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Things the Government and Hollywood can do to lower ticket prices

Movie ticket prices are high…as the Entertainment Editor of Elementary Politics I regrettably know this better than most 1888635_623836521024148_812367747072020643_nhaving to pay money to go see movies I actually know will suck (Go and read some articles on Elementary Politics…if we get enough readers I can probably get a press pass into films).

But there appears to be some doom and gloom on the horizon. The first is that, as we all know the last few years have seen deeper and deeper slumps in box office turnout. It gets even worse when you look at supposedly important names like Spielberg and Lucas* telling us that we can soon expect $25 tickets. Now I think $25 may be little overblown (even with inflation under the Obama), and might be a little bit of Spielberg forgetting the studios might not want to fund him because his last six movies have all been terrible. Still the fact is movie prices are still going up. And this comes with the rather idiotic question what can the government do to stop that…yes I’ve actually heard people ask variants of this question, because there are some idiots who feel the government needs to fix all of their problems.movie tickets

But rather than asking what can the government do, I’m going to ask the more important question what can the government stop doing to help reduce movie ticket prices? There are already a horde of policies and regulations in place that are helping to drive the price of your movie ticket up (along with the price of just about everything else) and if the government stopped doing these things you would have far more reasonable prices and far less inflation.

1. First and foremost we need to ignore Senator John McCain (who never met a line of the Constitution that he felt like defending) in his call to regulate cable TV even more. And after that we need not regulate anything else to do with the entertainment industry. I’m sure there are probably a few (very few) laws that should pertain to the entertainment industry, but right now I can also guarantee you we have dozens, possibly hundreds we don’t need and that need to be scrapped before we need any new laws. At this point new laws and regulations only create new headaches and roadblocks for business, industry, innovation and creation.

There is a minimum level of laws needed in society. We are nowhere near that level and need to take a machete, a chainsaw, and possibly a nuclear weapon to the stack of laws we do have at present.

2. End all public funding at all levels for all kinds of subsidies, tax breaks, or incentives. This might seem counter intuitive for why it would raise the price of your tickets. Subsidies only ever result in getting more of something people don’t want. Movies make money when they’re good…so if the only reason you’re going to make it is because you can get a tax break or a right-off or a subsidy in creating content that is sub-par and will in the end reduce the profitability of the market…which in turn has to be made back by charging higher prices for tickets. (Not to mention it creates crap like NPR and PBS which despite its claims of being educational actually make people dumber).

3. Conversely taxes should just be lowered in general. Be it the flat tax or the fair tax, it is irrelevant, but if taxes were just lower you would find more money to invest in films, better, cheaper technology to make films, and lower costs all around for production. Tax reform always benefits everyone, without question, without exception.

4. Another obvious one: Get rid of Obamacare. If you don’t think the production companies and the distribution companies and the theater chains don’t plan on passing their massive costs of Obamacare onto to you through ticket sales, you’re delusional. If prices do rise to $25 a ticket, then Obamacare will be to blame for at least a third of that rise.

5. Sue China for copyright infringement. China has committed billions, perhaps trillions of dollars of patent and copyright theft. Certainly they’re not the only foreign offender but they certainly are the biggest. (It’s ironic that it is very likely that all the money we have borrowed from China was only made by not paying us for use of patents and copyrights) and the entertainment industry takes billions of dollars in losses every year because of this (losses they pass off to you). Now while the Chinese government per se isn’t doing the actual pirating, they have created, fostered and in many ways encouraged the environment in which such violations run rampant and it needs to stop. While this is an issue that hardly affects only the entertainment industry, that is one of the most obvious ways it affects you and if they tightened up their system (and god forbid paid what they owe) you would see profits over here soar and prices drop in response.

 

6. Conversely America’s copyright laws are a little insane. In a push driven mostly by Disney, Congress extended copyright law to insane levels. Currently it’s life of the artist plus 70 years or 95 years from publication for works owned by corporations. That’s insane. I know Disney has a lot invested in keeping Mickey to themselves…but guys you have to let go at some point. Copyrights do help inspire creation…but when taken to an illogical extension they can also hurt innovation and creation (don’t believe me, go and read some of the insanity that has come about because of the copyrights surrounding Superman). Correcting this problem would mean that soon theaters could get their hands on good old movies at a very, very low cost and show them at almost pure profit, which means they don’t have to make the other ticket prices as high just to break even.

7. Get rid of minimum wage laws. Every usher and every person behind the counter at every theater is being paid at least $7.25 an hour. They’re not worth $7.25 an hour. Based on the service I usually get, they’re not worth $3 an hour. But regardless of what I think they’re worth, it is a simple fact of economics that minimum wage laws hurt the economy. They cause fewer people to be hired, they prevent people from getting experience, they lower service and they drive up costs.


