Movie theaters are dead (and that’s all right)

Hey man, what were some of your movie discoveries that you made this year?

This probably sounds sadder than it’s meant to, but I actually found that going to a theater is more superfluous than I thought. Sure, going to the big screen with dubious butter-watered popcorn is its own thing, but I also like my own chair and my own environment with my own microwaved dubious butter-watered popcorn. It helps that certain directors are whining about streaming services, for the record; appeasing those egos is the furthest thing from my movie-going mind.

What are we losing by the closure of movie theaters and what are we gaining by movies-on-demand? I was thrilled to be able to buy Bill and Ted 3 the day it came out to share with the family, and I think that it probably gave it twice the sales it would’ve had in normal, non-COVID times. It was definitely nice to be able to get it and sit down to watch with the family — and paying $20 was far more cost-effective than buying tickets for six people plus concessions.

I guess the nebulous idea of “the theater experience” is the missing factor here — some sort of ingrained idea that being in a large public theater in front of a massive screen and booming surround sound while snacking on a fabulously unhealthy snack assortment heightens watching a film. But, honestly, I fail to see how any of that matters.

I will admit that watching 300 or seeing the self-sacrifice moment in The Last Jedi was impressive visually on a theater screen, but I’m still not fully convinced those would have had less of an impact on my own TV screen.

I suppose the biggest negative for the films-on-demand future is the problem we see now with TV streaming: companies will be clawing for exclusive broadcast rights, meaning the customers get short shrift due to feeling compelled to maintain multiple subscriptions to catch the latest releases. As for what is gained? Even after COVID? Well, hell is other people, as they say, and I sure won’t miss having to share a movie experience with dozens of strangers. Also, my couch is waaaay comfier.

So often other people really take away from my movie theater viewing experience, but I have to be honest — occasionally they add to it, such as when everyone gets super-excited about a scene or laughs or claps. It’s those theater moments that are enhanced by sharing it with a community. But for me, I just enjoy the look and feel of a movie theater. It’s not just seeing a movie, it’s lining up for an EXPERIENCE that is bolstered by signage and the smell of popcorn and being sucked further into a building. Plus all of the previews.

I suppose I’m just growing more anti-social as time wears on!

2 comments

  1. I love how when we discuss the decline of movies theaters, no one really bemoans the loss of gimmicks exclusive to the experience. For all the hype, 3D/4D/IMAX all seem less important than sharing a moment with strangers on opening night. Even then, no one is clapping by the fourth week or at the 4pm Wednesday showing.

  2. These sort of declines are a natural part of the entertainment ecology. Until the first third of the previous century, vaudeville reigned supreme. Then it went down to the one-two punch of movie theaters and radio, both of which involved lower costs for the consumer.

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