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Is The U.S. Movie Industry Broken?

Hollywood insiders say the studio movie-making machine is broken. We ask where the movie business is headed.

A movie theater ticket booth in Cathedral City, Calif. (Raymond Shobe/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

People buy their tickets at a movie theater in Cathedral City, Calif. (Raymond Shobe/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Big-budget “World War Z” and its waves of zombies are raging with Brad Pitt in theaters right now.  “Fast & Furious 6,” no less, right behind.  A quarter-billion dollar Lone Ranger production gallops in with Johnny Depp this week.

Next week, alien invasion, Earth in peril, in the blockbuster wannabe “Pacific Rim.”  Midsummer 2013, it’s all blockbuster all the time out of Hollywood.  The “tent poles” that hold up the whole biz.  But can they hold?  And what kind of movies, what kind of biz, will we have as Hollywood goes truly global?

This hour, On Point:  World War Hollywood, and the future of film.

- Tom Ashbrook


Ty Burr, film critic for the Boston Globe. Author of, “Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame.” (@tyburr)

Lynda Obst, film and television producer with more than 16 movies to her credit, including “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Hope Floats,” and “One Fine Day.” Her new book is Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business.” (@LyndaObst)

Sharon Waxman, CEO and editor in chief of TheWrap.com, which covers Hollywood and the movie business.

From Tom’s Reading List

Indiewire: SFIFF: Steven Soderbergh Says Art Of Cinema Is Under Attack From The Studios, Decries Profit Driven Decision Making“In his mind, the evolution of cinema in studio movies has halted because, ‘The executive ecosystem is distorted because executives don’t get punished for making bombs the way filmmakers do.’ Storytelling prescribed by profit estimates also deter contemporary cinema from blossoming in a meaningful way, as films are forced to appeal to the widest possible audience.”

The Guardian: Steven Spielberg And George Lucas Predict Film Industry ‘Implosion’ — “Veteran directors warned students in US about difficulty of getting projects into cinemas, and suggested studio cautiousness could lead to hiked ticket prices.”

U.S. News And World Report: $50 Movie Tickets: Is George Lucas’s Prophecy Becoming Reality? — “Rather than a bellwether of an industry-wide shift to pricier tickets, however, execs from Paramount and its partner in the deal Regal Entertainment Group describe the mega ticket as an experiment targeted at a select group of superfans.”

Excerpt: ‘Sleepless in Hollywood’ by Linda Obst

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  • Tyranipocrit

    movies are all action and explosions, no substance.  JJ Abrams Star Trek series–garbage.  Man of Steel–pathetic trash.   And the worst superman ever cast.  He looks a lawyer and is uninspiring.   Like novels these days–the movies are low-brow mainstream politically correct trash.

    • J__o__h__n

      Star Trek rebooted the series in a parallel universe so they had complete freedom to do new stories and then they boldly go where they have already gone before with Kahn. 

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        But somehow Abrams’ Star Trek hasn’t yet landed on a planet with papier-mache boulders…

        When I want all action–no substance, I will grit my teeth at the idea of another “The Expendables” (or its sequel), a bunch of 50- and 60-somethings running around like they’re still 30, in a device that sounds like it’s supposed to be a send-up but is played far too straight.

        • J__o__h__n

          I’d love a movie with Admiral Sulu. 

          • JobExperience

            ….commanding the fleet aboard the USS San Francisco.

          • J__o__h__n

            Oh myyy!

    • Bluejay2fly

      There is no courage in Hollywood only money. Look at “Heat” the only movie this year with an all female lead being shown to a world where women are over half the population. I bet every time you suggest a movie with a female lead you hear “Good idea, but can you make her a man? Then you have either have politically incorrect crap like The Patriot or politically correct crap like Avatar, or just pure crap like 99% of what is made. I know there is money in pandering to the lowest element but it is destroying our culture just like Uber consumerism is profitable, but turning our planet into a landfill.

      • Tyranipocrit

        What do you mean by pc when you include Avatar on your list?  I thought the one thing Avatar had going for it, is that it shows how American capitalism is destroying worlds and invasive and basically the villain.  This part is true–or at least contains powerful elements of truth.

