If you follow the San Francisco Giants, you know: that Tim Lincecum allowed only a few walks when he threw his no-hitter this year; that Jonathan Sanchez came within an infield error of hurling a perfect game a few years ago; and that Matt Cain threw his perfect game in 2012, the 22nd (of 23 ) perfect games in major league history, a history that goes back to Lee Richmond (June 12, 1880!). You might not know that Sergio Romo retired 30 consecutive batters in 2011. Three pitchers have thrown 10-inning no-hitters; no one has thrown a 10-inning perfect game. (Data courtesy of Wikipedia, of course)
You don’t know about Sergio Romo’s achievement because he is a relief pitcher.
Sergio Romo retired 30 consecutive batters over the course of fourteen games, only the fifth pitcher to throw the relievers’ equivalent of a perfect game. But he has to be the least intimidating looking pitcher in the majors, with the possible exception of Lincecum. Romo is a short skinny guy who favors oversized jerseys that make him look like a teenager who glued a Brillo pad to his chin to make himself look older so he could sneak onto the field. His so-called “fastball” crawls toward home plate at a maximum speed of 90 mph.
And yet he got Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, the American League’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967, to stare at the last strike of the last game of the 2012 World Series. Romo is the Bugs Bunny of baseball, using brains, cunning and guile to outwit batters much as Bugs outsmarted The Crusher and Gossamer the Monster.
And as I watched the Giants beat Pittsburgh 4-0 on Sunday–a game in which Romo did not pitch!–he suddenly gave me an inspiration on how both movie studios and theater owners can recover quickly from the sort of box office bombs that have plagued the big screens this summer, minimize their losses, and perhaps even profit.
Please bear with me.
Yes, I realize that not watching a relief pitcher is not normally the best way to come up with such an inspiration (and note that I call it an inspiration–I do not [yet] call it a good idea). Please bear with me.
Typically, a major big-budget release appears on multiple screens in a multiplex, let’s say 4-6 out of 16 (remember when movie theaters almost always had only one screen? Primitive, I say, primitive!). If it bombs, the theater is losing money on a minimum of 25% of its screens. Furthermore, when Paranoia, R.I.P.D., or The Lone Ranger crash and burn, they crash and burn for weeks.
The funny thing is that this summer has in fact proved a very good one for movies! Here and there, if you do a special search, you can find excellent low-budget no-FX movies that cost trivially low amounts of money by Hollywood standards to produce. At the same time, these excellent movies have to scratch and claw for a screen, somewhere, anywhere, and the stars will barnstorm the country on their own dime, show up after a viewing, take questions from the audience, pose for pictures, and basically beg people to spread the word via tweet, Instagram, Facebook, et cetera.
That’s my inspiration: Hollywood needs Sergio Romo.
Hollywood needs relief pitchers.
Since even a Joss Whedon film like Much Ado About Nothing (very strongly recommended!) has very low expenses, it would not cost a studio very much money to pick up these inexpensive wonders and package one with each big-budget “tent pole” picture. So let’s say Big Explosions 3: The Prequel to the Sequel gets 4 screens and something like Fruitvale Station (part of the package) gets 2 of the smallest rooms in the ‘plex. If BE3 tanks, it’s a simple matter for the theater to adjust the ratio so that the disaster gets 2 screens whilst the low-budget film that makes more money per screen expands to 4 screens and gets a chance to reach more people and alleviate the losses to both studio and theater–perhaps even salvage a small profit! If BE3 does become a hit, the ratio can switch to 5:1 in its favor.
I have had trouble keeping up with the excellent low-budget movies this summer–I haven’t seen In a World… or even Blue Jasmine, which Woody Allen filmed in my neighborhood! Packaging them with the big boys would put them in front of more people and at the same keep them ready to appear on even more screens in case of emergency.
You might recall that March of the Penguins had an excellent return on investment in the summer of 2005. However, it could have done even better, as it languished in sold-out single-screen art houses for weeks before finally breaking out to the general public. Given that this summer the tent pole films have fallen over quite frequently, my little inspiration might prove a better means of getting more good movies in front of more good people and put more good money in the pockets of theaters and studios.
Of course, I have no expertise on the economics of film distribution, and I have no doubt my “relief pitcher” idea has already been considered–perhaps even tried–and found wanting. Who knows? Perhaps even technically illegal. It just seems to me that a more efficient way must exist to maximize the profits of the most films and minimize the losses of the big-budget box-office bombs.
Incidentally, Romo acts pretty well on the Giants’ TV commercials. He reminds me a little of Cantinflas.
Vonn Scott Bair
PS–Q: If you see Big Explosions 3: The Prequel to the Sequel, what film are you seeing? A: The original movie!