It’s opening night. The room is full, and excitement is in the air. As the lights dim and the opening credits play, you can hardly contain your joy. You’re finally going to see the movie you’ve been looking forward to all year.
Then, a bright light appears from the corner of your eye. You look around and see that someone is on their cell phone. While you try not to let it bother you, your blood boils as the phone screen remains lit through the entire film.
This may seem like a mild annoyance, but it’s contributing to a much bigger problem.
Movie-goers’ short attention spans mean that films are becoming more and more focused on just trying to keep the audience’s attention.
Long-gone are the days when films were made because of a director’s passion to share their art with the world. Today’s films are more focused on trying to make the most profit. Because of this, the quality of movies has been steadily declining.
We live in a world where “The Angry Birds Movie,” a film that received bad reviews from 57 percent of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics and was based on a phone app, was number one at the North American box office its opening weekend.
One factor that might be behind the decline in movie quality is people not going to the movie theater as often as they used to. According to Newsweek, after ticket sales reached an all-time high of 1.57 billion in 2002, they plummeted to an all-time low of 1.26 billion in 2014 with a slight increase to 1.34 billion last year.
It’s no surprise why nobody is going. It’s expensive. The Hollywood Reporter found that the average ticket price hit an all-time high in the U.S. at $8.61 in 2015. With a streaming service such as Netflix costing $10 a month, why would someone spend the same amount to go see a single movie when they could access thousands from the comfort of their own home?
With decreasing tickets sales and increasing prices, it makes sense why studios are more focused on making a buck than making a well-made movie.
Movies are gradually becoming worse because people aren’t thinking as critically as they used to.
A 2015 study done by Microsoft with 2000 participants found that the average attention span was eight seconds. Going by that, most people probably stopped reading this article around the second paragraph.
If people can’t pay attention for more than eight seconds, there’s no hope of them thinking critically about a movie that is two hours long.
What’s wrong with that? That means an increase of films where the entire focus is just bright colors, loud noises and nonstop action and explosions. The cinematic equivalent of someone dangling keys in front you while saying “look, shiny.”
Clark’s film professor Heidi Rich has a more positive outlook on today’s movie-going audience, arguing that “they’re more sophisticated nowadays,” than I give them credit for.
Rich believes that quality hasn’t decreased, but that the quantity has increased due to digital technology enabling anybody to make a movie. She agrees that there are many low-quality movies, but believes “there’s still good out there.”
Rich’s Introduction to Cinema class volunteered to take a survey of how critical they are when watching films and how often they go to the movie theater.
Of the 24 who took the survey, 13 said they aren’t critical when watching films and 17 said they go to the theater once a month or less.
“I like to relax and just zone out to the movie,” said one student.
“It’s just entertainment,” wrote another.
Perhaps that’s what movies are, just simple entertainment. They’re just movies. Similar to how the Mona Lisa is just a painting.
Films are art, and they should be treated as such. We need to turn our brains on, pay attention, and actually think about what we’re watching.
At the very least, turn that cell phone off when you’re in the theater.