        • Tyranipocrit

          perhaps i should say, capitalism and industrialism and consumerism institutionalize invasive destructive culture–imperialism and environmental decimation.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    I just can’t wait for the next vampire movie to come out!

    • dust truck

      they’re cheap to make and they usually pull in decent box-office receipts.  Yeah, they’re insipid, but the execs care more about profit than they do about making quality cinema.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        And they feed the all to often impoverished dreamscape of kids who would become undead if they could.

    • SamEw

      Don’t go see them then. If you live in a suburban/urban area there’s literally probably 600 different movies released a year you could reasonably go see. I have no personal interest in most vampire movies but I also don’t see why need to show off how sophisticated you are by insulting movies others obviously like. 

      Check out a movie like the East which is thoughtful, exciting and odds are given its receipts you haven’t seen.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        We see movies regularly but are baffled at why we have a tsunami of trash followed by a flood of high end movies stacked up against each other such that there’s no room in the theaters to show the good movies. Of course it’s a matter of perspective, but you end up with many movie-goers missing ‘good’ movies because they were here and gone in maybe 9 days while we’ll see utter rubbish linger in theaters for over a month like the tacky remains of spilled soda on the floor during times of drought… What gives?

        • SamEw

          I’ve lived in rural areas and small towns where it was hard to find the movies I would want to see and if that’s your situation I really do understand and sympathize. However, where I live in metro Detroit Mud and the Place Beyond Pines for example had runs at the nearby theaters that were probably as long as any film released in the first four months of the year.

    • hennorama

      MadMarkTheCodeWarrior – there is a “vampire movie” that may be worth your time – ‘Byzantium,’ directed by Neil Jordan and starring Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton as daughter and mother vampires.



  • RolloMartins

    The Player, made in 1992, was a brilliant send-up of the movie industry. Altman understood what was wrong with the industry with executives like Griffin Mill who are so self-important but artistically tone-deaf.

    • SamEw

      Artists will always complain to some extent justifiable so that executives have too much power. A lot of hollywood historians would argue though that most of the best hollywood films were made under the studio systems where the executives actually had a lot more power than they do now. 

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Two sides of the same coin: Resources and executive oversight during the studio era.

        Under the studios there was a need to complete X number of “A” pix, Y number of “B” pix, and other bits to fill out the Saturday afternoon program. At some point there was a bit of “benign neglect” from the moguls simply to keep pictures coming out on time. (I’m not discounting the feuds and pissing contests where moguls punished some stars or directors for personal/professional squabbles. Let’s just say the studio head is not the person one often wishes to pick a fight with.)

        Having this assembly line meant “house knowledge” that showed up in films in a way that making a movie deal today just doesn’t create.

        We all know MGM meant “More stars than there are in heaven”. But MGM also had Adrian making costumes every day. Expensive for a one-shot movie deal, but much more reasonable when priced over some 40 films a year.

        • SamEw

          You’re right there were certain advantages to the studio system and the assembly line cost method probably made it less expensive for some movies to be made. Production values aren’t generally what’s lacking though in most poorly done hollywood movies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Rice/100000693874282 Joseph Rice

    The “movie” business seems to be doing just fine; it’s the “film” business that is difficult. 

  • donniethebrasco

    What the movie theater industry needs is a premier place to show a movie.  Like a single theater in the middle of a town.

    It would help the town attract traffic and more pedestrians.

    Oh, wait, we had that, then we tore them all down.

    • SamEw

      Granted most of the new ones are cineplexes but there’s actually about a third more movie screens now than there were in 2000.  I’m sure there are small-town single screen theaters that have shutdown but I don’t know of any personally and I’ve seen movies at a number of these types of theaters in the past couple years. 

  • SamEw

    1. Both June and May were record months for the industry so I would say from a business prospective it’s doing just fine.

    2. To Soderbergh’s point I’m sure it’s aggravating not to be able to make the movie you want to and maybe television is a better place now to make a sub-20 million film. However, the version of the film he supposedly couldn’t make Bennett Miller’s Moneyball proves artists can and do make challenging and commercial movies. At least since the early 80′s Hollywood has consistently put out a lot of nonsense mixed with considerably less but still a fair amount of magic.

