Folks, unlike so many others who blog, vlog, or generally pontificate over the current state of the entertainment industry, I’ve always maintained that I just don’t understand the power that be or how they could possibly make some of the decisions that they do in their exalted positions.
As I’ve said, I don’t have industry spies. And – for the record – I’m not jealous of those who do. It takes a certain mindset and more than a fair amount of moxie to run a website predicated on newsworthy scoops and/or insider information. I never set out with the goal to make SciFiHistory.Net that kind of daily stop for those hungry to know a little bit about All Things Genre, but I salute those who do that on a regular basis. While maybe I’d love to be a fly on the wall like they are, there’s still that part of me who treasures being surprised when I go to the movies or turn on my favorite television show. That’s just how I’m wired. Sure, I monitor a fair number of outlets – mostly so I can stay aware of what’s going on in the business – but I try to avoid trafficking in rumors, gossip, and the like because – ultimately – I find so much of that disappointing and entirely frustrating.
For example, why would anyone running a studio like Lucasfilm and/or Walt Disney release Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi for its fortieth anniversary in theaters and not give it any advance advertising? It’s one of the more beloved Science Fiction and Fantasy films ever, and giving folks another chance to see it up in the lights – the way it was always intended – some might see as a dream come true … so why not promote it? No, no, no: I’m not talking about some major blockbuster release ad campaign – the kind of thing that racks up all kinds of bills – but something modest by comparison. A commercial here and there. Maybe a radio spot. Something! Anything! But … nothing … except for a specially designed poster that theatre chains can use on their websites?
It’s Saturday morning, and the wifey and I purchased our tickets in advance. We get up, get dressed in some of our humbler Star Wars shirts, and head out to the theater. We get there a bit early, so we stroll the strip plaza and step into a few of the stores open for the day. Now, I don’t know how many of you grew up in the 1990’s, reading comic books and the like, but – back in the day – the local comic book store was a Mecca all of its own. You’d have readers dropping by weekly to pick up their issues and browse whatever else was on the shelves. Animators or graphic artists hit those haunts. Musicians – typically local talent – could also be found under their roof. My point is that if you wanted to get the true pulse regarding anything big and pressing within all of Pop Culture happenings then the best place to do that was the comic book store.
So we step inside, and the clerk immediately notices our Star Wars shirts. She compliments us on our good tastes (naturally), and then she inquires why we were dressed as such. We explain that we’re just killing a few minutes waiting for the theater to open its doors as we have tickets to Return Of The Jedi for its fortieth anniversary blah blah blah … and this clerk had absolutely not idea the picture was playing!
“Wow,” she said. “That’s great. I’ll have to go home and see if my mom wants to go and see it. She loves those films.”
Though the wifey wasn’t aghast like I was, I didn’t show it to the clerk.
But – as I said – back in the day – you couldn’t screen anything from the Star Wars library on the silver screen and not know it was out there somewhere waiting for you to run out, plunk down your credits, and get yourself a seat. Here was a COMIC BOOK STORE – a business that quite probably owes as much to Star Wars as Star Wars owes to it – and its staff had absolutely zero knowledge of the film’s re-release.
Sunday night, I did a bit of digging, and I saw one outlet state that this limited re-issue of Episode VI grossed just under $5 million dollars this weekend. I get that – in this day and age – most folks are going to wave that pittance off because Marvel earns that at the drop of a hat … but Return Of The Jedi is a 40 year old film that – with no advance advertising whatsoever by Lucasfilm and/or Walt Disney (at least, none that I saw) – took in $5 million dollars.
Now, yes, yes, yes: I’m certainly up on what the podcasts are saying about the state of the franchise, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, The Mandalorian’s tanking TV ratings, and the like, but stick with me for a moment. Let’s say that everything fandom has been told about Kennedy is true. Let’s assume that she hates Star Wars. Let’s assume that she wants the era of George Lucas to go the way of the Dodo bird. Let’s agree that she hates the character of Luke Skywalker. Let’s accept that she thinks the Original Trilogy is dated and no longer relevant to today’s troubled times.
Why would you figuratively piss off the chance to have made $10 million? $20 million? Maybe even $30 million?
You’re still the head of a studio.
Don’t you have an inherent responsibility to see the Intellectual Property make money?
This is what I mean when I say that I don’t understand executives. (This isn’t limited to Kennedy alone.) Why would they ignore what could’ve been a small windfall? Why not throw up a few commercials to whet mankind’s appetite? It could still be a reasonably limited re-release – don’t put it in a billion theaters – and I’m thinking the buckets would still fill themselves with a paltry seven-day run.
And, sure, maybe I’m saying this in part because I find the Sequel Trilogy to be such obvious cash grabs, riddled with bad storytelling and forgettable characters and video-game sensibilities. I don’t begrudge anyone liking them. I’ve just accepted that they not for me, much like Star Wars really was for my generation as a kid going to the movies.
Kennedy and her ilk are free to do what they want with the franchise, but the characters of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, C-3PO, and R2-D2 will always – ALWAYS – be Star Wars for me and for countless others. Failing to capitalize on this reality – or refusing to accept that it’s going to be that way for quite some time – only shows me the Peter Principle at work: they’ve been promoted to the level of incompetence, and this is likely why Hollywood is in constant disarray creatively. It’s too bad that people always vote with their wallets, isn’t it? For a fleeting two hours on Saturday morning, the Mouse House gave people what they wanted – for a change – but never intended (apparently) for folks to even know about it.
This is NOT the way.