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Will this year's continuing decline in movie theatre attendance be viewed as a symbol of discretionary spending on the part of thoughtful moviegoers finally fed up with the vapid, effects-driven dung Hollywood has splattered across multiplex screens for lo these many summers?

Even though the number of patrons purchasing tickets is down for the fourth consecutive year, domestic revenues are slightly ahead of last summer's numbers. Apparently audiences still seem to enjoy their pablum served cold.

The Associated Press reports, "Since peaking at a modern high of 653 million tickets sold in summer 2002, domestic attendance has wavered generally downward, dipping to 551 million in summer 2010 and sliding again this summer to 543 million."

Hollywood hasn't been hit this hard since the savage summers of 1997-98.

The recent trends directly indicate years of insipid comic book adaptations, inert cartoons, CG tentpole pictures, and the most virulent and infectious disease known to cinephiles, sequelitis.

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Groucho Marx, star of At the Circus (a tentpole picture if ever there was one) observed, "There is nothing the matter with bad movies that good box office won't cure." Instead of putting an end to their nasty habit of kowtowing to childhood (and childlike) whimsy, Hollywood's way of saving face and pulling up their bootstraps is by churning out more Pirates, more Cars, Smurfs, another Hangover and the intellect-degaussing head trauma imposed by the brothers Green, Hornet and Lantern.

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A scene from Evan Glodell's Bellflower.

On the other hand, two sluggards prepare for Armageddon by picking up hot chicks and devising makeshift weapons of mass destruction. That's the plot of a terrific indie film called Bellflower opening Friday at The Ken. Although it sounds like something Michael Bay might be behind, three things distinguish Bellflower from his signature type of extended music video: it has a story to tell, does so very well, and only cost $17,000 to produce.

Money can't buy such imaginative storytelling. They could have made 11,470 Bellflowers for what it cost to produce one Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

It's time to start viewing studio tentpoles as gallows. Onward to Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.

We could all use a little more Groucho in our lives right about now.

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Comments

Matthew Lickona Aug. 31, 2011 @ 6:55 p.m.

But who cares about domestic attendance? The tentpoles are aimed at the whole wide world. Transformers: Dark of the Moon did $350 million domestic, but then pulled in more than TWICE that on the international market.

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