  • ToyYoda

    By the way, I saw World War Z.  I loved it.  Several new variants on the Zombie flick introduced in the film.  Made it different.  One of them, is the enlargement in scope.  Most Zombie stories focus on leaving a contained area, this story was more global in nature, and nation toppling.

    Yeah, don’t expect alot of deep thinking plot, but I do wish there was more sleuthing than action.  Still, I thought it was very good for what it is.I heard the movie was a disaster to produce, but I’m glad that it’s done well enough that Paramount and Plan B will produce the sequels.

  • toc1234

    perhaps if Hollywood focused less on being PC and a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party and more on making great movies, then maybe they’d be in better shape…

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Don’t worry, I’m sure someone is pitching a reboot for “Birth Of A Nation” as we speak.

      • JobExperience

        toc might like “CSA” by Kevin Willmott in which the South wins the Civil War and becomes a world power. (Expanded timeline at CSA website) Most of this Southern heritage stuff is no ore than fantasy just like the film.

  • J__o__h__n

    The biggest problem with movies are the people texting during them.  The theaters need to crack down on that.  Otherwise I can just wait a couple months and watch it at home. 

  • brettearle

    J_o_h_n’s point below cuts right at a fundamental question about Film and its future.

    So I’ll take it a step further.

    How, when, and where we watch cinema may have an affect on the Industry, as a whole.

    Are we becoming so insular that we can’t tolerate the mass `mob’ feeling, or perception, about a crowd?

    Too many pickpockets?
    Too many germs?
    Too many cell phones?
    Too many potentially crazy strangers [think Aurora]?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Well, when I think of what a crowd helps with, I think of comedy and good frights. Each can become an almost palpable feeling in a crowd of viewers.

      If people laughing alongside the viewer didn’t enhance the experience of watching a comedy, humankind would have never invented the laugh track, says I.

      • brettearle

        I’m inclined to agree with you. So I see both sides.

        However, it is also true that people have become ruder and crowds, even seated, have become more unruly.

        Setting the rudeness matter aside, for the moment, I remember when I went to see “Strangelove”, with a friend, when it first came out.

        We were literally the only people in the theatre laughing.

        Go figure.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          University cinemas in New England are typically populated with folks who are there to see the movie; I recommend trying them.

          “Dr. Strangelove”? That was an advance. It had a sense of macabre funny which American movies really didn’t include* and, I’d suspect, audiences didn’t know they were in for at that point. Makes perfect sense to today’s audiences. Way ahead of its time.

          (*Maybe some of the Ealing comedies did. Or “The Mouse that Roared”.)

        • hennorama

          I’ve has similar experiences of being the lone laugher(s), but usually in movie theaters in other countries, where the cultural differences, combined with poor translations of English into the local language, often misses intended humor.

          This explains much of the “action, not dialogue” trend in film, as visual images need no translation.

    • J__o__h__n

      Too many crying infants.  Too many people talking.  Too many people eating loudly like pigs (why do they wait until the movie starts before eating?).  Too many people kicking seats.  Then again, at home I have to listen to the neighbor’s yappy dog. 

      • brettearle

        They ought to outlaw popcorn in a movie theatre.

        I know exactly what you mean.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Zoidberg: The real Lucy Liu! The one you can see a movie of in the popcorn stadium!

        • JoshM

          Never gonna happen. If they outlaw popcorn, then the theaters would have to get their money from ticket sales. Which would mean doubling the ticket price (which would cut attendance drastically) or (horror of horrors) the film industry taking less of the box-office income. Which they ain’t gonna do willingly.

          • brettearle

             My comment was a satire.

          • JoshM

             Good thought, though.

      • DrewInGeorgia

        One of the many benefits of not being able to go to a theater to watch a movie is that when I finally do get to see one I actually get to watch it.

  • JobExperience

    Considering how crudely digitally animated blockbusters have become (ex: Man of Steel) they have only subconscious content for programming purposes. That is why thinking people prefer Indies and Foreign.
    toc1234 suggests political correctness be abandoned and recruitment to fascist hordes become the stated mission. I disagree but observe that with military and covert financing
    that eventuality is not far away and not difficult.