If you got rid of minimum wage laws you would see lower ticket prices. You would also see a drop in the unemployment rate and a massive rise in the economy at all levels.
8. Get rid of ethanol. Ethanol is possibly one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done in this country. It takes 1.2 gallons of fuel to create one gallon of ethanol. So not only is it a waste that causes your gas bill to rise (and thus the cost of EVERYTHING else to rise including your movie ticket) but you’re also wasting tax dollars on this because not only is it a Ethanolwaste, but we subsidize it as well. You pay for it to be grown and then you pay to use it…and it’s worthless. Another fun fact about ethanol is that the heavy production of it has caused the worldwide cost of corn to go up, which not only exacerbates issues of global famine, but probably doesn’t help the price of the popcorn either.

9. While Congress really should get rid of all subsidies and trade barriers let’s look specifically at the ones dealing with sugar. We subsidize sugar production in the U.S. (causing the price to go up) and have stiff trade barriers that prevent cheaper sugar from getting in. This in turn leads to just about everything at concession stands costing vastly higher amounts than it otherwise would.

10. Finally let’s end the government protection of the teacher’s union. What does this have to do with the cost of your theater going experience? In terms of cost not so much, in terms of getting your money’s worth a lot. If we had an even halfway decent education system do you think movies like Grown ups 2, R.I.P.D. The Internship or White House Down would ever have been made? I doubt it, because there wouldn’t have been as much of a market for them…yes intelligent, educated people can enjoy movies like this, but an intelligent educated populace wouldn’t provide a market for as many pieces of crap to be made. And the simple fact is that there is probably no bigger threat to American education than the teacher’s union. End all of their bargaining power, disband the unions (because professionals don’t have unions), and as far as I’m concerned try the union leadership for treason and give them the maximum sentence, because they have done massive and unforgivable damage to this nation in protecting their hack union members who have no business whatsoever being in a classroom.

Now that’s what the government should stop doing…but to be fair there are some things Hollywood should do.

PrincessBride

Why has this not been re-released? This would make more money than you can imagine.

1. Release old movies. Why has there not been a re-release of The Princess Bride in the theaters? Or Casablanca? There is next to no overhead cost and you would sell tickets like crazy. Disney, you could re-release a movie every month from your vault (even if we changed the copyright laws) and it would still take years before you made a full cycle.
I think people would rather pay money to see something older and good than new and dumb.

2. Stop paying actors outrageous salaries and start paying your writers better. As the last few years have shown, people aren’t going to see movies because of their favorite actors. If actors aren’t drawing people in then they’re not good investments. Neither is CGI. In the end the most surefire way to get people in the seats is to tell a good story. Pay your writers better.

3. Hollywood, get some goddamn accountants! Real accountants, not the crazy people who have made Hollywood accounting seem more complex than the US tax code. Get some people who will pinch pennies and tell you no, that’s a bad investment, no, the actor can’t have this many riders in their contract, no, we don’t need this lavish a catering truck at the shoot, no, no, no.

4. Stop hiring directors who can’t make money. Guillermo del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson do not make money (in fact while some of their films have made a profit I believe they are in the red for their overall careers). (I personally don’t get Scorsese, I don’t think he’s ever made a watchable film, but at least he brings in a profit, I just don’t understand how). But time and time again you see Hollywood give too much money to hacks because they’re ‘great directors.’ If you want to make vanity pieces fine, do it on your own dime; don’t do it so the studio takes the loss and passes that onto the theaters and then onto me.

5 Support a la carte purchasing in cable. It will reduce your competition and the number of channels you need to advertise on (and it’s actually the advertising budget of most films that makes them take a loss not the production costs).These are just a few of the things the government and Hollywood can do, but in the end it boils down to two things, government needs to get out of the way and Hollywood needs to be focused on giving us a higher quality product.
*I say supposedly because let’s be honest, these two schmucks have more a reputation for making good movies than an actual history of making good films. I’m sure someone will take offense to that but go look at all the movies Spielberg has actually directed and take an honest look at how some of the worst films in history are on that list.

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Movies that show the rich as good #5 Sabrina

 

“What’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there were to business it’s hardly worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product.”

First off let me say that it’s a good thing that they never remade this movie because that would have been idiotic and foolish and would have just a worthless piece of…what? They did what? With her? Are hallucinogenics a requirement to be the person who greenlights films?

Sabrina the story of a young woman who has always loved the young rich rake her family works for…but ends up falling for his older more serious brother. It’s a classic with some beautifully timed scenes of comedy and wit…and with the rare appearance of Bogart in a comedy.

