Friday, April 25, 2008

Futures Market, Part 1

Like an asteroid on an unstoppable collision course, summer draws ever nearer, ever closer. We in The Middle Room have been trying to remember a year which filled us at once with such hope and such dread.

There are many movies about to be unleashed upon us this year, and already our wallets grow thin. On top of everything else, we have recently been reminded there are other expenses on the horizon, as well.

There are more than a dozen films coming between May 1 and August 31 which have caught our eye, and yet... with ticket prices as high as they are, it seems unlikely we will be able to justify seeing them all. With that in mind, we have turned to economics, to the market, to try and construct a system capable of helping us make what promise to be very difficult choices.

But the market alone is not enough. As much as we're weary of their methods, there are times we must turn to the critics for help.

Merging the worlds of the stock market and film criticism, we have created developed a system incorporating the wisdom of economics with the fluctuations of critical response. We shall set a target price, and should that price be reached, we will most likely go see the film in question.

Only we can't use "prices" per se. We require a system quantifying critical response. Fortunately, such a system already exists.

We turn to Rotten Tomatoes. We shall set a percent, and if that metric is met once twenty critics or more have weighed in, we will hand over our hard-earned money. Probably.

Let us consider some films set to be released:

The Dark Knight (July 18, 2008)
Minimum Tomatometer: 20%
It is difficult to image a Batman movie we wouldn't go see (unless, of course Schumacher were to direct once more). If the reaction were truly awful, we can imagine waiting for the DVD, but even in such a situation we would most likely go to see it for ourselves. After all, it is Batman.

The Incredible Hulk (June 13, 2008)
Minimum Tomatometer: 40%
Really, most any superhero film is given the benefit of the doubt. We did, after all, go see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in the theater. Twice. It is highly unlikely we won't see The Incredible Hulk at least once. Unless, that is, our money is gone and the reviews leave us so indifferent we decide to skip it. On any other year, I would describe this as an impossibility, but there are so many films between now and then, that many things are up in the air.

Iron Man (May 2, 2008)
Minimum Tomatometer: 40%
Iron Man, as a character, does not make the list of our top 50 favorite superheroes. To be fair, ours is a long list, and many deserving characters don't appear for several hundred spots. In fact, if we knew nothing more about the film, we might demand Iron Man be backed by 50% or 60% of critics before agreeing to see it. But we know much about this film, and all that we know is promising. Who are we kidding? We'll probably see this before we so much as glance at Rotten Tomatoes.

Kung Fu Panda (June 6, 2008)
Minimum Tomatometer: 80%
Kung Fu Panda has enjoyed a great deal of positive publicity, and it has caught our attention. But we are cautious of computer generated movies which are not made by Pixar. We have been hurt before. Were WALL*E not coming out as well, we would be more forgiving. As it is, we demand justification for our expense. Should 80% of critics agree it is warranted, however, we expect we'll find our way to the theater.

Speed Racer (May 9, 2008)
Minimum Tomatometer: 45%
We are not huge fans of the original program, but we respect history. Likewise, while having mixed opinions of the Wachowski brothers' (iD&Di: .78 and .79, respectively) previous work, they have seldom disappointed when it came to spectacle. The colors and images in the previews alone count for more than fifty percent of critics alive. If the other half don't at least find it interesting, however, it is possible (however unlikely) we may save our money.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Aug. 15, 2008)
Minimum Tomatometer: 55%
We spent no small amount of time considering this. On one hand, it is Star Wars, and for all that has come before, the brand still carries a great deal of weight. On the other hand, this was created as episodes of a television show then moved to the big screen for money and publicity. That isn't as much a deterrent as you might think, but we it does call for a higher bar than we might otherwise set.

Let it not be said that we lack standards. If these movies fail to reach the levels above, they will not add our money to their coffers. Unless, of course, the previews look really good. Or someone recommends them.

Or we just happen to change our mind. We in The Middle Room are notoriously unpredictable.

Join us next time when we consider several more films awaiting release this summer. Even if the critics are feeling less than generous, this is destined to be a long and expensive season.

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