    ToyYoda and others: Zombies and Vampires reflect our political and economic landscape. They instill acceptance and futility.

  • JobExperience

    The Doll Factory is Steven Soderbergh’s best film.
    It will be a cult classic globally.
    He made all the decisions and often held the camera.
    That’s virtuoso filmmaking (videomaking?).

  • JobExperience

    The Doll Factory  is Steven Soderbergh’s best film (video?).
    It will be a cult classic.
    With handheld technology he demonstrated virtuosity absent from many higher budget films.
    He proved by action exactly what he argues in theory,
    that corporate bureaucracy is incapable of creativity.
    The figurative content of his small masterpiece reinforces that principle, that people autonomically act out what they expect from media in a rote way. Presses moulding the doll heads symbolize that collective tragedy.

    • hennorama

      JobExperience – you’re referring to ‘Bubble’ by Soderbergh. 

      ‘Doll Factory’ is a different film altogether.See:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454792/  (Bubble)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2247816/  (Doll Factory)

  • AC

    we’re boring. no one here wants to take a risk and invest in young, unknown writers and directors… :(

    • JobExperience

      A serviceable camera costs around $3000 with accessories, lights  and secondary sound  another $2000.
      Final Cut Pro on a MAC is about $2500 entry.
      That’s $7,500. If you had that and some actor friends you  could make what you want, within reason and your imaginative limits. I’ve done it and it’s fun. How about you? You can rent equipment in most larger cities. I am appalled it’s not done more often. The writing part is dirt cheap. (You’re doing it on this blog.)

      • http://mirroruptolife.blogspot.com/ Art Hennessey

        I agree. 

        After hearing all about the indie feature Escape from Tomorrow, which was filmed stealthily at Disneyland on a Canon 5D and Iphones, I have to concur with indie filmmaker Alex Karpovsky who recently said, “If you have always wanted to make independent films, your excuses are quickly running out.”

        Also, if people want to invest in independent film, there are literally thousands of projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo just waiting for your support!

  • John Parker

    What is it with the subpar writing that you see in so many films?  When I watched Gatsby earlier in the summer it was almost comical when lines were taken straight from Fitzgerald’s book and then positioned next to an uninspired phrase from a film writer.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Everything else in a movie can get better if one spends more time and/or money on it. Except the screenplay. There is no effort/reward predictability.

  • Kathy

    By odd coincidence, right now I’m reading the original script by J. Michael Straczynski for World War Z. It’s based on the book and is thoughtful and human at the same time as providing plenty of action. While I enjoyed the actual film well enough as a thrill ride sort of thing, the excellence of the original script and the fact that nobody was willing to film it says a lot about what’s missing in Hollywood today.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Targeted marketing is killing creativity.
    Figuring out the way to make the most profit has become our primary idea of creativity. Watch Primer if you haven’t seen it.

    • J__o__h__n

      I would agree but Netflix used user data and decided that viewers would like Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. 

  • J__o__h__n

    At least during the cold war we could have a real enemy in movies.  Now thanks to the Chinese market, we get invaded by aliens, zombies and the North Koreans.  The North Koreans invaded the White House?  hahaha

  • homebuilding

    There is very little Hollywood offers for my plate beyond mayhem (lots of guns and explosions).  (Does everything need to be aimed at teen-aged boys?)

    A goodly percentage of the customary fare is ridiculous (special effects) or preposterous (does every one need to have numerous light offs of 30 gallons of gasoline?)

    As has been stated by others, I’ll stick with the independent movies and the many that fall in the category of Oscar-nominated shorts.

    As for television, I’ll continue with PBS and BBC

  • Jon

    sounds like the Hollywood obsession of doomsday prophecy is taking effect on the film industry itself?

  • ToyYoda

    If you want the smaller budget films to have a wider audience, then maybe they need to be distributed in the same theaters that the block busters are on?  There are plenty of people who don’t even know about them, that go to the major venues.  

    I would love to watch more of them, but the theaters where I can see them are far away and/or old and need to be remodeled.  If these films could be viewed in a conveniently located theater, I would go see more of them.

    • JobExperience

      I share that perception.

  • J__o__h__n

    Even worse than sequels are remakes.

