March 15th, 2006


Box Office vs. the Wolf Man

There are a variety of reasons why the motion picture box office slump is happening. There's the advent of home theater technology, of course, but home theater has been around since the first consumer VCRs appeared in the late 1970s and that didn't kill the box office. There's the ticket price, too. It's already $11 in some New York City theaters, and though that's an awful lot of money on its own, if you factor in the inevitable dinner and/or drinks it gets worse. Hell, even if you factor in a box of Goobers it becomes an expensive proposition. There's also the audience itself, a body of people who, for the most part, seem to forget they're not in their living rooms. They talk, they answer cell phones, they yell at their babies for crying during the movie like babies have any idea what's going on outside their diapers.

Then there's the real reason. As the angry theater operators explained to producers at this year's ShoWest, "Stop making sucky movies and the audience will come back." And, provided it's not already too late, they're right. I think most people would be willing to forgo their DVD players to see a movie on the big screen, even at $11 ticket prices, if the movies didn't suck so much. Who wants to pay an arm and a leg for the latest PG-13 teens-in-jeopardy crapfest Stay Alive? (Maybe better movies would also make audience members turn off their cell phones, who knows.)

Which brings us to The Wolf Man, that 1941 classic starring Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi and Claude Rains. It's one of my favorite horror movies ever. I've loved it ever since I was a kid. So the following news should come as no surprise.

Universal Pictures is developing a new version of its classic horror movie The Wolf Man, with Benicio Del Toro playing the title role, Variety reported. Seven scribe Andrew Kevin Walker has begun writing the script.

Yeah, that'll fix the slump. Listen, I think Del Toro's a good actor and Walker's a good writer, but yet another remake isn't going to help matters. The studios need to get past their formula fixation and start getting creative again if they want people to put their butts in theater seats.

The deal came out of a series of meetings with the producers, Walker and Del Toro, who collects Wolf Man memorabilia.

I think it's cool that Del Toro collects Wolf Man memorabilia, but loving Psycho doesn't mean you should remake Psycho, you know what I mean? There are some movies it's better to leave well enough alone. After all, just because I love The Philadelphia Story doesn't mean I should remake it starring me.

Walker spent several months working on some frightening new twists to a familiar tale, adding several characters and plot points that take advantage of cutting-edge visual-effects technology.

Ugh. Any time a press release hypes "cutting-edge visual-effects technology" as one of the reasons for remaking a past classic, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. It means there won't be any soul.

To be fair, Del Toro and Walker are talented people. The movie could wind up rocking my socks. But the odds are against that, and I suspect most everyone, myself included, will wind up keeping their $11 in their pockets and maybe checking it out when it comes out on DVD. I also suspect the studios will then look at the bad receipts and say, "The box office is down! We need more safe properties that people will go see! Find me another hit to remake!" and the downward spiral will continue.

Gary Braunbeck

Gary Braunbeck is in the hospital again, having emergency surgery. I don't know the details, but I hate that this keeps happening to him. Thoughts and prayers, folks, thoughts and prayers.