The End of Movies

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<rant>The Taipei Times—and the rest of the world—is bemoaning the death of the movie business. People stay at home, get Netflix, drink a beer or six, and watch Godzilla vs. Mothra for hours at a clip. No one goes to the movies anymore. Hundreds of ushers are out of work every day. Popcorn machines are idle. The movies themselves, of late, are dreck.

I think the real key is that people don't like to go to movie theaters. As a result, new movies get seen at home, where it's a bit harder to track box office receipts. I suspect that any movie that comes out now will get 30% of it's receipts from the theaters. The rest comes from everything else: DVDs, rentals, TV, etc. We have so much to watch that we don't want to go anywhere. We need to stay at home just to catch up, and we catch up long after the movie hits, and fades from, the theatre.

In an era of portable instant gratification, the process of movie-going is expensive—logistically and monetarily—and the payoff is dinky. Now, my proposed solution? Make the movie theatre a hang-out. I recently saw a flick at the new IFC Center in what was once the rotten husk of the Waverly Cinema in New York. More on that in a second. Back when theaters like the old Waverly were in their heyday, movies were expensive and the promoters made them beautiful and gave them an aura of glamor. Think of the gilded theaters of yesteryear, the Egyptian palaces that make you want to go see the Wizard of Oz three times. Now, going to the movies is like checking into coach. Short of strip-searching us, there can't be any way the movie houses could make the process any more grating. You have to find parking. You buy a ticket at a kiosk—if I wanted to tap at a screen, I'd stay home—and then you find a seat. There are 15 minutes of commerials, 15 minutes of commercials ("One man, one bomb, one puppy... Val Kilmer is The Puppy Saver. Coming Christmas 2015"), and then you watch a movie that may or may not suck. No wonder folks are hanging out at home, pausing at the dirty parts, going to the terlet, and generally enjoying their movie experience.



Now, the IFC Center has curtians over the screen. They rise up when the movie starts. They show a short film before the main attraction. There are no commercials. There's a nice cafe. Even if the movie didn't float your boat, you still feel like you've been somewhere. The IFC is well-rooted in its community, the digs are nice, and you get still get Sno-Caps. There's a reason Barnes and Noble is doing so well, and it's not the books. It's because they make the process of choosing a book comfortable. This, in turn, encourages more book-buying.


Another proposition: the double feature and second-run movie. There's a theater in Columbus, Ohio called Studio 35 where you can get a pizza and watch a second run double feature for almost nothing. It's a pleasant experience, it's a charming place, and it feels like a place you'd like to spend a few hours in. Take your sprawl mall theater and shove it, Mr. AMC. If you don't, I'm gonna git me some UMDs, an Archos PMP, and the entire James Bond box set and I won't be sitting in your stadium seating anymore.

Sorry. Not sure why I went off like that. But this is important. I don't like going to the movies anymore and there has to be a reason. Gadgetry and technology have stripped the movies of their allure.