FIRST OFF . . .
The movie box office may be having its best summer ever with record-breaking grosses, but a new poll indicates that many Americans don’t think movies are what they used to be. Overwhelming majorities in a Media General-Associated Press poll of 1,084 adults gave unfavorable reviews to most new films and said the overall quality of movies has been declining. The reasons: sex, violence and profanity, which the participants said most of today’s movies have in excess. Criticism of content was extraordinarily high, with eight in ten saying most new films have too much violence and too much profanity, and seven in ten saying most new movies have too much nudity. Overall, 56% said the quality of movies has been getting worse over the years. Ticket prices were another complaint. While three-quarters of respondents paid $5 or less for their last ticket, a sizable 45% said the price was unreasonable, and six in ten of the most avid moviegoers (those younger than 30) said ticket prices are too high. The poll also found that Americans watch movies on home videocassette recorders far more often than they go to a theater, and half of VCR owners said they go out to movies less since buying their machines. Ten percent of all respondents said they had gone out to see a movie in the previous week, while a third had rented a movie cassette in the previous week to watch at home. In all, 75% own a VCR. There was a glimmer of good news for the film industry: Six in 10 gave favorable marks to the last movie they had seen, but that was tarnished by the fact that about as many had an unfavorable impression of new movies in general. Media General Inc., a communications company based in Richmond, Va., operates several newspapers and TV stations.