More potent than movie reviews: box office reviews

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I never thought I was the type to be affected by peer pressure. But Sunday night, I realized that I'm as susceptible as anyone else. I read an Associated Press story about how Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! was not only the most watched movie this weekend, it became 2008's most profitable weekend for the Hollywood box office. And suddenly I found myself thinking, "Gee, I guess I should take the kids."

No, make that, I actually felt guilty that I hadn't taken the kids. Like I had neglected an important responsibility. After all, if a gazillion other parents took their children to the film and brought in $45.1 million for the Hollywood box office, why didn't I? I take my daughters to virtually every children's movie out there. What happened? How did we go through this weekend without seeing it?I thought about it. I sort of planned on it. But family obligations, errands, grocery shopping -- it all sort of got in the way. But it wasn't as if we were busy the entire weekend, and I'll bet those other parents across American had other things to do, too, and yet they squeezed it into their schedule. Are they more organized than I am? Did they all call or email each other and forget to call me? Maybe the other parents are better parents, since they cared enough to take their pride and joy to the biggest movie in America and most popular of the year while my daughters' entertainment diet this weekend consisted of reading a handful of books and watching old cartoons on television that they've seen a million times?

So on my bad dad guilt went until I had another revelation, upon which my shame deepened. It suddenly hit me that I took my daughters to see The Ant Bully during the opening weekend of the summer of 2006, a movie that comparatively almost no one saw. According to a web site called Box Office Mojo, the movie during its run made $28 million. In other words, it was a flop. But there I was with my kids, and I made sure they saw that. Where is my judgment as a parenting purveyor of entertainment quality? After all, it's G-rated, and I didn't take my four and six-year-old to see it? How many steps away am I from taking them to Blockbuster and renting Saw IV or The Exorcist?

OK, so these are kind of silly issues to worry about, but I am being a little serious -- on some minor level, these questions flashed through my mind for more than a few seconds. Which means that yes, I am part of that herd mentality that high-minded individuals are always deriding. In fact, I might as well not even pretend that I'm not influenced by commercials. Of course I am. I'm the type of customer that the advertising industry on Madison Avenue loves, and a classic example of the guy the political ads aim to reach: susceptible, very susceptible. And, hey, if any of those advertisers want to contact me, you know where to find me, at least next weekend. At the movies, watching Horton Hears a Who with my daughters and buying them a $7 tub of popcorn.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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