*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.
This is a call to arms, and it might be very futile. But, I believe we, as people, who care about films are at a fairly critical juncture.
I’ve been writing for Fanboy Comics since March, and, in that time, one of the things I’ve enjoyed has been access to free movie screenings prior to a film’s release. It’s great. It helps our coverage to be much more up-to-the-minute and timely, and it’s also great because it saves me a lot of money. Like a lot of our readers and contributors, I am a struggling artist trying to find my way in the world. If he were still alive, I would take umbrage with Jonathon Larson whose musical Rent makes being a struggling artist seem, at times, a lot more fun that the reality of it is. There’s just something about bursting into song about burning your screenplays to keep warm in the winter that makes this sort of helpless poverty seem like a rollicking good time. If it weren’t for the hospitality of these screenings, I simply wouldn’t be able to pay to see most of the movies I’ve written about here.
My review of Cloud Atlas was posted on FBC last month, and I will admit that I did not have to pay money to see the film. It was free. I’m going to see the movie again this week, and I’m going to pay for it this time. I’m also going to see it at night when there’s no discounted price for a matinee ticket. I’m going out of my way to buy the most expensive ticket. I’m doing this because I want to do my small part to help assuage what is probably inevitable – that Cloud Atlas is going to be a financial disaster at the box office.
I don’t pay a lot of attention to box office reports; I’ll admit that I’m not much interested in the business part of show business. But, I would be naïve to think that the money side of things isn’t likely more important that the creative side in some ways. And so, I noticed yesterday that Cloud Atlas had a disastrous opening weekend in North America. It grossed less than $10 million ($9.6 to be more precise) in its first three days, and prognosticators think it will top out at around $30 million domestic. Cloud Atlas cost around $100 million to produce. It was actually financed independently and distributed by Warner Bros. It looks destined to lose a lot of money.
Granted, Cloud Atlas was always going to be a hard movie to sell. It’s three hours long. It’s impossible to be easily explained to people. I can’t imagine cutting it into a comprehensible trailer. (The film’s initial trailer was over 5 minutes long and only played on the internet, as the MPAA limits trailer length for theatrical screenings.) But, it does have big starts in it. Was there a show last week that Tom Hanks didn’t appear on to plug the film?
My fear is the flopping of Cloud Atlas will be further evidence to the studios to not invest in this kind of picture. It’s more or less constant for me when I get into a conversation with people about movies that they inevitably start to complain about their quality. The biggest lamentation seems to be a lack of creativity or a passion to tell original stories any more. Everything is a sequel. Everything is a remake. Or a reboot. The failure of Cloud Atlas isn’t going to do anything except cause the people with the power to greenlight a film to retreat into the safety of films they think they can easily sell. And, who can blame them for being risk-averse? If their movies tank, the people who greenlit them lose their jobs.
Cloud Atlas isn’t a perfect film, but it is a very good one. It’s incredibly risky and ambitious. Literary critics said for years that David Mitchell’s novel was unadaptable. We, as geeks, need to reward this kind of risk taking or be part of the problem and just complain about the movies we’re being given.
So, I’m opening my wallet this week, and I’m buying a ticket to see Cloud Atlas again. It may be a lost cause, but, as Jimmy Stewarts says in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, sometimes the only cause worth fighting for is the lost cause.
Who’s with me?