LESSON #1: WARNING LABELS CAN EDUCATE AND ARE BETTER THAN EDITING— Media giant and streaming player Disney has started to add on-screen warning messages in front of some of their Disney+ selections that include antiquated and misrepresented depictions of racial and ethnic stereotypes. I’ll gladly add my applause to that effort for two big reasons that aren’t mentioned in the cited news article. First, Disney has gone a wonderful educational step further with its connected “Stories Matter” website that presents company goals as well as individual descriptions of the “what/why” for each label film and its content. That has tremendous value. Second, they’re leaving the content itself alone and not tinkering with edits, cuts, and corrections (at least for now). That’s honorable integrity from a company that sometimes looks to just be about optics only. Now that they’re asses are covered, it’s time to release Song of the South already.
LESSON #2: BOUNCING BACK TAKES A COMBINATION OF DEATH AND SURVIVAL— Immediately after my last #WhatWeLearnedThisWeek column was posted, the huge and unfortunate news broke of the permanent closure of Regal Cinemas theater locations. Their demise has forced fellow chain AMC Theaters to consider bankruptcy with the prospects of running out of money in six months. We all hoped this wasn’t possible, but the astute among us saw this coming since March. You cannot sustain a business, large or small, that needs a steady stream of people and product offerings. Not enough of either are there right now, and the money was going to run out. Higher help is not coming. Unlike economy pushers like the auto industry, there is no leverage or advantage for the government to bail out the movie industry. Classic want vs. need there.
That said, I don’t buy all the bleak extinction talk, no matter how bad Tenet failed as a savior. Sad as this news is, moviegoing will survive this. It has made it through worse times than one bad year. What I do buy is change. The industry needs to adapt to the times and change for their survival. Beer companies changed their products and practices during Prohibition and they returned just fine. Movies need to do the same. If switching gameplans towards streaming as that vessel for the foreseeable future, just as Disney has suggested with Soul and their whole future, so be it. Maybe we need more drive-in theaters that allow spacing. Maybe we need to take those 30-screen multiplexes and turn them into 15-screen venues instead with more spacious seating and less contact surfaces. This is like a forest fire that spurs regrowth through destruction. Some of this shit (i.e. price gouging and bad practices) needed to be burnt to the ground.
LESSON #3: YOU CANNOT CUT QUALITY AND CONTINUE TO CHARGE EQUAL OR MORE FOR SAID MISSING QUALITY— Maybe I’m just a perceptive former fat kid, but it just me or have the portion sizes of fast food burgers and candy bars gotten smaller in the last few decades? The reasoning most often cited is meeting stricter nutritional caps with less so-called sticker shock with calories. The prices, though, sure haven’t changed for getting less. That’s not supposed to happen with the movies. Size, noise, and bandwidth can and should keep improving if premiums are being paid to get them. That’s why resolution snobs and tech experts are squinting and calling early BS on Netflix’s plan to cut 4K bitrates on their streaming platform. You can’t sell diminishing results (as reported in the cited article) for the same extra charge. Check your wallets and maybe trim that bill down for a bit until that gets tuned better.
LESSON #4: HOW F’N BROKE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW?— Speaking of wallets, how much poorer are all of you movie consumers after the last month? Between Amazon Prime deals, Target bundles, a few Best Buy drops, shocking deals from the mysterious GRUV coming through, a recent Criterion sale, and little sales from Deep Discount, Olive, Arrow, and Shout, the bounties coming home for the physical media shoppers among the Feelin’ Film Facebook Group has been glorious to witness and join in. We’re all going to pay for this with crackers and soup for the rest of the year. But hey, we’ll be enthralled and entertained while starving!
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication. As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#142)