Summer Movie Season 2013 is all but over. Next weekend will be the traditionally slow Labor Day weekend where the highest-grossing opening weekend topped out at $30 million for the remake of Halloween. This summer, we’ve waded through 12 sequels, 6 adaptations, and 1 reboot (I’ve kept each film to one category, but some could easily cross over like Man of Steel being a reboot and an adaptation of a comic book). There have been some original movies along the way.
Summer is about to end, but not before it goes out with some of its best movies that also happen to be original movies. Hit the jump for why they’re not just great films, but why you’ll be glad you saw them (and it’s probably not for the reason you think).
I’m not unsympathetic to studios pumping out a glut of remakes/sequels/adaptations. Studio executives want to keep their jobs, and they don’t keep their jobs when they take a chance on something that doesn’t have a brand, and then that thing flops. At least if something like Red 2 underperforms at the box office, an exec can point to the success of the first movie. If there’s a brand, there’s always something else to blame: the marketing, the release date, etc. And even if it flops over here, it can still survive overseas, where the real money is being made. Battleship may have tanked in the U.S. but everyone in the world speaks the language of aliens attacking boats. The economy that fuels studios goes far beyond a reported box office and a domestic gross.
But brands aren’t only guiding studios. Brands guide filmgoers, and I’m also not unsympathetic to consumers. Movies are more expensive, the theatergoing experience is less pleasant, there are more entertainment options, and so if you’re going to spend $8.38 (the average ticket price in 2013 Q2 according to the National Association of Theater Owners) on a ticket plus the exorbitant cost of concessions (which is where the theater makes most of its money), you want as close to a sure thing as possible. You know Iron Man, you like Iron Man, so Iron Man 3 is going to get your money.
Outside of the familiar, you’re gambling. Sure, there’s still a risk that you may not like a sequel even though you liked the first movie, but it’s a reasonable chance. At the very least, you can talk about a movie that most other people saw. You’re part of the conversation, and the marketing made a compelling case. But outside of the pre-sold blockbusters, how much of a chance are you willing to take? You have to drive to the theater, pay for the pricey ticket, perhaps pay for concessions, and then spend approximately two hours watching a movie you may not like, and that your friends may not end up seeing. You feel like you’ve wasted money, time, and you’re alone.
But you haven’t wasted money. You haven’t wasted time. And you are not alone.
When you pay to see an original movie, you’re promoting diversity at the multiplex, and you’re promoting filmmakers. Studios won’t stop making pre-packaged blockbusters, but you’re supporting the films that don’t cost hundreds of millions of dollars. You show that there’s room in the marketplace for them even if they don’t gross hundreds of millions of dollars. Studios don’t expect these movies to kill at the box office. They expect them to do relatively modest, respectable business, and your dollar matters in achieving that goal.
And when you spend the time to watch these movies, you make yourself a better person. Even the worst movie makes you a better filmgoer. In fact, the bad movies can be as important as the great movies. A bad movie tells you what filmmakers shouldn’t do. It tells you that this filmmaker may not be for you. Furthermore, it informs how you approach movies on both a macro and a micro level. When you see more movies, it makes you a more valuable addition to the conversation because you can make comparisons and recommendations. You don’t just become a consumer. You become a voice.
And that voice has a place on the Internet. Even if your friends haven’t seen the movie and they don’t want to see it because they’re not willing to roll the dice, there are plenty of people on the Internet who have seen this movie, and they want to talk to you about it. There are also people on the Internet who haven’t seen the movie, and you can help them. You can tell them what you thought. Your voice is now directing others. People were going to see Iron Man 3 whether you liked it or not. But they may be skittish about You’re Next.
You’re Next is almost the anti-summer movie. It has no stars. If you’ve heard of anyone in You’re Next, then you probably already know about the movie and have been awaiting it for months if not years. Hopefully, the people who saw it at TIFF, Fantastic Fest, and SXSW have talked it up enough that it’s on your radar. But even if it’s not, you should give it a go even if you’re not big into the horror genre. I’m certainly not. I rarely seek out horror films. But You’re Next is fun horror. It’s not gore, and it’s not cheap jump scares. It’s expert direction and worthwhile characters. You may not know the name of the director or the actors, but you’ll know the names Adam Wingard and Sharni Vinson when you see this movie, and you’ll keep a close eye on their future projects. When you like a movie, your appreciation doesn’t stop at that one film. It leads you to check out past works and keep an eye on future projects.
If You’re Next is still too far outside your comfort zone, then you can go for The World’s End. Although it’s billed as the end of “The Cornetto Trilogy”, that’s simply a fun nod to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz than anything that truly defines a sequel. It’s a spiritual sequel unlike the sequel-sequels from the rest of the summer, and other than the marketing, all you have going in to The World’s End is whether or not you’re a fan of the director, the actors, and/or their past movies. This Is the End was also an original movie, but audiences are willing to trust a cast packed with American comic talent. The World’s End is a harder sell, but you’re going to get a movie that’s more thematically rewarding and equally hilarious (if not more so).
Then there’s Woody Allen‘s new film, Blue Jasmine, which is expanding to 1,200 theaters, so it’s going to be pretty hard to miss unless you live in the middle of nowhere. I’ll admit I haven’t seen it, but Allen’s films aren’t always hits despite his name and the names of his famous cast members. Blue Jasmine has caught on and it caught on because people were willing to take a moderate chance on Allen’s name and the cast. And something clicked with audiences. It’s a word-of-mouth hit, and the only way to make that kind of hit is to actually see the movie. I’ll be paying to check it out this weekend.
But those films are relatively easy to see. Look at your local multiplex and it will probably be there. I want to bring one special movie to your attention, and it embodies why you should take a chance on the little originals. Short Term 12 conquered SXSW 2013 by being an emotionally honest, powerful movie. Its most famous actor is Brie Larson, who has played a host of supporting roles in her career. It’s the feature debut of its director Destin Cretton. The distributor, Cinedigm, could never match the marketing budget of Lionsgate (who’s distributing You’re Next), Focus Features (The World’s End), or Sony Pictures Classics (Blue Jasmine). But if you take the chance and spend $10 when it comes to a theater near you, you might end up seeing what you consider to be one of the best films of the year.
These movies are the opposite of a Twilight or a Star Wars. Those movies will be hits at the box office whether your see them or not. Their fanbases don’t need you. You’re Next, The World’s End, Blue Jasmine, and Short Term 12 need you. If you put in the time and money to see a movie, you’re not at its mercy. You’re empowered because you can matter to this movie as much as it matters to you. The best part of my job isn’t seeing movies early and for free (although that’s certainly not bad). It’s being a cheerleader. It’s telling people who wouldn’t normally see a film like You’re Next or Short Term 12 that they should take a chance. If you’ve ever championed a film, you know how good that feels. This weekend, more than any other this summer, will give you that opportunity. Take advantage of it.