Fandango turns ten this month and we’re celebrating by taking a look back at happenings in the movie world over the past decade. Today we discuss the trends that have shaped the past decade of the moviegoing experience. There’s the cool (improved digital effects, better 3D, IMAX, reserved seating), the not so cool (cell phones ringing in the middle of the movie, piracy) and the somewhere in between (remakes, sequels and the dominance of comic book movies).
3D Goes from Gimmick to Box Office Gold
Remember those cheap cardboard red-and-blue glasses from when you were a kid? You looked like an idiot, but you didn’t care. You were entering the third dimension, where anything was possible! But the end result never met the expectations. After a few brief resurgences, some promising IMAX shorts and a couple of worthy entries into the genre (Coraline,Up, Cameron finally showed everyone how its done with Avatar, an immersive 3D experience that shed gimmicks and delivered a whole new world. Finally, as first promised a century ago, 3D has entered the mainstream, a new reason to go to the theater.
Waiting in line used to be part of the experience, but it’s certainly something most can do without. And being forced to sit right under the screen at the expense of tomorrow’s neck cramps is no picnic either. Going the way of a Broadway show, theaters introduced the concept of reserved seating. Now forward-thinking individuals could show up just before the show and enjoy the same choice seats they used to have to get in line early for. It may be a bummer for the poor planner, but it’s easier to remember after another visit to the chiropractor.
Cell Phones Give New Meaning to the Talkie
By now, we’ve all dealt with it. Having a phone ringing in the middle of the show is annoying enough, taking you out of the experience until the culprit fishes their phone out of a purse or pocket to mercifully silence it. But even worse are those that dare to answer the phone and even have a conversation like they’re sitting at home on the couch. “Uh, hey dude, what’s up? Nah, I can talk. I’m just watching a movie.” It’s enough to make you wanna waterboard the guy with your popcorn bucket and that 72 oz. Diet Coke.
As technology makes our lives simpler (allegedly) there’s always going to be some no-goodnik who figures out a way to use it for ill. The trend hasn’t had much effect on film purists, but for the average non-discriminating Joe Blo, that shaky, blurry camcorder vid he picked up on the street corner for five bucks will suit just fine. The result is industry-wide crackdowns, from metal detectors at press screenings to menacing PSAs and, in a few instances, jail time. Is it really worth hard time for a jacked copy of Paul Blart: Mall Cop?
IMAX has been around for a while now, but the high production costs have kept it reserved to nature documentaries and short-subject material. Blockbusters like the Matrix sequels and the Harry Potter series were blown up to fit on the skyscraper screens, but the difference from full IMAX was still noticeable. As cost comes down and budgets get bigger, the form is starting to make its way into the filmmaking process. The Dark Knight set the standard in 2008, simultaneously dropping jaws and, like 3D, giving audiences a new reason to go to the theaters even with increased ticket prices.
Comic Book Characters Crash the Megaplex
Comic books and movies have always had an on-again, off-again relationship. In the late ‘70s, Superman set the standard before a string of progressively inferior sequels and spinoffs squashed the Man of Steel. A decade later, Batman was going strong until Joel Schumacher gave the Dark Knight nipples. But when Sam Raimi delivered 2002’s Spider-Man, everything changed. Comic movies were doing great by the time Christopher Nolan revamped Batman in the mid-aughts, further cementing the medium’s worth. After almost a decade of dominance, comics are quickly replacing novels as the source material of choice.
Actors Go Digital
As technology continues to progress, many thespians have worried they might one day be replaced entirely. At least for now, the technology has created a merging of reality and hyper-realism whereby actors don yellow-dotted motion capture suits and act out characters from behind the scenes. From Polar Express and Beowulf to Andy Serkis’ exceptional work as Gollum and finally the visual showcase Avatar, the form has become a filmmaking standard. For now, actors remain gainfully employed, although they might want to pull back on those diva-esque demands for the foreseeable future.
Remakes, Sequels and the Return of Characters from Way Back When
If there’s one consistency in Hollywood, it’s the tendency to follow trends. If it’s making money, that’s what studios are making. So while art house faithful might condemn the trend of unoriginal material, audiences continue to plunk down their hard-earned dollars for the creature comforts of characters they’ve gotten to know in the past. The result has been a mixed bag, from franchises that outlast their welcome to the return of theatrical icons of days gone past; from that that galaxy far, far away to the man with the hat; to 007 and even a balder John McClane.
Video Games and Theme Park Rides Become Movies
To be fair, the video game movie has been around for a while, mostly with middling success both critically and commercially. But as the multi-billion dollar gaming industry continues to grow, Hollywood surely isn’t done looking for their slice of this potentially profitable pie. One trend few saw coming, though, was the idea of turning favorite theme park rides into narrative features. Owing no small debt to Johnny Depp, Pirates and its two sequels scored a bountiful booty and sent studio execs scouring Six Flags, Wet ‘N Wild and Dollywood for the next genius Hollywood blockbuster.
Better Food Choices…and Spirits!
Back in the old days, going to the movies was simple. You bought your ticket and stopped by the snack stand for popcorn, hot dogs, candy and soda. But along with the modern conveniences of reserved seating and advance ticket sales, choices at the concession stand have also changed. These days we’ve got nachos, pizza, gourmet sausages, chicken fingers and more. A few theaters have even added alcohol to the equation, offering up an ice cold brew or a nice dry pinot to help get you through that eighth viewing of Shrek Forever After with the kiddies.