The Summer movie season is over, and film pundits are wringing their hands over the box office drop from previous years.
Too many sequels, prequels and reboots? Not enough “Iron Man?” Audiences are too distracted by the latest “Star Wars” rumor to make it to the theater? The true culprits may be Walter White, Ray Donovan and the stack of dead bodies over at “Game of Thrones.”
The movie industry once feared the dawn of television would kill the movie-going experience, but that didn’t happened.
Are those worries finally justified?
We’re knee deep in the latest Golden Age of Television, a new, improved model that could be keeping movie goers on their couches.
It’s not just the high quality of today’s television or the lack of memorable movies coming our way. It’s the way we consume television content. We binge watch on our tablets, laptops and phones, and one of the three is always by our side.
The stories themselves are more than worth the bother, their mythologies impossible to resist. Consider “Breaking Bad,” the Emmy-winning tale of a chemistry teacher’s transformation into the southwest’s most notorious meth cook.
How can a two-hour movie compete with Bryan Cranston’s career-defining role? It can’t. Franchises like “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games” come close with their protracted tales, but they are the exceptions to the cinematic rule.
The recent “Transformers” sequel is a more appropriate example. “Age of Extinction” served up more razzle dazzle than any small-screen story could …. and then some. But is that all there is? Yes. No intriguing characters, layered themes or story arcs worthy of debate. Just eye candy and a visual hangover. Please deposit your 3D glasses in the recycling bin.
Compare that to “Justified,” the FX saga of a federal marshal with a knack for knocking off his suspects. You could talk about the show for days and never exhaust the conversation.
It’s not the only must-see-TV.
The mere rumor that “Orange Is the New Black” would be canceled sent some social media users into panic mode earlier this summer. Would enough people care if “Amazing Spider-Man 3“ got delayed or even scrapped?
Television has always had an unfair advantage, but only in recent years have its writers properly used it. They can take their time, telling wonderfully complex stories that unfold over entire seasons. Cable and streaming outlets, in turn, understand these projects demand patience and don’t pull the plug on them after a bad ratings report or two. The move to shorter seasons — think 12 episodes instead of 24 — means TV writers can stay creatively alert and draw the best actors around without tying them down for months at a time.
That leaves a simple choice. Would you rather stay home and binge watch three episodes of a show that already won you over, or get blasted out of a movie theater seat for $12?
Is it any wonder summer movie sales proved sluggish this year … and maybe for seasons to come?