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August 1994


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"Robinson, Marlyn" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 2 Aug 1994 19:51:00 CST
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In response to Patrick Bjork's questions, are movies pandering more to
audiences today and has there been a progressive dumbing down since the era
of Dr. Strangelove:  I don't have an absolute answer , but there are a few
things to consider.
I believe the strongest point in defense of a yes would be the market
surveys taken of test audiences.  They have definitely affected retooling of
a film to a point where the director's control has really come into
question.  I'm sure listmembers can think of more examples but the first one
that comes to mind is Fatal Attraction and its changed ending.  People were
not satisfied by Glenn Close's suicide in the first version, so she was
instead drowned and stabbed to death by an avenging Michael Douglas and Ann
Archer.  I would bet the companies that do these surveys have a "cultural
composite of today's viewer" down to the color of their shoes.
The story of star power is an old one, but lately it has become even more
difficult to get a movie made unless a "name" is attached to a production -
this is hardly news to anyone. But until recently no one tested this
theorem.  Last week's Variety reported the results of  a Gallup Poll, which
surveyed how movies goers chose the movies they see in relation to stars.
There is a direct correlation between an actor and how many people will
always, often, sometimes or never see a movie in which that actor appears .
Naturally, this won't always work, but  because movies are so expensive
nowadays, they get made with actors audiences "want" to see, but the actors
get huge fees which makes movies more expensive to make, etc., so movie
prices go up, so audiences want to be sure of what they're getting, etc.
I don't think there has been a dumbing down over time.  We remember the good
movies but not the turkeys.  Speaking of which, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,
Valley of the Dolls and Steve Reeves had their moments of glory in the same
decade as Dr. Strangelove, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Cat Ballou.
Marlyn Robinson
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