    • JobExperience

      The discrete perversions of intellectual property at work.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    “Actors are working for scale” for little films, says Obst.

    I admire actors who make the movies they “have to” in order then to get the opportunity to make the movies they “want to”. That’s been a thing for a couple of decades.

    Sounds like the studios (which are now basically distribution outfits) are going that way. But given how the tentpole movies can be so expensive, and yet miss, that leaves a lot less for the prestige little flix.

  • ten4nis

    Always surprised at how well most Hollywood films do in Europe, because the critics are so harsh in their reviews there. But young people don’t really read the reviews, do they?

  • JoshM

    Speaking as someone who loves sci-fi, fantasy, and should be thrilled to death with all the movies of this genre coming out right now, the one I’m most excited to see is Joss Wheadon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” What does that say?

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.molla.75 Michael Molla

    While watching the new Star Trek movie, I thought of a question that maybe you can answer.  Here is that question:

    Given that you’re already spending 100s of millions of dollars on the movie, how much extra would it cost just to make sure that the plot of the movie even MAKES SENSE before you start filming.

    (I’d be happy to perform that service for 1/10th of a percent of the movie’s budget.)

  • Jeff

    TV is creating better content and can create more involved content.  Look at some of the most recent TV series that are massive hits, they are much more intelligent and engaging than the movies are providing.  Here are just a few TV shows that keeping people at home rather than going to the movie theater…Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Dexter…which all started with the Sopranos.

  • Yar

    The next big thing will be large screen video games.  The large digital screen is adaptable to video game and people will play in groups using their smartphone as a input device. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      It’s, well, depressing to see ads for a video game which seem to have more plot and character development, less predetermined outcome, than many mainstream flicks.

      • Yar

        Tom just asked Linda where video games will be screened, “at the movie theater.” She replied no, not at the theater.  I think she is wrong, the technology is already there for large screen video games. Why will video games come to large screens? Because that is where the money is! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chad-Underdonk/100000113601839 Chad Underdonk

    It seems pretty obvious to me that when she says that only 20% of the profits come from the United States that they are using creative accounting. They take all the cost of production and losses from advertising in the US Market to beat the extremely high corporate Tax rates in this country. That leaves them with only 20% of the profit pool coming from the US.  They then will use that excuse to jack up American costs of going to the movies rather than adapt to the new market.

    Hollywood types are then either being two-faced about corporate greed or are willfully ignorant of how their industry is evolving.

  • J__o__h__n

    I can’t see paying $50 for movies (in today’s dollars, I can see myself paying it in the future when I’m old and whining about how movies used to only be $10).  I’ve paid $20+ for simulcasts of National Theatre Live and Wait Wait and thought it was worth it. 

  • EveryMan001

    These guests are so arrogant and condescending. The changes they are discussing are the whim of the masses via the market. Just because they don’t agree with the preferences of the common person doesn’t mean that the industry is “broken.” The executives care about profits first and are simply reflecting the demand of US and world viewers.

    • bobbyriled

      I’m a common person but do not prefer movies that offer nothing much more than a fireworks show in a thunderstorm would. The extra offering is an invincible hero who doesn’t pass the scrutiny of anyone who has survived the crisis that comes with turning twenty. Or anyone who has at any age cared about a question that has no convincing answer. Or anyone who has been in a situation that cannot be solved by shooting people and blowing stuff up.

      Are you suggesting that market approval is the hallmark of quality? That since franchise burgers outsell sushi, I can’t expect to find a good sushi bar? Even though many people love sushi, there’s a whole lot more burger munchers out there. 

      That’s what they mean by “broken”. Too much fast food, not enough sushi. 

      That’s a legitimate complaint, don’t you think? Particularly when you think about all the people who love making sushi.

      The brightest insight in the show was about how the artists have moved to small screen serials. The brightest, and the most hopeful. Art cannot be silenced. Our world is shaped by the passion to make beautiful and insightful ‘entertainment’  - and the hunger for something that has, what we call in the whisky world, a long finish. 

      I didn’t find Tom’s guests arrogant or condescending. They are sincerely passionate about The Movies, understand the contribution that movies make to our world, and have thought so much about the progress of the ‘industry’ that they have some interesting things to say. 

