Sunday, August 5, 2007

Blink and the last big thing has vanished

Summary: Patti Thorn, The Rocky Mountain News' highly capable book editor, recently decided to share "one last thought about Harry Potter." Thorn enjoyed the way Pottermania seized the reading public. She also noted that this burst of collective enthusiasm lasted only "a few short weeks."

A few weeks? That's all we get for a book that has galvanized the attention of a couple of generations, spawned an enormously popular series of movies and been a crossover read for youngsters and adults. If so, it only serves to reinforce the notion that American pop culture -- as evidenced by reports of the weekly movie grosses -- has become a study in impermanence and shifting ground. Thanks in part to a ravenous media machine, our national attention span seems to shrivel with each passing week.

Did "The Bourne Ultimatum" score big on its opening weekend? Sure, but its $70.2 million haul -- a record for a movie released in August -- may seem like old news a week from now, particularly if another movie grabs the lead. And even if "Bourne" beats out "Rush Hour 3" on Aug. 10, what will it mean? One more week of market dominance before "Bourne" takes the first step toward the secondary markets?

It already seems as if "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" opened a century ago. "Ocean's Thirteen?" We're talking the Pleistocene epoch when it comes to movie culture. Each week's crop of new movies seems to obliterate memory of the previous week's fare, and, although in some cases, that's not a bad thing, it makes you wonder whether movie culture finally hasn't achieved its fondest wish: It's a lot like channel hopping with a remote control.

Thorn applauded publication of the final Potter book as "a bonding experience for readers of all types and ages." She's right to believe in the importance of shared stories, but when it comes to movies, the only shared story involves the dizzying merry-go-round of non-stop commerce.

That's why it's possible for a movie to make $70.2 million over a weekend and still be thought of as disposable. "Bourne?" Yeah, I remember him. He's the guy who was always running in a movie that, like the whole business of movies, can't quite be pinned down.

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