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Thursday, April 05, 2012

I've Figured Out Movies

Let's all go to the lobeee, get ourselves some snacks.

Last week, I went to see "The Hunger Games" in theaters, mostly because my wife wanted to, and we don't get to see movies in the theater very often.  I allocate myself one movie per year usually (this year will be "The Dark Knight Rises").  This was an exception.  But in going to the theater, I've figured out why theaters are dying out, why its so hard to get asses in seats.

It's not what I previously thought, that today's movies are simply god-awful.  Any movies designed to be a tentpole or even a strut is full of terribly executed, unoriginal junk like Transformers, Twilight, John Carter, Puss in Boots, The Lorax, and what will be TMANT.  Plus gimmicks like 3-D, digitally enhanced video and sound.  All piss-poor rushed works meant to rake money from non-critically thinking folk who want spectacle over story.  But it's not about that.  It's about the movie-going experience.

And it's not something theaters will ever be able to fix.

And that's ironic since it dovetails this year's Oscar theme of "Let's all go to the movies!"  Of course they want to promote that.  It's a problem, and it's a problem they can't solve.  To illustrate, let me describe my experience.  The first thing I had to do was get tickets early, because a sold out show is not an option when you schedule a babysitter.  Of course, the rest of the world doesn't have kids, so at 11, the theater was still closed.  We got some early lunch, then came back at 11:45 and got tickets for the 4:45 show.

The show was not sold out, but you never know that.  This is a movie, not a concert.  But we could have gotten in anyway -- no one was there to take our ticket, so we just walked in the theater.  But for some reason, the lights were out, so we had to struggle to find a seat.  Guess you can't miss those advertisements that run.  Except the ad reel isn't properly sized so a good deal of information is obscured by the top and bottom of the screen.  Plus then, for some reason, the sound went out, so we get to watch it in silence, in the dark.  At least the sound came back on before the movie started.  Only two trailers too -- "Twilight" and "Life Happens" (AKA, jokes that didn't make it on sitcoms).

Of course, throughout the movie, we've got people yawning, coughing, dropping stuff.  Some lady in our same way stood up twice, shuffled through people, and knocked over the same box of popcorn twice.  One time, three people got up at the same time and left to go to the bathroom.  It's not like this is a date, people.  You don't have to talk about how the movie's going in the middle of it.  And of course, there's the occasional whisper, occasional flash of a cell phone.  You think no one sees or hears it because its so quick, but if you all do that... This is not your home people.

The film was on regular celluloid, so the quality was equivalent to a large analog TV.  Not to mention the cigarette burns and scratches that signal the switching of reels.  We're too used to our HDTV to tolerate that.  And I've seen many theater screens with a tiny dot somewhere, like a dead pixel, or just scratched to hell.  (Side note: I understand the movie was not shot digitally for time constraints.  I didn't mind the scratches as much as my wife, but after watching so many digitally enhanced movies, it's noticeable.  On those lines, top praises to THG.  It's a movie that has no gimmicks, no fancy stars, no 3-D.  Just plot and characters and that is awesome.  That's what people are looking for.  I hope studios see The Hunger Games and realize that giant fighting robots and alien turtles don't translate to a top-grossing movie).

As you might noticed, all the points above are really, really minor.  All are part of the movie going experience.  And they have been since the beginning of time.

And that's my point.

I can get so much a better experience at home.  Nice sound systems and big digital TVs are affordable now.  I have a 50" and an upscaling DVD player and it is fantastic.  With Netflix, I can get any movie I want almost instantly, without having to get up.  Now I get annoyed when I have to search for a physical DVD or what I want isn't on Netflix Instant Streaming.  I don't need to orient my schedule towards a certain time.  I don't need wait through trailers.  I know where all the coughing and cell phone lights are coming from.  I don't have to worry about whispering.  And if I need to pee, I can just pause it.

So you see, there's nothing the theater can offer me that I can't get at home.  And most of the time, home is better.  The only disadvantage is current releases, and I'm pretty patient.  I've got enough on my Netflix queue to keep me busy.

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