Today my friend, Dennis posted an article on his site The Beta News about how movie studio fat cats see twitter as detrimental to the movie industry. They are concerned that people are instantly coming out of a screening and tweeting their, often negative, opinions on the movie and this is acting as a catalyst for bad publicity. Where before you’d have to pick up a newspaper or a copy of Empire to read about the latest movies, now you have short, sharp opinions hand delivered to you in your Twitter feed. What used to happen in days or weeks is now happening in minutes. But is this actually bad for the movie industry? I don’t think so.
Here’s the quote that Dennis used in his article. It’s from former chief of Sony Pictures, Peter Gruber (Maybe he’s pissed about John McClane killing his two brothers):
“You look around the theatre and can see the glow, not on people’s faces from watching the movie, but on their chins – from the BlackBerrys and iPhones. They are immediately telling their friends whether it’s worth their time. And the answer to that, more often than not, seems to be no.”
First, let’s look at the difference between this insta-publicity and run of the mill movie reviews. When I read a movie review in a newspaper or magazine I actively try to take it with a small pinch of salt. Movies, as with any art form, are subjective. A movie I may absolutely love, may get a total pasting by a professional critic, or vice versa. I don’t take this same pinch of salt with opinions on Twitter. The people I follow are my friends. We share interests. Many of them, I know for a fact, have a near identical taste in movies to me so when they say a movie sucks or a movie is outstanding, I believe them. I didn’t see X-Men Origins: Wolverine at the cinema, in part because my Twitter friends had given it such a monumental kicking. Of course this pattern isn’t always true (I liked Transformers 2 where many of my Tweeps hated it) but it does tend to bear more fruit than heeding the opinions of press critics.
So if this holds true for the rest of the twitterverse then you can kind of see why these Hollywood hot-shots are starting to sweat. In this time of economic gloom the last thing they need is another reason for people not to go and see their latest release.
But I think this is the wrong view, a sort of glass-half-empty kind of view. I actually think that this could be a very good thing for modern cinema. Studios have been given an unfathomable resource from which to draw constructive criticism. They can see, in real terms, what the general public think of their movies, without waffle and without pretense. If that isn’t something that can guide studios toward making better movies I don’t know what is! Let’s not forget that good things get posted too, Mr. Gruber. Look at the trending topic #district9 for example. Christ, Twitter loves that movie! Let us not also overlook that in the period approaching the release date, assuming you’ve marketed the thing right, Twitter will be awash with eager anticipation (see Avatar).
If anyone should be sweating, and brushing up their CVs it should be the media critics. Twitter is having enough of an impact to get Hollywood execs fidgeting in their chairs which is more than can be said for even the most highly thought of film critics, these days. I mean, who are you going to trust more; your circle of friends or some pretentious sandal wearing hippy with a masters in journalism and a penchant for foreign period dramas that anyone except for James William Bottomtooth would find insufferable?
Come on, Hollywood. Embrace this gift that has been given to you, don’t be frightened of it. Let it be your muse, your taskmaster, your key to getting butts in seats and dollars in your pockets.