      One of my favorite On Points. 

  • PeterBoyle

    I think there are multiple issues at work here.  With the cost of movies rising, and some worries about going to crowded movie theaters and getting shot, more people are like me who has a 60″ tv hooked to my computer and can get any movie any time and watch it in any clothes while drinking and eating whatever I want.  I can even have a cigarette while watching.

    The second issue is that they are making few movies that people over 40 (the fastest growing segment) want to see.  Gratuitous violence, explosions and good looks have taken the place of fine writing, directing and acting. 

    Third, and this goes for both movie and record industries, is that their blatant greed in attacking piracy has backfired among many who are comfortable on the internet.  Both industries have handled things poorly and far too heavy handed because they fail to understand the nature of the internet and the people comfortable with it.  Having alienated the internet generation, abandoned the older people, and priced the rest out of regular attendance, their only audience is overseas…for now.

    • J__o__h__n

      I’m tired of sitting through the anti piracy warnings on DVDs (which are only in English and French – not Chinese).

  • Rick Evans

    A second problem with romance movies according to some I heard on public radio recently is it doesn’t export into global markets the way mindless, dialogless action blockbusters do. 

    • anon

      Actually, in much of the world, the customs of ‘romance’ are very different. Dating and public displays of affection, kissing, and of course, sex… are NOT universal. In Kuwait, films in the movie theater will not show a couple kissing, not even an affectionate peck. While that might seem extreme to some, it pretty much rules out Hollywood romances.

  • plr01

    Megaplex theaters are smelly, noisy, uncomfortable places with inconvenient parking and bad, expensive food.  Why would I go there when I can watch whatever I want on a fabulous large-screen HDTV in the comforts of my own living room while eating fabulous, freshly prepared gourmet food.

    • Jeff

      Don’t forget about the idiots who think it is their right to check their phones during the movie.

  • sickofthechit

    ‘The Girl in the Cafe’

    Best movie of all time!  Had romance, humor, pathos and made some of the most profound statements about our future and the power of the individual to do something for the world. 

    “I want to be a part of that great generation that had it in it’s power to end extreme poverty, and did so!.” 

    British Chancellor of the Exchequer in  ‘The Girl in the Cafe’.

    Extreme poverty is defined as poverty that kills.

    This movie should be mandatory viewing for all global ‘leaders’.

    Stars Bill Nighe (sp?) and Kelly McDonald (?) from Trainspotting.

    Also co-stars Iceland.  Made by HBO films.

    2nd best is “The Great Match” – Heartwarming, multicultural an funny, plus, plus incredible scenery! 

    Charles A. Bowsher

    • hennorama

      sickofthechit – Indeed, ‘The Girl in the Cafe’ was quite good, but “Best movie of all time”?


      Bill Nighy is a very good actor, and I enjoy his languid and laconic delivery. He was also very good in ‘Wild Target’ with Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint, and an excellent cast overall. It’s a dark comedy, with Nighy playing a hit man.


      Kelly Macdonald was also excellent in ‘The Girl in the Cafe,’ and she continues her tour de force performance in her role as Margaret in the HBO series ‘Boardwalk Empire’.

      • brettearle


        Where would you put `Schindler’ and `Strangelove’ in your all-time list?

        Would `English Patient’ deserve honorable mention, for being right up there?

        The greatest living movie actor [in my humble opinion, which means it's a Biblically-etched fact] is in 2 of the 3 films, listed above.

        [Yeah, yeah I know:

        'Citizen Kane', 'The Bicycle Thief'...etc....]

        The sleepers [not `Sleeper']?  ‘Breaker Morant’ and `Purple Rose/Cairo’

        • hennorama

          bretteearle – Schindler – Top 10; Strangelove – Top 50.

          English Patient – not on the list, as I never bought into the Fiennes/Scott Thomas relationship. Gorgeous movie, though, and I generally really enjoy Anthony Minghella’s work. His death was a great loss.

          Ralph Fiennes is indeed a very fine actor, although of late he seems to be in it for the money. His portrayal of “Hitler’s Butcher,” the psychopathic and casually brutal Amon Goeth was chilling to the core – definitely a Top Ten movie villain in my view.

