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Dear Matthew Alice: Why is it when a new movie opens, its success (or failure) is measured in dollars, such as “...grossed only $1.9 million in its first weekend” or “...has grossed $100 million to date” instead of being measured by the actual number of people who saw it? — Brenda Davis, San Diego

Hey, girlfriend, wake up and smell the gross revenues. The day movie-making becomes a “people” business is the day Sly Stallone is out of a job. I’m sure Hollywood would be just as happy if each of us walked up to the box office each week, handed over $6, and drove immediately home. That way, they wouldn’t have to bother with that irritating process of actually making a film. A movie is simply a vehicle that sucks in huge quantities of greenbacks at the front end and, God willing, showers execs and stars with even huger quantities at the back. A movie is that arbitrary thing in the middle, the necessary evil required to manipulate us sheep into fulfilling the grand Hollywood fiscal plan. What else could possibly explain Pauly Shore or Nightmare on Elm Street 35? But of course, Hollywood does come in handy in that the huge pile of lawyers in the biz neatly balances out the huge pile of lawyers in Washington and keeps us all from rolling into the Atlantic.

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