However, while it’s a classic, I will be the first to admit you have to be in just the right mood for this film to enjoy it…otherwise there are just so many plot points that just don’t work. You spend most of the movie loathing William Holden’s character of David Larrabee: the younger son of a wealthy family who exhibits every cliché of the vulgar and useless rich. Yes lots of jokes are wonderfully made at David’s expense, but if you’re not in the right mood you just don’t understand why the family didn’t have the brat exposed at an early age. And you also have to be in right mood to ignore Audrey Heburn’s Sabrina, and her rather naïve and childish behavior. The only character you do like throughout most of the film is Linus Larrabee, Humphrey Bogart’s rather likable rich executive…and even then you have to overlook things like age and temperament difference (I will never understand Hollywood’s obsession with sticking Hepburn with significantly older men…Bogart, Peck, Grant…).* Complaints aside, it is a good movie, you just have to be in the right mood to ignore the odd setups.

So let’s get to the truly positive aspects of this film. Linus Larabee played by Humphrey Bogart. Now some people I know find him distasteful for keeping Sabrina and David apart via his shrewd and not-so-shrewd stratagems (Yeah, cause letting her go off with the eternal playboy David who would use her and throw her away would be so much more humane?).

But what I really love is that Linus, and by extension the writer of the film, understood the true and positive nature of capitalism, outsourcing, and globalization.


LINUS LARRABEE: What’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there were to business it’s hardly worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product.
DAVID: What’s the main objective? Power?
LINUS: Agh! That’s become a dirty word.
DAVID: Well then, what’s the urge? You’re going into plastics now. What will that prove?
LINUS: Prove? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world. So, a new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who’ve never seen a dime before suddenly have a dollar. And barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with a kind of an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and movies on a Saturday night?

Capitalism creates prosperity and wealth where none existed before.

And while more data is presented even Bhagwati’s book In Defense of Globalization, does not put the power of capitalism so succinctly as Linus’ speech.

Capitalism, business, creation, innovation, this is what rich can bring us through investment and management…
…and occasionally a romantic plot line as well.

This is actually what motivates a lot of people—this is the motivation of Ayn Rand’s heroes that she could never actually articulate in a way that was acceptable to most people—this is why capitalism works, because people love creating things that make the world better AND get paid to do it! You mean I get to do something great AND make a fortune? Sign me up.

The romance, the comedy, the bizarre situations, for me all is secondary to the beauty of this one little speech.

*Not to mention this film would almost be more sympathetic from the viewpoint of David’s fiancée as her future brother-in-law distracts the gold digging chauffer’s daughter who seems to have no qualms about going after an engaged man…you really have to wonder how the original pitch session went, “So we’re rooting for the girl who is trying to steal a man from his fiancée over nothing more than an infantile crush? Oh, no, we’re rooting for the guy old enough to be her father to get her?” Granted, the movie is far better than my cynical side is suggesting…but still, it has these elements are just a little off kilter. **

**I think this election year is just making me more jaded than ever and I’m just nitpicking.

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Movies for Conservatives: The Avengers

Agent Phil Coulson: Oh, you are. Absolutely. Uh…we’ve made some modifications to the uniform. I had a little design input.
Steve Rogers (Captain America): The uniform? Aren’t the stars and stripes a little…old fashioned?
Agent Phil Coulson: Everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old fashioned.

Okay I waited two weeks before writing a review—if the film is ruined for you because of the spoilers in this, that’s your fault….No really I’m not holding back…if you haven’t seen it, leave this post now and go watch it. This is not a movie recommendation; this is an analysis of what makes this movie great.

Okay. You’ve been warned. Don’t come crying to me when Phil Coulson’s death doesn’t come as a shock.

First, I listed this blog under the “Movies for Conservatives” category but that is not conservative in the strictly Republicans vs. Democrats, Romney vs. Obama sense. This is partly because writer/director Joss Whedon is a good writer. And good writers don’t usually tie themselves to transitory, temporary issues—they deal with the timeless stuff, the issues and ideals that resonate not just for a modern audience but that will hold true generations from now. This is also partly because it’s really hard to tie Joss Whedon down politically. I’ve seen some references that he campaigned for Kerry and Obama, but at the same time he said that he viewed season 5 of Angel as a metaphor for the Bush White House at war, which doesn’t exactly come off as an insult to conservatives. While he certainly is not puritanical in his view of sexuality, he also is not foolish enough to conceive of sex as something that comes without serious long-term consequences as many liberals seem to. If anything, if I had to peg him to a political philosophy, and I admit there may be some extreme bias here, he’s more a traditional libertarian, some distrust of government organization, but not foolish enough to think that we can live without them, and a great belief in the individual. Also, for all of his cynicism, there is certainly a love of America that seems to pop up in all his works.