          The space here is far too limited for discussions of Woody Allen’s work, or Australian films, but those you’ve mentioned are all fine works.

          Speaking of Australian movies and actors – I thought Ray Winstone has had a great career, notably in The Departed, Sexy Beast, Tracker, and The Proposition, among many others.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Anyone who drops “The Bicycle Thief” into a post gets a “like” from me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marie.dixon.1612 Marie Dixon

    Fact is the evolution of entertainment will mean less options in the big theater.  I hope feature films do not disappear completely.  It is a unique experience.  But my husband right now prefers Netflix instant view, our adult daughters use some of that via laptop and also LCD projector for streaming (?! haven’t seen that setup, but looking forward to it on my visit).  Choice is the key and for me right now that is the great summer I’m having with TV:  “Falling Skies” from Spielberg, “Necessary Roughness” on USA has some of the best eye and brain candy (codependency handled superbly last week by Dr. Dani) on TV and like the rest of the world, I’m waiting for “Breaking Bad” to end our world with its final episodes later this summer :    btw, speaking of entertaining brain candy that would be NPR:  started in my car and now I’m finishing on my home computer.  Where does that play into the evolution of entertainment? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/marie.dixon.1612 Marie Dixon

    Best zombie movie I’ve seen:  “Sean of the Dead”.  Not sure how much it cost to make, but I’d say a LOT less than World War Z.  The little film “… has earned $30,039,392 worldwide in box office receipts since its release.” ~ Wikipedia. Best zombie BOOK I’ve read:  “Warm Bodies”.  I hear the film is good, too.  Don’t think even Mr. Pitt will be getting us into the theater to pay too much money to get too little satisfaction from the experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marie.dixon.1612 Marie Dixon

    Thank you, Forest Whitaker, for putting your money into “Fruitvale Station”.  I wonder how naive it is to think the movie stars with enough money could have their own studio and make the movies they want to see and be in.  Still the problem of too small an audience to stay afloat?  The international audience wants to see things blown up really really loudly? Have movie goers really become that, well ZOMBIE-like? “If we don’t shape events, they shape us.” ~ Not sure where I heard/read that, but .. Where is the real life Brad Pitt-like CEO in the movie biz to save feature films from zombie-viewers?!  I just see Hollywood running to keep up with the movie money madness, but not trying to change in the context of keeping integrity in the art of American movie making.  Where’s the creative business ideas and the risk taking?  The GUTS as Lynda Obst perfectly put it.  There’s a lot of us out here that are waiting for the next “Little Miss Sunshine”, as well as “Pirates of the Caribbean”. In my nuclear family that spans ages 22 to 62 years old.

  • Zee Zarbock

    If we’re going to see the short film explode on the scene in a few years, or more indie film on youtube, etc, how are filmmakers going to gather enough funds to keep providing content? Kickstarter, etc are not very successful for most. How to raise above the din? The signal to noise ratio is huge. Ideas?

  • ChrisDurai

    Dear Tom,
    Sometimes I wish you’d have guests on that were not just on book tours.

    • brettearle

      If you went through Ashbrook’s subjects and panelists, you would find many, many guests that do not fit that category.

      When an objectionable pattern is identified in a program that we follow, or rely on, isn’t it human nature to generalize and to exaggerate–simply because we’re annoyed?

      Of course, it happens.

      But not as much as you are suggesting.



      Supreme Progressive Liberal Democrat Self-Appointed Spiritual Leader for the Congressional Oversight Committee to Fund Public Broadcasting

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      most of our media these days seems motivated by selling books or movies or whatever the “guest” is hawking

  • Coastghost

    Yet another American institution in crisis: a surprise result given the efforts of philanthropic studio execs, visionary producers and inspired directors, and the talented actors and actresses whose only notable roles are their off-screen portrayals of egalitarian royalty and addled celebrities, with or without their fashionable politics on their sleeves or tattooed to their arms. 
    American movies no longer depict living humanity to speak of, male or female: they merely exhibit Hollywood production techniques and title sequences (oh, and all the ads for all the trailers for all the other gloppy movies being made to feed us so poorly in our entertainment malaise).
    Our entertainment malaise is growing so acute, it’s almost sad enough to make us want to listen to NPR newscasts, just so we can oooh and ahhh with our favorite celebrity journalists.

