A funny thing happened a month or so ago: we had a week where no new movies were released. Well, there were new movies out there somewhere, if you were willing to travel to Melbourne to one of the smaller or arthouse cinemas, but as far as big new releases at the mainstream cinemas? Nothing. The plan had been for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Sabotage to be released that week, but after a lacklustre box office performance in the USA distributor Roadshow decided to cut their losses and send it direct to DVD. On the one hand that wasn’t exactly surprising: Schwarzenegger’s previous film Escape Plan (with Sylvester Stallone) hadn’t made it to Australian cinemas after fizzling in the US, and while the film before that – The Last Stand – had made it to local cinemas, it had been a dud. On the other hand, Schwarzenegger’s co-star was “Australia’s own” Sam Worthington.
If you’ve ever wondered why some obviously below-par American films still somehow manage to get a release here, take a look at the cast list because chances are somewhere in there (though usually pretty close to the top) you’ll find an Australian name. We may not have much of a mainstream film industry in this country, but we try to make up for it by screening as much foreign product with local actors as we can – and when they don’t make it out here (like the 2012 Guy Pearce space prison action movie Lockout) that’s a pretty big sign that they’re not all that good.
So the forces pushing for and against a cinema release for Sabotage were evenly matched until it tanked at the box office, which explains why it was pulled at the (relatively speaking) last minute. But that meant that for pretty much the only time this year, we had a week with no major new releases on at cinemas. Worse, the decidedly below-par Transcendence (you remember, Johnny Depp uploads his brain) had been the only release the week before, leaving it as the only half-fresh item on the shelf.
It’s been obvious for a long time now that there are certain times of the year when movie distributors just don’t want to release decent movies, leaving movie-goers with long stretches with nothing much to hold their attention, followed by the “serious” times (such as right now) when the studios all put out their big guns that no one else would dare go up against, leaving us with even more long stretches where there’s only one new release movie a week.
So if you didn’t relish the chance to see Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in Blended a fortnight ago, tough: that was the only big release that week. Last week it was 22 Jump Street; if you picked this copy of Forte up the day it was released, Transformers 4 was the only big movie to hit cinema screens. Sure, if you live close to Melbourne, or your local cinema programs the occasional smaller effort, you might have a bit more choice; otherwise, if you like watching movies on the big screen, for the foreseeable future here’s hoping you like them big and loud.
Written by Anthony Morris