Now, I have seen some try to portray this as a liberal film. Right-wing hacks over at Breitbart.com (since Breitbart’s death it’s stopped being a valid source of information and morphed into the right’s MSNBC) wanted to point out that Whedon cutting a liberal spiel from Captain America complaining about the lack of welfare shows what a liberal hack Whedon is…because a guy like Captain America, who would have spent his formative years growing up under the FDR’s New Deal, would clearly not talk about how he doesn’t see that in society…it must be Whedon being a liberal hack and not, oh I don’t know, being true to the actual character.  Meanwhile liberals have been pointing out that the character often used mentioned the idea of clean, renewable energy in a positive sense, thus the film must be liberal. Uh-huh. As if conservatives don’t want clean, renewable energy. I think they forget that it’s conservatives that want nuclear power…we just don’t want to shell out billions for Solyndra style “green” companies that won’t actually give us clean, renewable energy…and, stop me if I’m wrong, but don’t they also make it clear that the only name in cheap, clean, renewable energy in the world of The Avengers is the narcissistic billionaire who plans to make a killing off said clean energy? Oh, yeah, really liberal.

Now there are the small things in the film that make it conservative. The anti-government sentiment as seen by the fact that the S.H.I.E.L.D. council is stupid. The fact that the idiotic Senator complaining about the actions of the Avengers is shown with a “D” after his name (because only a liberal would be dumb enough to complain about having their ass saved—“ These so called heroes have to be held responsible for the destruction done to the city. This was their fight.”). The fact that at no time in this film are the armed services insulted or degraded.

Nothing more American than this guy…

And there are some of the not so little things. Like Captain America’s uniform. Liberals might like to say they’re patriotic, but flag waving is and wearing your patriotism on your sleeve is definitely a conservative trait.

“What?” you say. “How is that conservative?” It’s the stars and stripes. You can’t get much more patriotic and more conservative than that. But you say, “That’s Captain America’s uniform, what else could they put him in?” Well, they could have muted the colors, toned down the theme or just made it solid black like every other S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. After they watered down all the patriotism from the first Captain America film and had no backlash there it wasn’t like they should have been afraid to change anything. “Whedon couldn’t just kill one of the character’s costumes!” you say. Oh yeah? Have you seen the early posters for the movie?

I hesitate to imagine what this movie would have been like with Hawkeye in that silly purple suit…you’ll notice that Thor’s winged helmet is also nowhere to be seen in this film.

Look in the bottom left hand corner. That’s Jeremy Renner in the purple jumpsuit that Hawkeye is in in every comic book. Whedon put the kibosh on that preposterous outfit (in a film that is not short on preposterous outfits), if he really, really wanted to, I’m sure we would have seen the Captain in a more toned down outfit. And more importantly, of all the characters, only Captain America has a discussion of the nature of his suit.

Steven Rogers: The uniform? Aren’t the stars and stripes a little…old fashioned?
Agent Phil Coulson: Everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old fashioned.

Not only does Whedon admit that these ideas are old fashioned (one might say too conservative for the cynical modern populace) but he allows Coulson, arguably one of the moral bedrocks of the film, revel in that old fashioned patriotism (vintage trading cards and all). And we do need that kind of old fashioned patriotism, and it’s a good thing that it is pointed out that we need this kind of old fashioned patriotism.

And speaking of old fashioned there is this little line:

“There was an idea, Stark knows this, called The Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea, in heroes. Well, it’s an old fashioned notion.”

And this is a very conservative idea. Modern liberalism doesn’t believe in heroes, by their nature heroes are individuals, they’re leaders not followers, they disregard the state, not follow it, they show the greatness that a person is capable of—not the limitations that require constant government assistance that liberals believe is all that makes up people. A hero is the very embodiment of everything that liberalism opposes, a hero doesn’t need government help, a hero doesn’t take mindless orders, a hero does what is right according to their mind and their morals not merely the will of the herd. And in this respect, Whedon has always been very conservative (sometimes his heroes are more flawed than others, but that just helps to show how any individual can reach the highest levels of virtue through nothing but choice and action).

Granted this isn’t conservative in any explicit way…but that’s okay, because the subtle conservative belief in the virtue of humanity lasts far longer than momentary political statement.

Further as I’ve stated before there is a disturbing subtle relationship between the words of Loki and Obama…I don’t think this was intentional on Whedon’s part, it’s just all petty tyrants tend to sound the same.

Now of course aside from the philosophical points, it’s just a cool movie.
There is Whedon’s usual level of razor sharp wit, his deep understanding of character and their motivations, and, what is probably the least complemented part of Whedon’s skill, the man is a genius who knows how to use a camera; unlike so many directors who just let the camera sit there, Whedon knows how to use the camera to help tell the story and move the action and drama. And of course there is that last beautiful scene which says more with no words than any amount of dialogue could.

I have seen it twice in the theaters already and probably will see it again. And I certainly will buy it the day it comes out on DVD. I only hope Disney and Marvel are smart enough to let Whedon have complete control of the sequel.

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