Box office ticket sales took an unprecented tumble this summer. Why? Commentators say the reason people are no longer going to theaters is technology — the public is staying at home watching Nextflix and playing video games. That’s part of the explanation. But the other part is that somewhere along the way to making films that “send a message” Hollywood forgot how to make films that tell an enduring story.
In 1939, the nominees for Best Picture were: Gone with the Wind, Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights. In 2016, the nominees for Best Picture were: Moonlight, Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, and Manchester by the Sea.
People are still watching the films made in 1939. Seventy-eight years from now will anyone still be watching the films made in 2016? Probably not.
In a related story, a showing of Gone With the Wind — the #1 selling film of all time, with inflation-adjusted ticket sales of $1.8 billion — was just cancelled in Memphis due to fear of upsetting social justice warriors and sensitive audiences.