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Denouement: When Your Movie Only Exists for an Afternoon

The Projector

I live in Brooklyn, the part of Brooklyn where "Carnage" takes place, the one in which getting your child into the right preschool can make the difference between raising the next President of the United States or raising a future animal rapist. At least a lot of the parents here seem to think so.

I do not have any children of my own, so maybe I'll feel differently about this when I do, but this strikes me as crazy. A three-year old kid having to sit in front of an adult to prove him/herself "worthy" is grotesque at best and cruel at worst. He's three! Let him be three! He should be eating grass or peeing in inappropriate places or screaming "LALALALALAALALA" because he likes the sound of the syllable. Who cares what you think, school people? You're just strangers.

I was thinking about this this morning, when the wretched box office notices came in for the three films opening wide this weekend, "Colombiana," "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" and, most notably, "Our Idiot Brother. (Which perhaps not coincidentally features a scene of a three-year-old auditioning for a preschool.) None of us at The Projector were completely fond of any of these films, but it sure does seem a bit much to call them "flops." Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Reason My Bathtub Was Filled With Dirty Water All Weekend Irene closed more than 1,000 theaters on the Eastern Seaboard this weekend, and that just killed all three films, particularly "Brother," which theoretically would have been going after that sort of East Coast audience. (You can tell because most of the cast is from well-regarded, poorly rated television shows.) "Our Idiot Brother" never had a chance. Maybe it would have caught on had Irene not almost-pounded the East Coast. Maybe it wouldn't have. But either way, it's dead now.

And that seems crazy to me. (And again: I don't like the film.) The movie was out for about 20 hours, if that, and by Friday morning the "East Coast attendance is down!" stories came out, and then the theaters were shut down, and by the time they opened again, sorry, all three of your movies are failures, NEXT. Now, obviously, lots of movies have failed in the theaters and gone on to bigger and better things, but those are the exceptions. On the whole, if your movie doesn't do what people want it to do in its first weekend, it's toast, particularly smaller films like "Our Idiot Brother." The people making that film spent months putting it together, years writing it, and hours upon hours talking to idiots like us to promote it. In 20 hours, it was gone. "Flop."

Moviegoing is often thought of as a merely observational activity, a passive audience staring blankly at images flipped past them at a rapid pace. But it isn't, of course. Once someone watches a movie, it belongs to them, and they take a piece of it with them and share it with others. It's not something that happens in a weekend, or a week, or even a month. I don't love the film, but there is an audience out there for "Our Idiot Brother." It might not be found for a while, or even at all now, because of a rain storm and our swiftness in labeling something a "failure." How strange it must be, to work so hard on something, only to have it shuffled so quickly away after 20 hours, because of a storm, because the people who would like your movie were buying flashlights, because it was August.

This happens all the time, even when there aren't hurricanes, and it still always seems wrong, unjust. The kid is three. Let him be three!