The end is near. Soon all theaters will be closed. Cardboard signs in their windows, made from the boxes of home theater units will read, WE GIVE UP. You will be able to watch the tumbleweeds roll across the multiplex parking lot with a live web cam. You will have your grandson on your knee and tell him stories of times before the 100 terabyte iMovie thingie, “We actually had to sit in auditoriums with people WE DIDN’T KNOW. Sometimes we even laughed and cried together. Sometimes it went dark and we had to sit there until a human person turned up the lights and fixed the film…yes, film!” You will snicker to yourself at the wide-eyed look of horror in the kid’s face…
The supposed latest nail in the coffin of the cinematic experience was five major studios announce you can now download a movie from the internet the same day it goes to DVD. Prices will be roughly comparable to DVDs -- $20 to $30 for new releases, $10 to $16 for catalog titles.
And from the room with those who have been at this awhile you’ll hear…crickets. Perhaps a little yawning. Someone my crack their knuckles and ask, “That all ya got?”
You see, this all started a long time ago. TV was supposed to have killed the movies back in 1931 when there was 40,000 TVs in all of the US of A (9,000 in NY alone). The cinema industry didn’t really worry about it too much until the early ‘50s when it came up with CinemaScope, the wide-screen format. Thousands of drive in movies theaters built an extra expanse of screen to accommodate the larger format. If you see a drive in built before 1953, you’ll see newer construction adding to the screen, if it’s the original screen.
In 1973 HBO started broadcasting movies with no commercials. Once again, the choir was singing the swan song of the cinema.
About that time VHS kicked Beta’s smaller, better-looking butt and one could finally watch porn in the privacy of their home. Very quickly people learned to defeat the anti-recording tab on the Disney videos so they could record their porn on innocent looking tapes—which always led to an uncomfortable moment when grandma slapped in SNOW WHITE to appease the rug rats. “Well, kiddies. Sometimes it takes more than a kiss to wake up Snow White, now go play outside.”
And on it goes: the internet, DVDs, downloads, earthquakes, floods, pestilence…all of which will spell the end to movies in theaters.
You go to the movies to get the heck outta the house. Yes, at home you can pause the movie to pee. You can also listen to the phone ring (God help you if your phone rings in one of my theaters), the dog bark, the kids unfurl their list of things the world owes them, and you can listen to the neighbors watching porn on their Betamax. Of course popcorn is cheaper if you buy it and make it yourself. Probably better for you, too. Orville Redenbacher can put that stupid little bowtie somewhere corn won’t grow if he tells you his stuff tastes like theater popcorn.
Movies are actually a great deal. Especially at the Darkside. Come on Wednesday, which is Cheap Nite. It costs $10 for you and your date to get in (if you are a FlickClique member it’s $4 admission for ANY night). If you each get a small popcorn and drink (both of which are refillable), you can add another $10. So for a Jackson (or less) you can spend two hours with your sweetie and, best of all, not have to talk to them!
If you go out to dinner, you think you’re getting away for less than twice that? And you have to TALK. Make conversation. Before the food comes this really sucks because your blood sugar is low. I’m enough of an antisocial bozo with a good meal under my belt. Imagine me pretending I care of about your list of things you think the world owes you—that you insist on telling me about because your blood sugar is low.
The cinema experience will be around for a long time. Even when things don’t go the way they should in the projection booth--you’re still out of your house, hangin’ out with other people, and not thinking about work, the leaking car, that hangnail, the war in Iraq, and that exquisite loaf the dog left under the dining room table.
Try ignoring that stuff at home. Much easier to not think about with a popcorn in your hand, a movie on the screen, and the faint rumblings of me in the booth cussing at the equipment.