Fablemans Follies

Sam Hanrahan

Staff Writer

Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is the latest to fall victim to the movie theater crisis, joining the dozens of films dubbed box office flops this year. Previous busts include Black Adam, Strange World, and Bros, all huge blockbusters that cost a lot more money than they ended up bringing in. The Fabelmans, however, was not given the headstart that those other films had in terms of a wide domestic theatrical release to thousands of locations; it opened in only 638 theaters. These down-sized theatrical releases have become a common trend during the era of streaming; theaters are treated as merely an add-on profit, while the majority of movie profits are derived from digital viewing. 

This shift in focus has changed what theaters and streaming platforms look for in the movies they host; gone are the days of taking risks on low budget and niche films, such The Fabelmans. With his most recent exploit, Spielberg crafts a deeply personal, beautiful, and precise work that captures his love affair with movies, a touching and rewarding story that, unfortunately, many people did not watch. The root of this problem is central to what makes the film so effective: its intimacy. The movie asks its audience to walk alongside a young Spielberg, an opportunity which fails to appeal to the masses. The general audience no longer looks for meaningful tales and anecdotes, much preferring montages of ‘roided up men in spandex defeating CGI antagonists. Even then, the appeal is slowly fading as less and less people want to go see another mediocre and repetitive superhero movie at a theater. This dissatisfaction with the movies being shown, tied in with the relentlessness of distributors to only show safe bets, results in an underwhelming audience interested in seeing the occasional gem in theaters.

Such was the case for The Fabelmans. The tragedy of unappreciated beauty, a story that will repeat itself until either the landscape of movie releases changes entirely or until the collapse of theaters itself. Currently, theaters are causing their own demise, and the only way out is to allow more risks, cater to lower budgets, and show the people what they want to see.

4E262213-C3CB-4A53-99F1-32E2AE8277D9Sam Hanrahan