Any Summer Miracles for Hollywood?
Rolfe, chairman, The Dove Foundation
Easter and Christmas, summer is the hottest season for
the movie box office. Hollywood calls it the
“blockbuster” season. That word is more wishful thinking
and hype than anything real. Hollywood is the ultimate
hype machine. If you hear that a movie is a
“blockbuster,” it must be worth spending $8.50 – $10.00
The summer box office also gives investors a financial
barometer for the rest of the year. If a studio is
behind the previous record year, they pray for a miracle
movie to help them equal or exceed their last best
performance. In Hollywood “better than last year” is not
good enough. This year must be a “best year,” by their
standards. So it’s a small wonder that they have been
disappointed with the past 4 years of consistent
downturns in theatrical revenue.
So far, the 2006 box office has been a welcome surprise
to many entertainment executives who lamented the
drastic decline in revenue during 2005. The big numbers
are due in part to animals, “Eight Below,” “The Shaggy
Dog,” “The Wild,” ”Ice Age: The Meltdown,” and “Hoot.”
The high first quarter grosses were also due to a strong
carryover from the Christmas release of, “The Chronicles
of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” which
brought in over $700 million theatrical box office
revenue worldwide. And that was before the DVD was
On one hand, everyone in Hollywood hopes for a record
box office. To cover their bets, however, the same
executives are looking for the next new outlet for their
movies beyond the big screen. The pursuit of new ways to
leverage the profits of a single movie began in the
1980’s with the advent of video rental. That was quickly
followed up by video sales, to DVD’s, to Pay-Per-View,
to Network TV, to Cable/Satellite TV. DVD rental by mail
was the new hot item just a few short years ago. Now,
its video iPods, streaming movies online, and movies
transformed into video games (or vice versa).
Technology is moving so rapidly, and producing so many
new outlets for movies and television programs, that
there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. One thing is
clear. The overall revenue of high quality movies will
continue to increase. But, the whole buttered
popcorn-soft drink combos and Junior Mints experiences
of today will soon go the way of the drive-in theater;
unless someone comes up with a new mousetrap to entice
the audience back into the theaters. A few theater
chains are experimenting with entertainment destination
complexes combining restaurants, shopping malls, and
kiddy playlands under the same roof.
Technological advances are making movies more accessible
to everyone, and that is not necessarily a good thing.
Exactly what kinds of movies are now more accessible to
our kids? Most theater owners have been faithful at
preventing unaccompanied minors from getting into
R-rated films. However, now some of the most explicit
R-rated movies made can be downloaded directly off the
Internet without regard for the age of the viewer.
While credit cards are usually required for most online
transactions, children are being given debit cards by
their parents. These can then be used to make nearly any
online purchase; from cigarettes to booze to
downloadable hard-core pornographic films.
My dad always reminded me to keep the main thing, the
main thing. So we’re back to square one. Content has
been, is, and always will be, the main thing. That’s why
The Dove Foundation reviewers take their jobs so
seriously. To us, the method of delivery is unimportant.
It’s the movie itself that we pay attention to.
So, let’s see what Hollywood has in store for the family
audience this summer. Due to limited space and time,
I’ll restrict my comments to those upcoming films that
look like they will probably meet Dove standards;
although none of them have been reviewed at the time of
“Superman Returns.” One can only hope that Brandon Routh,
Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey are up to the task of
perpetuating the super hero franchise that was
faithfully rendered by Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder
and Gene Hackman in 1978 and 1980. 1983’s “Superman III”
was a bit too sappy for my taste.
One of my favorite radio programs, “Prairie Home
Companion” is being released as a motion picture. Dove’s
assistant editor, Edwin Carpenter, went to an advance
screening in, of all places, Minneapolis. He found the
movie entertaining, but appropriate for audiences over
age 12, which should come as no surprise to those
familiar with the show’s creator, Garrison Keillor.
According to Edwin, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin
Kline and Lindsay Lohan make for a well-knit ensemble
cast. A review of the movie and interviews with the cast
members will be posted soon at www.dove.org.
Missing for a while from the movie scene, the CG
animation geniuses at Pixar are back with “Cars,” a tale
about a spoiled race car (voice by Owen Wilson) who
meets up with more common vehicles that force him to
take an easier road in life. Early buzz for this family
movie has been less than praiseworthy. But, as we are
reminded by a story in Entertainment Weekly magazine,
the last alleged Pixar dud was “Finding Nemo,” which
grossed $340 million.
Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are sure
to tear up the screen with a sequal to the “blockbuster”
hit, “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The first installment,
“Curse of the Black Pearl,” was PG-13 and bumped the
ceiling in violence and occultism, to barely squeak
through as Dove-approved for ages 12 plus. Only the
producers know how “Dead Man’s Chest” will turn out. It
will be worth waiting for the review before risking your
Animals always do well in animation. So its no small
wonder that an independent CG animated film called
“Barnyard” is coming to a theater near you this summer.
This is a story of a juvenile cow that flirts with the
idea of revealing to humans that animals have human
abilities. Creator, writer, director, Steve Oedekerk,
warns the audience that his film is “full of adult
themes like adoption and responsibility.”
“Monster House,” is a wild card; and that’s not all
that’s wild. It’s about a spooky suburban house that
comes alive to do battle with some neighborhood kids.
The producers have announced that they are hoping for a
PG rating. I’ve seen the trailer, and this mildly scary
CG animated flick could go either way. Suffice to say,
you should probably not venture into the dark hole,
called a movie theater with the toddlers. We’ll let you
know by way of our online review if it’s tolerable for
older kids and adults.
This month will be a good one for the perennial family
trip. It doesn’t look like a very family friendly time
at the movies. Some films may show up later that haven’t
announced their release dates yet.
The only family movie candidate for August I see at this
time is a hilariously funny gross-out film called, “How
to Eat Fried Worms.” (No, I haven’t been mixing anything
in my bran flakes.) This boys-will-be-boys summer romp
is being produced by Walden Media, the same team that
brought you “Holes,” “Because of Winn Dixie,”
“Chronicles of Narnia,” “Hoot,” and a delightful
Christmas release of E.B. White’s classic tale,
“Charlotte’s Webb,” starring adorable Dakota Fanning. I
won’t go into detail about how these adolescent boys
prepare their little wiggly creatures. But at least it’s
more family-friendly than the Samuel L. Jackson summer
thriller, “Snakes on a Plane.”
The summer appears to have a few gems for the family.
Stay tuned to our reviews at www.dove.org for the latest
updates and interviews with celebrities and filmmakers.
If you can’t find anything worthwhile at the movies,
gather the family together, build a campfire and just
visit. It’s amazing how entertaining your husband or
wife, dad or mom, son or daughter can be, if you’ll just
give them 120 minutes of your undivided attention and a
popcorn-soft drink combo. You may end up creating your
own summer miracle.
The Dove Foundation is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to
encourage and promote the creation, production,
distribution and consumption of wholesome family
entertainment. We are supported primarily by donations
from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood
in a more family-friendly direction. All donations are
Copyright © 2006 The Dove Foundation. All rights