When Hollywood lost the family audience sometime in the Sixties (TV, bad m-o-o-vies, the shift from the city to the suburbs) it courted the youth vote.

It had to. Teens were the only regular filmgoers; it got the little dears away from Mom and Dad for a spot of heavy petting. The exploitative trash was fun (all those American International pics) even if mainstream youth fare wasn't much cop - ever see the Strawberry Statement? But it did flatter its audience's counter-culture pretensions (the awful Billy Jack flicks) and turn an influential profit (Easy Rider). ER, like its antithesis, The Sound of Music, introduced a new phenomenon, the repeat audience: the long-hairs saw it again and again.

Even after the Sixties' profitable sociological upheavals, the studios kept the faith. Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, cinema in general descended./. rose to the teen audience's level (Star Wars) while the horror genre was hijacked for boys and girls of burgeoning sexuality (Halloween, Terror Train).

Now it's the Nineties and the demographics have changed. The audience is ageing and youth is bored, disengaged, fragmented. Grumpy Old Men and the Generation-X soft soap, Reality Bites, hit American screens within a week of one another and Grumpy Old Men is the hit. It's also the better of the two, but even if it weren't, the fact that today's Clearasil junkies are the children of (M)TV mitigates against big-screen success. With computer games and CD-i, and satellite and cable, movies seem old-fashioned, a broken habit. Hell, contemporary youth barely has reason for getting out of bed - how are they ever going to make it to the box office?

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