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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear Hollywood

I read a news item a few weeks ago that the movie studios want to delay the releases of their new movies to Netflix, Red Box, and other rental outfits because they aren't selling enough new movies to consumers. This is my response.

Dear Hollywood Executives,

The problem with people purchasing movies isn't that we can rent them the day they're released. In my considered opinion, the reason you aren't selling more movies to consumers is that there are so few of them that are worth watching more than once. (And even once can be an iffy thing.) Why would I bother to spend $20 or more for a movie I might watch a single time?

If you would like to sell more DVDs, you need to release movies that consumers want to watch more than once. Movies they love so much they need to own them. You're not doing that right now.

Take me for example. I love movies, I love stories, and I would be happy to own copies of films I loved. In fact, I just did this. I watched the new Star Trek movie last weekend and loved it so much that I bought my own copy the same day I put the Netflix envelope in the mail. But these movies are few and far between.

Let's talk about Pirates of the Caribbean. The first movie was awesome and totally rocked. I bought a copy and watched it many times. I was eagerly looking forward to the second. And then I watched it. To say this was a huge disappointment would be understating it. Everything that was fun and wonderful about the original (with the exception of the very sexy Mr. Johnny Depp and Mr. Orlando Bloom) was missing from the second film. It became all special effects that overwhelmed the characters and should we talk about number three? I found that one the worst of the trio with characterization sacrificed to a boring plot and special effects that were a huge yawner. Why would I want to buy Pirates 2 or 3?

Or how about The Terminator, one of my favorite movies of all time? That one I own and I watch parts of it over and over. Even T2 was good, although it lacked the magic of the first. But I've never watched T3, and while I have T:Salvation in my queue at Netflix, I'm in no rush to see it. Frankly, I just don't care.

That's the problem with most of the movies you are releasing, Hollywood Executives--I don't care. I don't care enough to drive to the movie theater to watch them, and in the last two years, I can count on one hand the number of movies I've seen that I felt driven to own with plenty of fingers left over. And if I hadn't seen them on Netflix and loved them, I wouldn't have bought them because I've been burned too many times by lackluster films that rely on a franchise (Rocky 32) or some tie in (Batman, Transformers) to attract an audience.

Or ooh, how about all the remakes. You're going to remake Ice Castles? Red Dawn? Seriously? These weren't great movies the first time around, do you believe that they'll be better rehashed?

Dear Hollywood Executives, you want to sell more movies? Why don't you make movies that are so awesome that we, the consumer, can't imagine not owning our own copies. Yes, some of this is subjective--there are people who bought Waterworld--but some of it is not. Storytelling is more than special effects and a franchise name. The stories/movies that stay with us are original, well-written, and make us feel something for the characters and their journey. I'm not going to buy a movie just because Johnny Depp is in it or because it's Terminator Millennium. I purchase the movies that grabbed me and entertained me. So yes, I bought the latest Star Trek and the original Terminator among others, but these types of movies are few and far between.

Let your writers loose. Let them be creative. Don't rely on star power or a franchise like Rambo or tie-ins to comic books or toys to carry a film. They might be enough to get someone to watch a movie once, but these things alone are not enough to get most people to actually buy a movie. Yes, I want to see Johnny Depp, but I want to see him in an awesome movie, one without plot holes, one that keeps me entertained for the two hours it's playing, one that I can't imagine not watching a second time. To get that, you need writers. You need writers that aren't writing the same old thing because that's all you're buying and producing.

Please give me something worth buying and I promise you, I will purchase more DVDs.