Monday, July 27, 2009
The Virtual Walkout
I was watching Watchmen the other night and halfway through I couldn’t take anymore so I hit the 'stop' button. Not 'pause', as in 'I’ll be back'. 'Stop' as in 'I’m done'. That got me thinking. If I had paid to see Watchmen in the theater, would I have walked out?
Walking out of the movie theater is the ultimate 'thumbs down', is it not? Word-of-mouth is usually associated with a positive feeling about a film. However, word-of-mouth is just as viral for negative opinions as positive. Just ask Bruno. The drop off for Bruno from its Friday opening to the following day was jaw-dropping. From there it all but disappeared from the box office top ten. Point in fact: my daughter saw Bruno that weekend and came home to report that she had, indeed, 'walked out'.
Now I’m sure that Hollywood has no statistic to measure 'walk-outs'. Even with all the audience testing that’s done, there’s probably no way (short of a hall monitor at every theater) to measure 'walk-outs'. But it would be nice if there were. Think of the service that would provide for movie-goers.
I can remember vividly the last time I 'walked-out'. It was 1992 and a movie called Brain Donors, a Three Stooges wannabe (beware Farrellys). Bet you never heard of it. If you did, you probably walked out, too. I walked out less than an hour into it. Come to find out, it was only 79 minutes long. However, even had I known there was only another 19 minutes to go, I still would have left. It was so bad that I can still remember the theater where it was playing and the day of the week I went to see it, some seventeen years later. Indeed, the memory is so vivid that it blocks out any other memory I have of ever walking out on another film.
On the other hand, I have turned off many a DVD. Usually they were films I avoided at the theater and thought 'what the hell, I’ll give it a shot'. And that’s what I do. I give them a shot. If they don’t engage me, I employ the 'virtual walk out' and simply hit the 'stop' button, never to return. Obviously, it’s much easier to walk out virtually. And with the cost of a theater ticker compared to a DVD rental, the virtual walk out is less cost-driven.
So back to Watchmen. Would I have walked out of the theater had I paid to see it there? I don’t believe so. Like I said, that is the ultimate 'f-you'. I would have stayed until the end and took my medicine. Then I would have engaged in a little negative word-of-mouth. Like I’m doing here. Virtually.