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A letter to movie studio executives

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Dear Executives of Film,

The other day,  I was at the movies when a PSA flashed on the screen before the previews.  It was a plea from theater owners who are doubtlessly lamenting the move of their audience from the movie theater to their own living room thanks to game changers like Netflix and OnDemand. The PSA was actually pretty effective- there is something huge and remarkably profound that gets loss in the move from big screen to small screen. But I was shaking my head because it seems that you are all still missing the point regarding why we’ve, largely, stepped away from the movies.

We haven’t left the movies because of the prices and the sudden inconvenience of trekking to a neighborhood theater with sky-high gas prices (although none of this has helped). We’ve left because, frankly, you’re not telling the right stories.

You’re terrified of the “riskiness” of original stories

Sequels, prequels, remakes, movies adapted from video games and board games and old television shows. That’s what we get now. When Lion King was re-released and trounced the box office, you hurried to re-release other old Disney classics. We’re not flocking to them just because they’re familiar, guys. They’re just way better than the paltry family fare you’ve offered of late (with some notable exceptions from Pixar and Dreamworks). When’s the last time we saw a live-action family movie that didn’t star Johnny Depp as a pirate?

You’re lazy and greedy, a bad combination

Let’s thank 3D for exposing the ugliest of your ingrown hairs. When Avatar did wonders for movies in 3D, did we see an uptick in beautiful, big screen examples of the genre? No. You slapped on cheesy 3D effects on already terrible movies and asked us to pay $16 to see them. It was crude, insulting and now you’re paying the price.

And the biggest reason- you still don’t get us

When Bridesmaids came out, the public endured endless sound bites from executives like you about how you were scratching your heads over the fact that women actually like comedies too. You said the same things when the first installment of Sex and the City was released to blockbuster attendance. You said the same things when Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated came out and were hits, despite the presence of (distinctly not 26 year old starlets) Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep on the marquee.  You sit and you stew over Tyler Perry’s prowess at the box office, wondering about his secret formula when anyone who visits the Apple Movie Trailers site can see it immediately- pages of movie posters featuring white people in various states of distress.

Imagine what it would do for movies if you suddenly started making original films that reflected the rest of America- family dramas and romantic comedies and action movies and horror flicks that also happen to be brimming with cultural identities other than that of the Caucasian Male. Why does a romantic comedy starring two Chinese-American leads have to feel like such an anomaly? Or, for that matter, why is it so mind-boggling to imagine an action movie with the heroes being from the Middle East, a family drama that focuses on the grandparents, a movie that’s set in Hawaii that doesn’t star Adam Sandler? How about just one big, tentpole movie that doesn’t simply relegate African Americans to the background or wisecracking sidekick roles?

Do you really think that I, as a white woman, can’t relate to the trials of human experience? And even if I find myself in a movie home that doesn’t resemble the one I was raised in, do you really think there’s nothing left to be learned from each other’s experiences? Movies taught me how to dream big. That’s why I’m so surprised to find you all thinking so small.

Movies are not dead. The theater where I saw that PSA, for instance, was decently filled for a random Wednesday night in November. There is still clamor and chatter online over new trailers for upcoming films, podcasts and blogs filled to the rafters with posts about movies, their stars and the stories behind them. We love movies and we will always love movies.

You’re right about one thing- it could be better. But until you start making (good, smart, original) movies for all of us, nothing will really change. And we will all continue to lose.

Officially stated for the record,

Judi

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