In the future, all movies will open on Christmas Day.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, we're well on our way.
This year, at least seven films will open on the holiday, with two more opening on Dec. 27 _ all trying to unseat the likely reigning box-office champion, which should be Will Ferrell's "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," hitting theaters five days earlier on Dec. 20.
The holiday overcrowding could have been worse. "Jack Ryan," the latest incarnation of author Tom Clancy's CIA analyst, was supposed to open on Dec. 25, but was recently moved out of the crowded marketplace to a 2014 date. Another potential blockbuster _ George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" _ also relocated to 2014.
Those strategic moves probably were wise because the last week of 2013 is loaded with product, particularly after director Martin Scorsese decided to delay his Leonardo DiCaprio film "The Wolf of Wall Street" from Nov. 15 to Christmas, reportedly to allow the filmmaker extra time to trim his epic from eight hours down to three (a slight exaggeration).
This is not a new phenomenon. Each year, studio executives make the same mistake and release too many movies in the same week. What is that adage about those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past being doomed to repeat them? Hollywood learns nothing from the past. They see kids home from school and all rational thought goes out the window.
As a result, a few really popular movies emerge from the crowd, and make some money. The rest of the movies, some of them quite good, fail to find an audience. They suffer, and we as an audience suffer.
Well, I have a better idea.
While I support the concept of competition in sports, I oppose box-office competition in Hollywood. Where is it written that we are required to have a weekly battle over box office revenues? Why is it so important to announce weekend estimates before the weekend ends? What indication did we ever give that would lead movie executives to believe that we give a damn about weekend box-office numbers?
There are 39,918 movie screens in the United States, and fewer than 600 movies are released each year. And that includes obscure French movies with subtitles that open in four theaters.
What if we had just two official release dates - the day after Labor Day, and the day after the Oscars telecast?
On the former date, all fall movies, holiday blockbusters and Oscar contenders would hit theaters on the same day. A committee of knowledgeable movie industry insiders would determine how those movies would be distributed among the nearly 40,000 screens.
A movie that has some serious buzz would get a larger percentage of the theaters. Smaller films would get a smaller percentage of screens. Yes, it sounds like what happens now, but in my system, these films would remain in these theaters from September through February. Young people, who have an inexplicable need to see movies as soon as they open, could stand in line the first few weekends, and then older movie-goers could attend later, knowing that they have six months to see the film.
Right after the Oscars telecast, the spring and summer movies would hit the nation's theaters. Studios will squawk because they like releasing superhero movies in the summer when kids are out of school, but it won't matter. The movies will still be in theaters when summer rolls around. All we have eliminated are studio bragging rights, and we really don't care about studio bragging rights.
The system now is silly. Studios reserve opening dates for summer blockbusters two years in advance. The first weekend of the summer may be claimed even earlier than that. This nonsense will end. Nobody will care who is first because every summer movie will come out the day after the Oscars. And, by the time your kids get out of school for the summer, they'll know exactly which movies they want to see because the movies will have been in theaters for a couple of months.
This system will discourage no one from going to the movies. In fact, it might encourage older movie-goers to see more youthful fare because they'll know that three months after the opening, they won't have to contend with annoying teens kicking the back of their seats and texting during the movie. The kids will have moved on to other pursuits, like twerking.
Movie theaters will sell no less popcorn and, in fact, might sell more because this system encourages year-round movie attendance and not just brief spikes during the summer and holidays.
The only downside to my system is that I might be out of a job because there will be no need for new stories every weekend. Come to think of it, forget everything I've said.
Barry Koltnow: firstname.lastname@example.org
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