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The Lone Ranger bombs: Is the small screen the new big screen?

Uh-oh. Disney’s $225 million The Lone Ranger earned just under a dismal $50 million over the holiday weekend. Movie nosedives like this have many industry insiders predicting the death of blockbuster movies. Are the cinematic doomsday predictions right? Here’s a look at the direction the movie industry has been taking of late, which has us asking: Is the small screen the new big screen?

The Lone Ranger

Box office bombs

Disney was likely still smarting from its box office disaster John Carter, which cost $250 million to make and has grossed just $73 million at last count. That’s a whole lot of millions down the Hollywood drain. Now here to pour salt in the wound is The Lone Ranger. But let’s not pick on just Disney. Even box-office gold has been busting rather than booming at movie theaters. Will Smith couldn’t save Columbia Picture’s After Earth (which cost $130 million to produce and has grossed $58 million to date) any more than Tom Cruise could save Universal Picture’s Oblivion, which has come in well under its production budget.

Tonto means “fool” and other Lone Ranger trivia >>


Movie stars moving to television

So what’s happening here? Are moviegoers sick of big-budget sci-fi movies? Is this generation too young to appreciate the cowboys and Native Americans concept? Is the public sick of paying a small fortune to go to the movies, just to be disappointed at least half the time? Who knows. But big celebrities have caught on and the smart ones are making a move to television. Not too long ago, such a move would have been viewed as a demotion, or an act of career desperation. Now it’s being viewed as clever. Alec Baldwin and Charlie Sheen started the trend, and have paved the road for Hollywood A-listers like Kevin Bacon and Glenn Close. Dwayne Johnson, who stars in the Fast and Furious franchise, is doing The Hero, a reality TV show.

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Big producers are taking their toys and moving to TV

Last month, legendary producers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted $25 movie tickets in response to a dozen $250 million movies that have bombed at theaters. They’re forecasting an “implosion” in Hollywood. Speaking to a group of students at USC, in reference to movies like Lincoln, George Lucas said, “I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television.” Need proof that this isn’t two Hollywood bigwigs overreacting? Stephen King and Steven Spielberg are both producers of the CBS series Under the Dome, which opened to a respectable audience of 13.5 million, with another 3 million DVR viewers. When powerhouses like Spielberg and King move to television instead of pooling resources to make a movie for theaters, it may be time for the industry to pay attention.

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Ticket prices vs. cable prices

The price of movie tickets keeps going up. When you add in concessions and the cost of a sitter, your night in the theater could cost you close to $100. That’s a lot of bank for folks who are already paying for cable or satellite television. While cable has problems of its own with Hulu and Netflix, cable TV costs about $100 a month, and that’s typically with wireless internet and DVR capabilities factored in. You can watch it from the comfort of your home after your kids go to bed, and nosh on stale chips from the pantry. An evening at the movies is becoming an expensive night out. Audiences are still willing to fork over for huge franchise movies like The Avengers and Iron Man, but the public will eventually tire of those themes, if it hasn’t already.

Move over, movies. The small screen is the new big screen.

Image courtesy Disney

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