Guest Commentary: Life After People, Moon, The Tenant, and Movie Theater Prices

Writing a daily blog can be time-consuming, especially with work and family responsibilities taking up most of the hours of the day, and memorizing lines and rehearsing for my upcoming show taking up a lot of evening hours.  So when my friends step up and send me their own thoughts on the stuff I love to write about, I welcome the diversion. 

In the past, I've shared my debate with my friends about the merits of the J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek.  I've posted mini-reviews from my wife and sisters for the previous Harry Potter movie and from my wife and my sister-in-law for Paranormal Activity

Now I bring you some thoughts from the mind of my friend Robert.  He used to call himself the Robsterman, a controversial character who was banned from countless Web sites, and used to manage a very popular message board of his own called The Robside.  People change with time and Robert now is much more mellow -- getting married and having an adorable kid tends to do that to a guy. But he still likes to voice his opinions.  And who am I to deny him a soapbox.

Without further ado, here's some commentary from Robert.

Life After People

Hello All! Robert here!

One show that has me hooked is Life After People. Life After People is a television documentary series where scientists and other experts speculate about what the Earth might be like if humanity no longer existed, as well as the impact humanity's disappearance might have on the environment and the artificial aspects of civilization. The program premiered as a two hour special on January 21, 2008 on the History Channel. which served as a de facto pilot for the series that premiered April 21, 2009.

The program does not speculate on how humanity disappeared, only that it did so, and suddenly, leaving everything behind including household pets that have to fend for themselves. The rest of the speculation is based upon documented results of the sudden removal of humans from a geographical area and the possible results that would occur if humanity discontinues its maintenance of buildings and urban infrastructure.

This series is fantastic and the pilot and Season 1 are available on DVD. I highly recommend this series.  Listen to the intro in this Youtube link. How can you not be hooked?


Hello All! Robert here!

If you're looking for a fantastic movie on DVD, I highly recommend Moon.

Moon is a 2009 science fiction film about a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year solitary stint harvesting resources on the far side of the Earth's moon. It is the feature debut of director Duncan Jones. Sam Rockwell stars as the employee Sam Bell, and Kevin Spacey voices his robot companion, GERTY.

Moon premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was released in selected theaters in New York and Los Angeles on June 12, 2009. The release was expanded to additional theaters in the United States and Toronto on both July 3 and 10 and was released in the United Kingdom on July 17.

Look, you know if I am recommending a movie, it has to be good. So, check it out.

The Tenant

Hello all! Robert here!

I finally had a chance to check out The Tenant which is on Youtube in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  Nick Leshi has a supporting role as the husband Walt.    Not a bad little movie, but I'd like to see Nick play something outside of his real-world character.

He plays the doting husband who helps with the cooking and hugs his wife and all of that foofy stuff, but he does that in real life. So, when I was watching it, I wasn't thinking this is Nick playing a character, but rather Nick playing Nick.

So, here's what I am thinking. What if Nick played something completely against who he really is? I can definitely see Nick playing a serial killer or rapist or mass murderer. How cool would that be? You'd see Nick being his charming Nick self, and then, whammo, he loses it, and strangles a girl. You could even shoot it from the perspective that the audience knows he is a killer, but the charm is to see how he can fool the cops and detectives.

Just a thought.

Movie Theater Prices

Hello all! Robert here!

So now, 3-D is in (again), and as a result, ticket prices are being raised (again).

I remember when I was a kid and I went to see Friday the 13th in 3-D and Jaws 3-D. Both movies were horrible, but the 3-D effects were cool.

The difference is that back then, you didn't pay extra for the movie. The theaters assumed (sometimes rightfully so) that more people would want to see a 3-D movie and so, by keeping ticket prices down, more people would see them.

