Apparently the movie industry is trying to come up with an ad campaign to get people back into theaters. The LA Times doesn’t seem to take the idea terribly seriously, as they’ve suggested the slogan, “Movies: Just like DVDs, but Larger.” Meanwhile, theaters and studios are blaming each other for the decline in attendance:

Theater owners blamed Hollywood for making inferior (and overly long) movies, studios worried that theaters were turning the multiplex (with its barrage of pre-show commercials) into as much of an ordeal as an escape.

How do you figure out who’s right? Oh, wait, that’s easy: Both of them.

Make better movies, and more people will brave the long lines, high prices, 20 minutes of annoying big-screen commercials, 15 minutes of previews for movies that aren’t terribly interesting, people yakking on cell phones, people narrating the entire @%!# movie for their friends 30 seconds ahead of the action, etc.

Clean up the theater experience, and people will be willing to go for movies that look kinda interesting instead of really interesting.

It’s not just the big screen and immersive sound. Watching Serenity at home lacked the intensity of watching it in a theater full of fans (even the second time, when we knew what to expect). Neither canned laughter nor a studio audience can compare to dozens or hundreds of people laughing together in the same room. And it’s hard to match the collective “Oh, $#!7” that swept the theater in each showing of Return of the King when Shelob showed up again after Frodo thought he had escaped. The communal experience strikes a chord that you just can’t reach with a couple of people and a TV set.

People who talk through the entire movie aren’t just distracting you from the movie, they’re interfering with that communal experience. There’s only so much theater staff can do, short of kicking people out, but at least we know in the future they’ll get to inhabit a special level of Hell. 😈

Ah, Comic Con! The show doesn’t seem much bigger than last year (and they’ve already filled the convention center floor), but there are more people. Last year, Friday was quite comfortable, but this year it was more crowded than I remember.

Let’s see… News from panels so far. Serenity and Mirrormask are apparently opening the same weekend (September 30), so I’ll be spending an entire day at the movies. Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier are working on a script for a CGI Groo the Wanderer film. They apparently held out for years for a deal that gave them enough creative control to satisfy them. And early next year they expect to release the 4-part comic book, Groo vs. Conan.

The Jim Henson Co. 50th anniversary panel was great fun. In addition to seeing some early experimental muppetry, we learned that they will be producing a sequel to The Dark Crystal that takes place several hundred years later, and a prequel anime series.

Katie went to the big Warner Bros. movie panel, featuring Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, V For Vendetta, The Fountain (from Darren Arenofsky), and The Corpse Bride, all of which look promising.

And if you have a chance while in San Diego, don’t miss Fellowship!, a musical parody of The Fellowship of the Ring. With the exception of one running gag that got old very fast, it was a great send-up of the movie (and it was also fun looking for tropes and in-jokes from musicals).

This year is absolutely crawling with Jedi costumes. So many that we didn’t bother to take pictures, except for one Anakin & Obi-Wan pair where the former actually looked like Anakin. There’s also a booth selling high-quality light sabres with removable, light-up blades that are sturdy enough you can duel with them. The cheap ones run for $120.

An interesting read on the Most Lucrative Movie Franchises, not so much for what it gets right, but for what it gets wrong.

Tonight’s premiere of Batman Begins marks the sixth in the series. And that’s only counting the “modern” era of Batman flicks, dating from 1989’s Batman from director Tim Burton.

Sixth? Are they including the cartoon Batman: Mask of the Phantasm? If so, why not Batman: Sub-Zero? (Curiously, the table on page two only indicates five Batman films.)

And where do they get four Lord of the Rings films? I suppose they could be counting the Bakshi cartoon, but what about the Rankin-Bass Return of the King and The Hobbit?

Where are they getting their numbers?