Friday, May 16, 2008

A weekend in Narnia.

Back when we reviewed the trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (an you'll pardon us if for the rest of this post we simply call the film "Narnia 2"), we griped about the familiarity of it all. Aside from the fact the movie itself is a sequel, there have been so many of these witch and wizardry, sword and fantasy flicks that they seem to blend together in spite of themselves. That's not a specific knock on any of the movies (some, like the first Narnia and Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy have been quite good), rather it seems more like an obstacle to enjoying them.

Regardless of the seen-it-before-factor, as of today the land of Narnia has re-materialized and the fans of the first movie, as well as the classic C.S. Lewis books are surely to be flocking to theaters over the weekend, likely to unseat this summer's first blockbuster, Iron Man, in the process. Inevitable for Iron Man but really bad news for this summer's first huge disappointment, Speed Racer, which is likely to fall out of the box-office top three before the weekend is over.

The movie industry bemoans yet glorifies the opening weekend take on it's new releases, particularly during blockbuster season; a marketing strategy that they invented and now live and die by. Perhaps because of it's own industry's greed, Narnia 2 may find itself in the position of king for a weekend, only one weekend. Just over Monday morning's horizon looms the early release dates for Memorial Day weekend and the highly anticipated, already celebrated and crushingly heavily marketed return of Indiana Jones. Mr. Ford and crew whip-crack their way back onto box-office charts on Thursday, May 22nd and from that point on, consider the number one slot on the charts taken. With Iron Man's continuing pull, it's also a good bet that Paramount will also own one of the other top 5 spots, leaving only three openings. One of those is sure to be snatched up by Sex And The City, bowing only one week later. Studio execs will just be breaking a sweat though, as the glut of blockbuster contenders picks up more momentum in the early weekends of June.

All of this begs a question we've been pondering along with many other movie industry watchers - are there just too many movies being released? With Narnia 2's release, Disney is the last major studio to enter into this summer's ticket frenzy and looking over the May release schedule, there are no less than 27 notable releases scheduled. While we're one of the first to take exception to the notion of "limited releases", is the practice simply unavoidable? With a limited amount of available screen space and astronomical marketing and distribution costs, small films may be destined simply to be relegated to cinematic second citizens. So why market them to theatrical distribution at all? 

With a burgeoning market of outlets for creative content, explosively expanded by the internet and home entertainment options, are movies about to be redefined outside of the venue of a movie theater. Or in fact, will the digital revitalization of movie theaters reshape the marketing and exhibition opportunities of theater owners, distributers and studios to the point of not only decreasing costs, but increasing availability and variety?

Our take is that the answer to all of the above, in varying degrees is Yes. We are on the cusp of major changes in the way we see movies, the way theaters will present them and the way studios will produce, market and distribute them. The growing pains have surely already begun but the evolution that is underway carries great promise. Maybe that will be some solace to the producers of the summer films that struggle to find an audience or, for that matter, an available movie screen. As for the producers of Speed Racer, maybe it will help encourage them to do their bit and release fewer films. We can only hope.

If you're taking a trip to Narnia this weekend, enjoy. It may be interesting to see how many theaters will still be willing to transport you there in the matter of only a few more weeks.

To read our trailer review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, click here. The Narnia 2 movie widget is currently featured on Moviedozer's home page. The AP review of Narnia 2 is available by clicking on the video in our Moviedozer Videos column to the right. (Be sure to have your broswer is set to allow pop-ups.) We'd of course love to know what you think about the movie as well as any of the other films you see this summer. Feel free to leave us your comments by clicking below.

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