Not today. Oh no. Hollywood, that beacon of morality, has decided to create these movies and charge a premium on these movies. And if you think the whole 3-D TV angle has nothing to do with this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Here are some facts:

"At an AMC theater in Danvers, Mass., a Boston suburb, 3-D ticket prices are jumping more than 20% to $17.50 from $14.50, while the adult admission price for a conventional film will remain at $10.50. At one Seattle multiplex, adult admission is rising to $11 from $10 for a conventional film, to $15 from $13.50 for a regular 3-D showing and to $17 from $15 for Imax 3-D. A 3-D Imax movie at New York City's AMC Loews Kips Bay will cost $19.50, up from $16.50."

So, for a family of four to see a 3-D movie in New York, you're talking 80 bucks. Again, no popcorn, no sody pops, no candy - just the movie.

Here's an interesting point:

"While the new prices could boost theater owners' already buoyant revenues, some industry watchers think they could also spark a consumer backlash. Studios, theater operators, and trade groups have long touted films as a bargain, compared with other forms of entertainment. A decade ago, the average ticket at a multiplex was $5.39, but prices have edged up between 2.7% and 6.1% a year since then, according to the Motion Picture Association of America."

I'd like to repeat that - 10 years ago, the average price for a movie ticket was $5.39.

Of course, studio executives would care about you, right? After all, YOU are the customer.

"Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., expressed support. "The exhibitors are trying to push the needle on ticket prices and see where it ends up," Mr. Fellman said. "So far charging a $3 or $4 premium has had no effect on consumers whatsoever, so I'm in favor of this experiment to raise prices even more. There may be additional revenue to earn here."

Here is the bottom line. In reality, studios and movie houses have a right to charge whatever they want to see their product. You have a right not to go.

However, there are going to be repercussions. One such impact is going to be the increase in bootleg movies. It's happening already. This is going to sound weird, but if Bootleg Movies became a corporation, it would be a hot company. Stocks would split.

Why? Because bootleggers understand the public more than Hollywood does. Take a middle-class family of four. They want to see the new How to Train Your Dragon movie coming out today. But, they don't have 80 bucks to blow on a movie. So, they buy a $5 bootleg, which has excellent quality, and watch it in the privacy of their own home.

Is this wrong? Yes. But, so is charging ridiculous prices to see a movie. And if Hollywood has the mindset of "So far charging a $3 or $4 premium has had no effect on consumers whatsoever, so I'm in favor of this experiment to raise prices even more. There may be additional revenue to earn here," people are going to continue to buy bootleg DVDs.

What's your opinion?

It's turning my wife and me into criminals.  OK, we said it. We are criminals. We did something illegal. No joke.

What did we do?

Well, we went to see the New Moon movie. Yes, we purchased our tickets legally.

So far, so good.

But then, we went criminal.

We went next door (99-cent store) and bought popcorn and two bottled waters. And snuck them into the movie theater.

Total cost of 1 large popcorn and 2 bottled waters? $3.00.

That's the TOTAL cost.

Of THREE items.

Now, I understand that movie houses want to make a profit, but there is a difference between profit and robbery. If I want to buy a small popcorn in a movie theater, that's going to run me $5.00. Throw in two bottled waters (of a smaller size) for $3.25 each, and you're in the hole for $11.50.

That is absolutely ridiculous. Of course, this means more people like me are going to sneak food into movie theaters. Which means that theaters are going to make less money. Which means they will raise concession prices.

This makes sense to nobody.

Here's a solution.

Charge only $2.00 for a bottled water I can get next door for $1.00. You're still having a 100% markup over what your next-door neighbor charges. Charge $2.50 for a large popcorn. Again, that's a 150% markup. You're still making a profit. A rather sizeable one.

In short, don't treat customers like they are idiots, and they, in turn, will do right by you. Don't rob us, and we won't rob you.

Nick's note: Rob makes a valid point about the rising cost of going to see movies.  I used to go see three or more movies in theaters a week, but who can afford to do that anymore when they have a family?  Maybe that's why the key demographic for the film industry is teenagers.  I can't condone piracy or theft, so all I can offer as a solution is for Hollywood to consider some better business models.  There should be variable pricing with discounts and frequent viewer incentives.  But if 3D movies are making a fortune, then can we blame Hollywood for trying to raise prices ever higher, seeing how much consumers are willing to spend?