baldwin’s novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, to the Oscar race. And, Chazelle is again teaming with Ryan Gosling to present, First Man, a biopic of Neil Armstrong, who famously took “a small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” in August of 1969. Nobody has seen these films and so their ranking of 1 and 2 on the list probably has more to do with what happened at the 2017 Oscars than anything specific about the movie. Regardless, it is fun to look ahead to the buzz-worthy movies being released later in the year.
I was watching a movie commentary show last week in which one of the guests brought up how different it is for today’s at home movie viewer than it was in the pre-cable TV era. Tonight, when you sit down to watch a movie, you will literally have over a thousand movies to choose from and still you will have trouble deciding what to watch. It made me think of a time, many years ago, when, as a young movie fan, I was thrilled to have a single contemporary movie shown on TV each week.
On September 23, 1961 NBC Saturday Night at the Movies premiered. At the time, it took years for a theatrical movie to be released for television viewing. The classic movie Ben-Hur, for example, took twelve years to be released for television broadcast. What was unique about Saturday Night at the Movies was that the network allocated two hours of programming (more if needed) to show the movie in its entirety. Prior to this, movies were edited to fit into one and a half hour time slots, commercials included, for local programming. It was not unusual to have 10% to 15% of the original movie cut to accommodate the time slot. Not only did Saturday Night at the Movies show the entire movie, they also committed to showing only movies released after 1950 to assure it would be a “recent” movie.
NBC Saturday Night at the Movies became a hit. It became “must see” TV. Families scheduled their evening at home around the movie. They didn’t choose the movie. The movie chose them. And, we didn’t care. It was a different time.