We're in the thick of Oscar season, and there are still plenty of excellent awards contenders in theaters. So after reading about the record-breaking box-office returns for The Devil Inside, I had to ask myself, "Self, why do people choose to spend good money on a bad movie, even when I've just told them the movie is bad?" As part of my honorable duties as Mr. Moviefone, I sit through 200-plus movies each year and have often used the slogan "watching shitty movies so you don't have to," because, frankly, 80 percent of what I see is crap. And yet, you still go.
Many in the industry argue that attendance is down because Hollywood is just churning out crap, but that can't be true, because some of the biggest blockbusters also happen to be the worst movies.
I was on the phone with a caller to a radio station this morning when the answer became obvious. The vast majority of moviegoers don't give a damn what the critics say. At this point you're probably saying, "No duh -- I never listen to critics," but please understand that your attitude makes my heart hurt. I spend hundreds of hours and many evenings of my life sitting in dark theaters with nerdy (often stinky) Internet writers, and let me tell you this: most of the time it ain't fun. The screenings I attend always start late, it generally takes an hour to get there and an hour to get home, and you have to get there early to get a decent seat -- so it's a four-hour ordeal. Maybe that's why people say I tend to be on the negative side, because I'm usually pissed off before the movie even starts.
But I was about to make a point. Why do you see bad movies? Because the old adage holds true for movies, too. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I think is entertaining isn't necessarily what you think is entertaining. And a good old-fashioned marketing campaign still works, even on me. Like you, I saw the commercials for The Devil Inside and thought, "This thing looks scary as hell." And, as the sugary sweet holidays recede, I thought a good scare might be fun. Not so much, as it turned out -- for me, anyway. You, however, may have loved it. Let's hope somebody did, despite the "F" it received on Cinemascore, since the movie notched the biggest opening for the first week of January ever.
In spite of all that, I believe that reviews still do matter, especially for smaller movies looking to break out. They matter for releases that don't already have a lot of brand recognition. And they matter because studios insist on using them in their marketing campaigns to try and trick you into seeing bad movies -- and maybe, to you, it won't be so bad after all. Maybe Danny Dorko from IBlowStudiosToGetFreeStuff.com didn't hand over that quote just to see his name in commercials. Maybe he was telling the truth and The Devil Inside really was the scariest film since The Exorcist -- to him.
There are many reasons you choose to see the films you do. And as a quasi-movie reviewer and the founder of a movie service that's supposed to make your movie experience better and easier, I hope you listen to (or watch) my Six-Second Reviews and come to form an opinion about my tastes in movies. And if you don't care for my approach -- I tend to judge a movie not on some otherworldly scale of good and bad but on whether it's entertaining on its own terms -- then find another critic to be your barometer. Just don't glance at a Rotten Tomatoes percentage and think that's going to provide any kind of meaningful guidance.
And even if you hate my reviews -- or, worse, ignore them, I'll still be there to give you the showtimes to the bad movie you're about to go see!