Results tagged “Variety” from critical difference

My friend Tim keeps a spreadsheet listing the details of every concert he's been to since the early '80s -- or is it the late '70s? Either way, it's very "High Fidelity," but with an emphasis on the Grateful Dead that Nick Hornby's own spreadsheet probably wouldn't own up to.

When I find myself at a concert, it tends to be with Tim, and it tends to have been his idea. Likewise, when he finds himself at the theater, it's because it was my idea.

So there we were the other night at the Public, for a LAByrinth Barn Series reading of Padraic Lillis' "Lights Up on the Fade Out," when we spotted a woman in a fuchsia "Where the Wild Things Are" t-shirt, Maurice Sendak's characters swinging in a line across her chest.

I confess that I was not a huge fan of "Where the Wild Things Are" when I was small. It didn't take up residence in my heart until I was older, in high school, babysitting for Stephanie and Billy, my favorite little kids down the street. Once I'd roared my terrible roars, gnashed my terrible teeth, rolled my terrible eyes and shown my terrible claws along with a couple of spectacularly adorable moppets doing the same, I couldn't not love Sendak's book.

I almost wrote "Sendak's tale" there, but it truly isn't the tale as much as it is his telling of it, in words -- which repetition soldered into my memory decades ago -- and pictures.

So Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers' movie adaptation? Not so attractive to me. I feel about it the way I feel about the movie of "Atonement," which I haven't seen and won't see: I don't want a movie to mess with what's already in my head. If the Narnia movies had come out back when I was nine years old and as enraptured by the books as I was unaware of their Christian imagery, I wouldn't have wanted to see those, either.

And the Variety review of "Where the Wild Things Are" that just popped into my inbox? I don't even want to read that.

My militant opposition to the very idea of this movie is monstrously closed-minded, I know, and maybe intellectually inconsistent, too, given that I once owned a Max doll and a couple of Wild Thing dolls, and have been known to give Maxes and Wild Things (and the book, of course) as gifts to children in my life. But the dolls, three-dimensional though they are, are faithful to Sendak's drawings. The faces, the legs, the toes: The details are from his pen.

Still, at least the movie was made with Sendak's blessing. When Tim and I noticed the woman in the t-shirt the other night, he told me a story about a Dead show years ago, where he'd run across a guy selling "Let the wild rumpus begin" shirts. "It's 'start,'" Tim told him. "'Let the wild rumpus start.'" No, no, the guy insisted; it's "begin."

Sigh. People who trample on intellectual property: You just can't trust them with the details.

If nothing else, Jonze and Eggers will get that line right.
October 11, 2009 9:37 PM | | Comments (3)
Starting Monday, Broadway box office and attendance figures should be looking considerably brighter, whether or not there's any real boost to sales or audience size. That's because, as Variety reports, the Broadway League this week adopted a new method of tallying those numbers: one that, barring a substantial decline, will put them in a rosy light.

Sales figures will represent "gross gross" sales as opposed to net gross, which subtracts credit card transaction fees from the total. Attendance will be reported as total attendance rather than paid attendance, which does not count comped ducats.

The League takes over as sole disseminator of those numbers, which used to come from theater owners as well.

The new method of calculation nearly ensures that the 2009-10 season's sales totals will dwarf those from 2008-09, though there's no true parallel between the two sets of numbers. Even more pointless would be any comparison between total-attendance figures in 2009-10 and paid-attendance figures, which the League reported in 2008-09 and previous years. As the industry group well knows, it's far more pleasant to say that a play is packing them in than to admit that a healthy-looking house is heavily papered -- not exactly a rarity on Broadway, where paid attendance has been declining. Given that, it would seem to be in the League's interest to muddle the accounting.

Much of the theatrical press, accustomed to juxtaposing a given week's Broadway totals with the numbers from the same week a year before, probably can be counted on to keep doing exactly what they've been doing. In the process, they'll likely report increases that may or may not be borne out by the facts. The same goes for stories on season-to-season figures.

"Making the switch to gross gross and total attendance would put the Broadway numbers more in line with tallies from the film industry, according to [the League's] Charlotte St. Martin," Variety explains.

That's the same film industry that benefits from a credulous press' faithful weekly reports of ever-bigger box-office earnings -- numbers that are highly likely to grow as long as the industry keeps raising ticket prices, and as long as the population keeps expanding.

But no matter what the film industry does, this switch is a cynical move on the part of Broadway, especially coming off a season whose debatable financial success the League spun so brilliantly. In a tough financial climate that doesn't promise to get easier anytime soon, and at a moment when even the biggest media outlets are devoting ever fewer resources to real reporting, let alone arts reporting, Broadway has made its robustness vastly harder to evaluate. Should the industry fall into trouble, the kind of trouble about which one might wish to alert the media, it may come to regret this brand of obfuscation.
May 28, 2009 1:06 PM |
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