On LA’s Usually Bustling West Side, The Film’s Bees Are Silent – Deadline
On Tuesday we had a friend over for dinner on the terrace. The conversation bounced around the usual bumpers: politics, crime, ex-spouse, lawyers, kids, neighbors.
Yet not a word was said about the Oscar nominations, announced that morning. Which is odd, because this particular guest just two years ago was a West Side supervisor — someone who works with big-name filmmakers, lived on the guild screen circuit, and was a regular at the sessions of presentation by my colleague Pete Hammond. at the nearby Aero Theater, once a melting pot for awards season buzz.
But this year, nothing. Not even a yawn.
Worse still, it’s been that way with older, sophisticated moviegoers in and around my little corner of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica for months. The early adapters, those movie-loving “civilians” who used to see footage via viewing clubs, filmmaker screenings and festivals from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs, and then promote them on the gossip circuit before the general public has a chance, fell silent.
It’s as if the honey bees were all dead.
Obviously, the pandemic has a lot to do with it. In 2020, the latest year for which the Motion Picture Association provides reliable statistics, those 50 and over, who made up 34% of the population, only accounted for 20% of ticket sales. Last year must have been worse. Just when it seemed safe to return to the theater, Omicron pierced the vaccine and scared senior viewers like myself and my neighbors.
Well I remember the general thrill when a neighbor posted on the Nextdoor social site that she had gone to see no time to die, loved it and came down with Covid three days later. No thanks. Screenings would have to wait a while, though fearless youth and activists braved the Geffen Theater all fall.
And streaming just didn’t. Somehow, the isolated viewing of contenders on small screens – without even the surreptitious thrill of swapping out those promotional discs just for your eyes – never created excitement. The buzz did not reach critical mass.
On top of that, there were fewer movies to tell. The MPAA said 447 American feature films entered production in 2020, down 47% from 814 films the previous year. Overall, these are the films we’ve watched or not watched in 2021. Unsurprisingly, only 276 feature films qualified for the Film Academy’s Best Picture race. This was down 25% from the previous year’s 366 competitors.
So when it finally seemed okay to have friends and family over for dinner once in a while, the conversation, as before, was warm and familiar. We talked about books, family secrets and the latest Sacramento follies. Sometimes we exchanged recipes. The manias of The New York Times were usually good for a few rounds, and what the Damn happening on CNN?
But the films, at least the current films, had all but disappeared, even among the guests who argued over the merits of Parasite Where The Earth Where A star is born only a few years ago.
Nobody mentioned The power of the dog. Belfast came once, because I asked. (One of the guys rather liked it; the women found Catríona Balfe a bit whimsical for The Troubles.) Our supervisor saw Don’t look up and could not recommend it. A friend’s daughter, member of the SAG, after all, it’s Movieland! West Side Story a thumbs up. But the conversation returned to hamiltonthen all the way back funny girl.
Most of the time, bees are silent. They became Galt.
Around here, there is no buzz.