Given a modern background of Marvel and DC comic book movies, we need to discuss the golden era for science fiction movies. It started in 1987 with RoboCop and The Lost Boys and came to a close shortly after 1997. This was the era where the scripts and the acting still had to matter. Starship Troopers came out this same year. I have mentioned Starship Troopers before in this blog.
The first Blockbuster store opened on October 19, 1985, in Dallas, Texas. Studios started caring about what their film would look like on that 32 inch or less television screen people had at home. You have to remember that cable television still is not available to the majority of America. It really only exists in the larger cities and their suburbs. Huge geographic ares in America do not have access to cable television or Internet speeds above 25Mbps.
Video Rental Was Everywhere
The VHS/Betamax war happened leaving some customers stranded when the cheaper technology won. Then came DVD followed by blu-ray. Po-dunk USA couldn’t get cable television or decent Internet, but they could get a video rental service. Sometimes it was mom & pop; sometimes just a rack at the gas station or local supermarket. Today you see the much maligned Redbox kiosks.
Blockbuster peaked in 2004. I do not know about the other chains. According to Wikipedia it officially closed in 2010.
From 1987 until shortly after 1997 Hollywood understood that to be successful your special effects had to look good on those 32 inch and smaller televisions when played from VHS. No movie could really make it without acting and a good script. Only a tiny part of the market would sit in a theater to see a 32 foot high wall of water coming at them. When it is under 32 inches high it isn’t that impressive.
Today the bulk of Hollywood creates films believing everyone has at least a 65 inch 4k flat screen and an expensive theater quality sound system and they wonder why their product doesn’t generate much revenue in the rental and streaming markets. This is also why you see so many one and zero star reviews for movies people gave four or five stars to in theaters. When you are seeing a movie on a 40 foot wide screen that is at least 22 feet tall in a room designed to have incredible acoustics, that’s a different experience. It doesn’t translate well to poor people televisions.
Even if you are rich you probably have a television that is 32 inches or smaller in your bedroom. It doesn’t have a thousand plus dollar sound system connected to it. The day you spend lying in bed catching up on movies, don’t be surprised if they suck.
Streaming services that have content from the Golden Era for Science Fiction (all movies really) didn’t have to spend a lot for their content and can turn a profit from the commercials. Why? Their content looks good on sucky televisions and it can stream just fine with those sucky 25Mbps Internet services.
My first real exposure to this was The Matrix. I saw it in the theater and thought it great, so did my lady friend at the time. Some years later I was walking and talking with a different woman who was a great friend. She had been over at some guy’s place a few nights prior and he rented that movie. She said it sucked. She actually liked science fiction. That’s when it hit me. Hollywood has quit making movies for the screens we all owned.
Enter the rise of classic TV channels.