Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews

Original movie reviews untainted by time!

8 thoughts on “I Was a Teenage Movie – Hollywood in 1981

  • Larry, I’m glad you posted this episode on YouTube, because this is the most relevant topic they ever covered in the show’s history. Unfortunately, not much has changed in 39 years.

  • They were complaining about too many teenage movies back then. Imagine if they were alive now. Scorsese can’t even get a movie into theaters these days.

  • There don’t seem to be any shortage of adult-oriented Oscar-bait movies being made. They’re presenting a classic fallacious economic argument, that there is a finite “pie” of resources that has to be divided up between different interests. It’s not true. What’s happened as the years went on is that many more movies overall are being made every year. No one said we could only make 100 movies a year. We now usually make hundreds more than were made in 1981. The blockbusters had the effect of increasing the popularity of all movies. “Indie” movies (not “Indy” movies) had no trouble being made and making a big impact in the past few decades. A rising tide lifts all boats.

    • Yes, more independent films get made after 1981. The problem is that most still open in fewer theaters than the big Hollywood productions. So their points are valid.

      • It’s hard to say how much weight their argument had in 1981. But with all the vast changes since then, it probably wasn’t a real concern even by the late ’80s. The amount of U.S. movie screens doubled between the mid-80s and the year 2020 to about 40,000. The tickets sold did not go up that much though, from 1 billion in 1980 to a peak of 1.5 billion around 2000 and about 1.2 billion in 2019. So it seems like we have much more theater capacity to handle the foot traffic now than we did in the past. I think we know from personal experience our movie theaters are usually showing both the blockbusters and indie films. We also know that special movie studios like Miramax and others came about to cater to adult tastes in the late ’80s.

        And then of course there has been the ongoing expansion of home viewing with cable, VHS, DVD and streaming. Between 1980 and 2016 the amount of movies released in U.S. cinemas went up from just over 100 to over 700. That is the most staggering statistic of them all. It suggests that there are still a lot of lower-budget movies being made. And also that the home viewing options must be helping make movies more profitable overall. I think finding the talent to make great movies is our biggest problem. I doubt there are many potentially great movies not being made because of budgetary or production concerns.

        • In their 500th anniversary special, they said that when the first started as film critics, they want to make The Great American Movie. But after Jaws and Star Wars came out, they were making The Great American Hit and to be honest, I totally agree with that thesis.

          • A lot more people wanted to make the next great hit after Star Wars debuted and they still do, but I don’t think we have any less people who want to make the next great movie. Nothing ever stopped the old artistic directors like Terrence Malick and Martin Scorsese from working unless the audiences lost interest in their movies. And we’ve had new indie directors pop up like Steven Soderbergh and Wes Anderson. Soderbergh navigates the industry very well as he’ll produce big commercial hits for the studios to justify his being able to make other smaller films. Arguably Quentin Tarantino has bridged that gap completely and gets both critical acclaim and big box office like Francis Ford Coppola did in the past with films that certainly qualify as adult content. And there are stars/producers like Bradley Cooper who can still get blockbuster grosses for serious, adult-geared films.

            The other point Siskel and Ebert miss here is the financial downside to studios pumping huge money into would-be blockbusters. Eventually it became clear there was no easy formula to making a blockbuster. Some would-be blockbusters became some of the biggest flops. So the studios still had an interest in spreading their money around to produce small films as well as big ones.

            Of course, some of the most ubiquitous low-budget films are the slasher pictures. So whether a film has a low or high budget isn’t what necessarily defines if it’s aimed at adults or teens. It does seem clear that after Heaven’s Gate, studios would be forever reluctant to give a really big-budget to an adult-geared film. Which is probably only reasonable, since those films naturally have less of a potential audience to make that money back. However, we’ve still been able to get fairly adult-oriented, critically-acclaimed sci-fi in recent years like Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Arrival, etc.

            Obviously breaking into the industry is still difficult. And if you get a reputation for making films that lose money, you are definitely shown the door. But if your movies can make more money than they cost to produce, you seem very capable these days of making any kind of movie you want to make.

  • Watched this the other day (and writing this on the anniversary of Gene’s passing), I do have to say that there were some good points made here. It’s not wrong that there were films for the teen market, and in many cases, great ones, like Superman 2 and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but there should also be films for the adult audience. Let’s remember that later that year came My Dinner with Andre, which they praised as a great adult film and turned out helping it find an audience. There will always be bad films out there, but the thing is to find the good ones and see them.

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