In a 5.22 chat with Deadline‘s Anthony D’Alessandro, Armageddon Time director-writer James Gray delivered a neat assessment of the stink factor in mainstream gladiator cinema.

He basically said that CG comic-book spectacle films are systematically draining the poetry, music and gravitas out of the moviegoing experience.

Once in a blue moon a big franchise film will hit the magic button and deliver something transcendent. One example was last December’s SpiderMan: No Way Home, which I said over and over should be Best Picture-nominated. But mostly they don’t do this. Mostly they just make money.

Gray argues that the big studios “should be willing to lose money for a couple of years on art film divisions, and in the end they will be happier.”

In less extremist terms, Gray is suggesting that the big boys should consider reverting to the ’90s and early aughts system in which specialty divisions made smaller films — films that weren’t expected to bring in huge profits but didn’t necessarily lose money. Which means, of course, that above-the-title talent would have to accept lower fees for making these films. (And there’s the rub.)

HE version: The studios should at least be willing to make smarthouse flicks with a reasonable shot at breaking even or becoming modestly profitable.

Francois Truffaut once said that when one of the films produced by his company, Les Films du Carrosse, reached break even he and his colleagues would pop open a bottle of champagne.

Excerpt from Gray’s comments:

“Here’s what happened: When you make movies that only make a ton of money and only one kind of movie, you begin to get a large segment of the population out of the habit of going to the movies.

“And then you begin to eliminate the importance of movies culturally. When you are so quarterly earnings bottom-line minded; you lose the big brain vision.”

“I have no problem with a comic book movie. I have seen excellent ones made. I think Tim Burton’s second Batman movie is a beautiful movie and Michelle Pfeiffer is brilliant in it. I think what Chris Nolan does and my friend Matt Reeves certainly did with the deep dive of his Batman film; I know there are things that can be done in the genre.”

“It’s not an argument saying that all comic movies are terrible; of course they should be made.

“The slate though, the fact that it’s no longer broad-based for theatrical by the studios, means they have forced a smaller and smaller and smaller segment of the population to like it.”

“[Using a Marlon Brando impersonation from The Godfather] “‘I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.’ And you know instantly what that movie is! You cannot quote me a single line from Aquaman. You can’t!”