Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Movie Thater Magic (Is Dead)

Posted on June 15, 2011 at 1:57 AM

A year or so ago, I wrote up a blog about why I dislike going to movie theaters. The blog was in direct relation to a horrible experience I had when I went to the theater to see UP and I pretty much vowed to never go to a Pixar or “family” movie again as a result. I have certainly been to the theater since then, but have avoided anything that might have children, babies and rude parents attending.

Yet, my distain towards towards the theater doesn’t stop there, nor did it stop in my blog as I continued to go on about loud eating, talking, cell phones, sticky floors and so on. These issues aren’t just mine, of course. Everybody has them which makes you wonder why people go to the theater to begin with.

That latter statement got me thinking, though. While there are certainly purists and historians who will insist the only way to see a movie is in a theater on a big screen. It’s easy to see why: it’s where movies are born and bred and people flock to. Or they used to.’s not even the advent of the home theater and internet I’m concerned with here either.

Instead, it’s movies in general that have made the magic of going to the movie theater a lost art. I call it an “art” because in a way it is. The way to build hype, get people excited and standing in lines for an hour to see a movie, now, is just a regular Friday night. Instead of having that one major movie, we now have dozens that are promoted and hyped to no end. You might be thinking “then how is the magic dead?”


Well, if every movie is “that” movie, then there is no longer “that” movie to get excited for. There’s no longer an event, a massively huge “everyone must see” movie save for the one that comes every ten years (such as Avatar or the first Star Wars Prequel before that before we all got wise, or Jurassic Park before that). With studios shelling out “blockbusters” ever few months and promoting the hell out of them as ‘events”...they are no longer “events.”

The magic of a theater used to be this idea of an event. The big stars and glam of Hollywood’s greats at a premiere is now a regular day on a weekly schedule, the big-budget special effects movie is seen every month instead of once or twice a year and studios now only slate big events because that’s all that makes money. The “big event” has become the baseline, and as a result the special feeling the movies and, thusly, going to the theater, is entirely lost. It’s amazing how far movies have come, but more importantly how they are treated by their makers and by the audience. Hell, now the audience can watch a movie in a cell phone, much to the chagrin of David Lynch.

So now I realize it’s not the theater “experience” that I dislike, as I run around looking for reasons to dislike it – truth is it’s that I no longer feel a need to go in the first place. Not to just put up with all the annoyances, but there’s no reason to get excited about a theater in the first place when we’re coming increasingly closer to having our own, personal theaters. Movies have shifted from group events to individual luxury. When ET was released, it was number one at the box office for six months. Six months. That is absolutely unfathomable today, today a movie is lucky to be number one past two or three weeks because studios release their next “big” movie that does nothing but cancel each other out.

For decades, people would stand in line for anything and everything, going to the theater was a bigger event in the 40s than it was in the 70s, bigger in the 70s than it was in the 90s and so on. Studios took over and blockbusters emerged and more and more screens were built and now everything is an event which makes everything the same.

As movies and how studios release films have evolved so much the past twenty years, it makes me wonder where movie theaters and movies as a whole will be in twenty years from now. Here are my predictions.

Movie theaters will be a thing of the past.

It’s already started, you see. Instead of the theater being the wide-berth way to see movies, it is now showing up as individual choice of the audience to see it at home or in a theater. I could point out the shrinking window of theater to DVD release, but really, it’s going one major step further as studios begin exploring simultaneous release at home, streaming through televisions, video on demand and game consoles, alongside the movie theater. It seems the only thing preventing this idea is the logistics of it all and the pricing. Like the music industry folding to the pressures of online and digital distribution, so too will the film industry.

Onward to the...future?

Of course, lost in all this is the smaller movie market. The “indie” movie trend that flourished in the 1990s is pretty much dead. One look at what Sundance ahas evolved into is proof of that (I’m not saying Sundance isn’t a good thing, it’s just shifted its intentions from independent cinema promotion to a film-farmer’s-market of wining and dining celebrities and power players). Independent movies are already having difficulties getting financing much less distribution. How will a change with simultaneous release effect them? I honestly can’t say. For one, I could see it being a good thing as it would cost less to distribute at the home than a theater, as some VOD films have already undertaken. At the same time, as even indie movies would like to make some sort of profit after working so hard, it could end up hurting the bottom line for a lot of them and make putting the whole thing together more difficult – especially when looking for backers and financing that are hoping to get something back.

In twenty years, the movie theater will become a wasteland in the same way Tower Records and numerous other music stores have fallen into vacated storefronts. It’s just the progression of things. We’ll sit at home, invite friends to a couch rather than a theater seat, turn off the lights and scroll through the week’s big summer blockbusters on our televisions while actual movie theaters become soley used for marketing premieres and have red carpets. I would expect pricing to be a bit high for those new releases, studios are probably going to expect it to be the “event” of the household and there not be just one person watching. Yes, those “events” are now at the home and far, far less frustrating but at the same time less memorable because there is no "magic" in the home. It's already gone and it won't appear anywhere else in any other form.



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