  • myblusky

    Most big budget movies are of no interest to me – a female. Siskel and Ebert said years ago movies were being made for teenage boys. Now they are made to be exported overseas – movies that are easily translated and easy to follow for the foreign audiences.
    I prefer independent films and tv shows. Netflix was so smart to start producing it’s own shows and targeting audiences that are under represented in movies. If the studios want to make movies for teen boys and foreign audiences then a lot of people aren’t going to be going to the movies. If the era of big theaters is over – fine by me. I will stay in a watch a show like Six Feet Under any day over some steroid driven film with a bunch of white men in power blowing up stuff and silly girls in skimpy outfits standing by to applaud them.
    Youtube, Netflix etc are helping to kill off the big theaters and the big budget film. Fine with me. Maybe celebrities won’t be as big anymore or command as much – maybe things will get diffused into niche markets and everyone can find something they like. Maybe this is one way to spread the wealth – a lot of people will make some money, but we won’t have just a few people making a ton anymore. I’m alright with that too.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Do you apply the Bechdel Test to movies?

      Some friends of mine find it indispensible.

  • SamEw

    I go to the movies about once a week during the summer and been disappointed in the blockbusters released this year. I loved the new Star Trek movie and two independent films I’ve seen The East and Before Midnight but everything else has been disappointing.  I don’t think it’s anything about the industry in particular it just seems some years there are fewer good mainstream movies.  Last year for example between the Avengers, Hunger Games and Prometheus the blockbusters were considerably better IMO. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    it does seem like movies suck these days

    • brettearle

      That observation is made year after year after year.

      Nevertheless, quality films are still made.

      Anyone could list them for you. 

      Not all Academy Awards are political.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        anyone could list them for me? please do tell, what excellent films have been released this year? perhaps you were the one who was awaiting the release of “Grownups 2″ with bated breath?
         studies have shown that pop music is in fact getting more simple and repetitive. movies are following suit. for a good explanation of why most movies suck these days see the film “the greatest movie ever sold”. I haven’t said anything about academy awards or politics.

  • StilllHere

    Box office receipts and profits are measurement of success or failure.

  • JCP13

    Since the redesign of the user interface, I haven’t been able to access audio for On Point shows…….?  

  • anon

    I am American and grew up going to the movies, but I’ve lived in Kuwait for a long time. The first time my kids went to a movie theater in the US, they were not impressed…  All of the big malls here were built within about the past 10 years, and they are like destinations, where you can spend most of the day (out of the 120 degree (F) temperatures) – with rides and indoor football fields for children, tons of restaurants and coffee shops, etc. The cineplexes here are large, comfortable, have 3D and IMAX theaters, and are built on an incline, so that a tall person in front of you won’t block your view. We reserve our tickets online and pick them up from a machine in the lobby (although of course, you can go to a person if you prefer). Besides popcorn and candy, you can snack on nachos, Nutella crepes, etc. I don’t know about Russia and China, but the movie theaters don’t seem to be dying here (even though everyone is also very connected to mobiles and laptops). Unfortunately, the American movies we get are either action or children’s movies… films that are more to my liking don’t come as often. (I did see ‘The Help’, but I missed ‘Lincoln’ because I didn’t realize it would only be here for like a week!)

  • r_s_g

    Hollywood reporter says China is opening 9 movie screens a day. Linda Obst said they are building 1000 theatres a day…So Linda Obst thinks China will build nearly 400,000 movie theatres this year? 


  • Regular_Listener

    Excellent program – I had wondered why Hollywood was going all out for broad entertainment and blockbusters, and now I know why – thanks to Lynda Obst.  But that doesn’t mean I like the trend!  Still, perhaps people like me are part of the problem.  I used to go to movies all the time, and now, hardly ever.  Why bother when there is so much to see in the comfort of my home?  And I don’t even have one of those huge TVs or monitors.  

    The future for people who want to make and/or watch films that are not action pictures based on fairly tales, comic books, or dead & buried television shows is on the internet.  

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

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