The 89th Academy Awards, honoring the best and brightest in film in 2016, will be held on February 26, 2017. As Hollywood’s award season winds down, it presents an ideal opportunity to reflect and think about movies: then and now. How do today’s films compare with the films that flickered across movie screens 50 years ago?
Movies: Then and Now
How has going to the movies changed in the last 50 years? Remember, VCRs, DVD players, premium cable channels, and Internet streaming weren’t around in the 1960s. Seeing a movie meant going to the theater or catching it when it was broadcast on television. Today, going to the movies to see a film on the big screen is still an option, but viewers have a much wider range of choices in both what they want to watch and how they want to watch it.
In the 1960s, a movie ticket was just 50 cents, and popcorn at the movie theater cost about 20 cents. Even when you consider the impact of inflation, the prices still seem surprisingly affordable; when adjusted for inflation, a 1960s movie ticket cost less than $4 and popcorn could be had for around $1.50. Today, the average movie ticket costs just over $8, and a small popcorn can be yours for roughly $4.
In 1966, the following were some of the top-earning movies in the United States:
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
- The Sand Pebbles
- A Man for All Seasons
- The Bible: In the Beginning…
Other notable films in 1966 were The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Alfie. Fifty years later, in 2016, these were the top-grossing films at the domestic box office:
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Finding Dory
- Captain America: Civil War
- The Secret Life of Pets
- The Jungle Book
In a year thick with superhero films, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Deadpool, and Suicide Squad were also among 2016’s top ten earners. While the modern focus on superheroes might suggest a change in preferences, there’s also evidence that a good story will lure in moviegoers regardless of the decade. After all, 2016’s live-action adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s book isn’t the first The Jungle Book movie to rank among top-earning films. Disney’s animated version of this classic tale was the second highest-grossing film of 1967.
What insight does a look at the Academy Awards offer about movies: then and now? At the 39th Academy Awards, A Man for All Seasons won for Best Picture, and its lead actor, Paul Scofield, and director, Fred Zinnemann, won Best Actor and Best Director trophies for their work on the film. Elizabeth Taylor’s performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won her the Oscar for Best Actress, and Sandy Dennis won the award for Best Supporting Actress for the same film. Arguably, the six most prestigious Oscar categories are for the best picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor, and supporting actress. Fifty years ago, films that were among the most popular with moviegoers snared five of those awards, which suggests that popular and critical tastes weren’t that different.
The 89th Academy Awards are still ahead of us, of course, so the winners have not been announced yet. But interestingly enough, none of the nominees for Best Picture are among the top-earning films. In fact, the top five films at the box office were completely shut out of the six most prestigious categories. The nominations do involve a diverse array of films, actors and actresses, however, so tuning into the Oscars may provide the viewers watching with a chance to discover a new movie to add to their must-see list.
Both movies and the way that people watch movies have changed in the last fifty years, but audiences will always enjoy being entertained with a well-told story on the big screen. Movies: then and now – which do you prefer?
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