Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2002 / 29 Elul, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

And the box office winner for this weekend is... | The big Labor Day weekend has come and gone and the movie that has made the most money at the box office for that period is "Signs" at $16.5 million, beating out "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" which only made 14.6 million. According to news reports on television, radio and in the papers, "Signs" is now officially Mel Gibson's biggest all-time box office success, having grossed over $150 million so far since its release.

This is big news ... for Mel Gibson. For the rest of us, who cares? Okay, maybe the people who work for Mel Gibson care. His mother cares I'm sure. His other family and friends probably care also. And maybe the studio execs and stock holders care, but that's about it. Personally, I couldn't care less. It's nothing against Mel Gibson, I enjoy many of his films. He's a fine actor. But the fact that one of his movies comes in first or second or tenth has absolutely no effect on my life one way or another. Nor does any other movie in any given week.

When did the weekly reporting of box office receipts become major international news? For some reason, the media must think that the vast majority of people in the world wait with bated breath each Monday morning to find out how much money a movie has made that weekend for its studio. Yeah, sure, I wake up, turn to my wife and say, "did you put the coffee on and, by the way, have you heard how the Austin Powers picture did this weekend?" There are probably seven guys in the entire world who have actually said those very words.

The media is so tied into the entertainment industry that they just don't get that movie grosses have absolutely no relevance to anyone outside the movie business (and even for many who are inside). Most folks have their own finances to worry about before they can give a thought to whether the latest Eddie Murphy flick has made back its negative cost or not.

Why would a plumbing contractor living in Boise, Idaho care if "Spider-Man" made more money this summer than "Star Wars II -- Attack of the Clones?" Does it interest a kindergarten teacher in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to know that "Mr. Deeds" and "The Bourne Identity" made over $100 million? Do YOU care that "The Power-puff Girls Movie," "Hey Arnold," and "The Country Bears" all were box office flops this summer but "Lilo & Stitch" was a hit?

For some reason or other, this weekly announcement of success and failure doesn't happen in any other forms of entertainment. We don't get the same breadth of coverage on the overnight ratings of television shows, for example, nor do they widely broadcast the results of sweeps weeks. And when was the last time you read or heard anything about radio ratings?

The music industry regularly reports on record sales in trade publications, of course, but those figures generally don't show up as news items in the daily papers or nightly news shows. You don't read things like, "Bruce Springsteen's new album took in over $2.3 million this week edging out Diana Krall's new album from the number one spot, which only made $1.6 million."

How come the news shows don't widely report the weekly box office receipts for Broadway shows? Did "The Producers" out-sell "Hairspray" this week? How much did "Oklahoma" make last week? What were the top ten money-making off-Broadway shows for this past Labor Day weekend?

For the average American, none of this matters very much. Peter Jennings might just as well broadcast Labor Day weekend sales figures on washing machines, light bulbs or underwear. "News flash: Fruit of the Loom has taken in just under $3 million this weekend which puts it in the top spot for all retail store underwear sales. This pushes Jockey brand, with sales at $2.8, to number two with Haines briefs coming in third earning $2.2. In other news, Tide detergent has pushed ahead of Cheer this week grossing more than $1.8 million in overall supermarket sales. Wisk, Fab and Oxydol round out the top five."

In my entire life I never went to a movie based on how much money it made. I never walked up to the box office window at a multiplex and said, "Excuse me, could you sell me a ticket to the movie that made the most money last weekend? Because I really don't want to waste my time seeing a movie that isn't doing well financially."

Maybe there really are some people who only want to see movies that make a ton of money -- just as there are some people who only want to date people who make a ton of money. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm not marrying the darn movie I just want to have a good time for a couple of hours.

Instead of reporting how much money a movie makes, how about just telling us which concession sold the most. Did "Signs" sell more popcorn than "My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Did Milkduds outperform Goobers this weekend at the "Road to Perdition" screenings? Popcorn sales actually have more interest to me than movie sales. But then popcorn has more interest to me than 90% of today's movies.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby