According to a recent story by Ina Jaffe on NPR, Hollywood has finally figured out that the Baby Boom generation offers a profitable target audience: Baby Boomers Return to the Multiplex, and Hollywood Notices. Wow. Such wisdom. Such prescience. People have been talking about Boomers as consumers ever since the first articles appeared about the Pig in the Python. Savvy marketers have targeted us from the beginning with products ranging from Howdy Doody dolls to miniskirts to retirement planning programs. Boomers as a really BIG market have not exactly been a secret.
But what am I thinking? This is the same Hollywood that ignored the business opportunity of Star Trek for 10 years, despite the growing number of conventions mobbed by people paying to see the stars, dress like Klingons, and buy plastic phasers. They could have made three movies in this time, earning millions in a franchise that has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars since 1979. But they just couldn’t see it.
Just like they haven’t been able to see us. With their eyes firmly fixed on the “middle-school fanboy” and “teenage date” crowds, they have been churning out big-screen comic books, mega- violent shoot-em-ups, idiot comedies, torture porn, and gross-out horror movies. Don’t get me wrong--we're not old fogeys. We go to the movies almost every week and have very eclectic tastes. We saw The Avengers and Unstoppable, Warm Bodies and and I, at least, watched Bridesmaids. But more and more often, we pass on what’s in the Cineplex and refuse to go to the West Newton Cinema because of the bad screens, bad sound, and bad prints. Not to mention the broken seats and dirty floors.
What we Boomers have to offer Hollywood as a business opportunity is significant.
- We have time: more and more of us are retired and can go to the theater whenever we want to. We don’t need babysitters and don’t have to plan a date night weeks in advance. We just feed the cat and go.
- We have money. We don’t have to shell out for daycare, field trips, pediatricians, cool sneakers or McDonald’s. College tuition is behind us along with grad school, weddings, and subsidizing a kid’s new apartment. Tickets may not be cheap but they beat the price of legitimate theatre, sports events, and concerts.
- We like movies. We were the first generation to grow up watching TV and our parents could claim some free time by dropping us at the local theater for a Saturday matineé. As college kids, we went to art houses and, as newlyweds, hit the theater on Saturday night.
What this article, and possibly Hollywood, are getting wrong, though is assuming that we want to see movies about aging. So not. We like good movies about interesting people doing interesting things. We check the reviews, and not just in newspapers. We know about Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB and Fandango. We have apps on our smartphones. If a movie sounds good and has solid reviews, we’ll go. If it sounds boring and has bad reviews, we won’t.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a good case in point. The trailers looked good and the cast was packed with outstanding talent. But the reviews were only so-so and we decided to wait and pick it up off On Demand. Amour got fabulous reviews but it was only playing at the grungy art house. My friend, Alane, with whom I see the movies that my husband won’t watch, said that it took a depressing topic, turned it into a 2-hour dirge and call it "Amour.” So I passed. But Oz, the Great and Powerful has possibilities and Olympus Has Fallen might also be good. I’ll read the reviews.
Here’s the moral for Hollywood. We Boomers go to the movies and we buy popcorn, too. We don’t like gratuitous violence, mindless plots, stupid characters, and people being tortured on screen. We do like good well-made movies that tell an interesting story about complex characters with intelligent dialogue and a plot that makes sense. They don’t have to be about old people in retirement homes--we've had three of those already. They can be about anything. Make more movies like that and you’ll make more money. A lot more.