Stop Fact-checking The Movies

The Big Business of Big Hits: How Blockbusters Conquered Movies, TV, and Music

Dean Obeidallah We have seen this self-aggrandizing spectacle of people fact-checking movies with two recent films. The first is the current box office champion, “Gravity,” with the other being “The Butler.” “Gravity,” which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, follows a space mission that goes terribly awry. Despite its box office success, a chorus of critics have attacked numerous scientific flaws in the film — such as pointing out the allegedly inaccurate way Bullock’s hair floated in zero gravity . But that’s nothing compared to the recent barrage of Twitter attacks launched at the film by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. His tweets ranged from criticizing the direction space debris was depicted as travelling to more nuanced issues such as faulting filmmakers for showing that the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station and a Chinese space station were, “all in sight lines of one another.” This is not the guy you want to sit next to in a movie theater during “Star Wars.” How realistic is ‘Gravity’? I can just hear him whispering things such as: “The Death Star is too big to fly at that rate of speed,” or “Yoda could never survive in that atmosphere.” Look, “Gravity” doesn’t even pretend to be based on anything more than the screenwriter’s imagination. And here’s the biggest thing for people like deGrasse Tyson to keep in mind: it’s science fiction, for God’s sake! You would think the “fiction” part of “science fiction” is something that an astrophysicist could comprehend. And then there’s “The Butler,” the Lee Daniels film about a man who served for decades as a butler for various presidents at the White house. This film was attacked by the left and the right for being historically inaccurate. Some have cited errors with the film’s account of specific instances of the civil rights movement while others expressed outrage over the way President Ronald Reagan was depicted — apparently some view Reagan as a deity. Here’s a spoiler alert (and by “spoiler alert,” I mean a spoiler to people who have never googled or read anything about the film): It was fiction — that means it was made up. There was no “Cecil Gaines,” the butler character played by Forest Whitaker in the film.

Chewing popcorn could block ads’ influence in movies, new study finds

Every time we see or hear a new name say, Benedict Cumberbatch our mouths unconsciously try to pronounce that name. But chewing disrupts this inner speech, the Cologne study suggests, keeping the new name from being imprinted on our brains. The study involved 96 people at a movie theater. Half of the moviegoers received free popcorn throughout the movie, the other half got a small sugar cube (and wouldve been charged ten bucks for it if this were a real movie). Several ads preceded the movie. According to the research, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the ads had no effect on the moviegoers who ate popcorn, but a demonstrable positive effect on those who had the quick-dissolving sugar cube. “The mundane activity of eating popcorn made participants immune to the pervasive effects of advertising,” Sascha Topolinski, a researchers, said in the studys report. Going forward, the researchers suggest, the study could spell doom for the traditional popcorn machine in the movie theater. “This finding suggests that selling candy in cinemas actually undermines advertising effects, which contradicts present marketing strategies, the report indicates. In the future, when promoting a novel brand, advertising clients might consider trying to prevent candy being sold before the main movie.” Certainly, any theater looking to eliminate popcorn from the movies would have an uphill battle. Popcorn at the movies is a century-old tradition .

Dean Obeidallah

But in the long run, you’re undermining the very essence of what builds blockbusters.Studios and publishers need help from talent and from retailers to make these big hits. And there is a trickle-down effect. Thecompanies that made the last successful blockbuster, whether it’s a book or a TV show, tend to be well-positioned to produce the next successful blockbuster. How do blockbusters beget blockbusters? If you haven’t had a hit in a long time, it’s harder to build the next one. One hit has a halo effect. [The opposite effect] is what NBC is experiencing. They haven’t recovered from the period when they managed for margins. You see the same dynamics in movies, too. Think about trailers you see in theaters. If you’re seeing a Warner Brosfilm, the studio might have three of the fivetrailers. So having a hit helps you create the next hit. If Macmillan publishes Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Jesus,”and itsells well,Macmillan can urge him to interview me about my new book [also published with Henry Holt -Macmillan]driving up sales for my book. Hits create hits.