One person that has been a longtime friend of ours within the Accessibly Live Off-Line circles who we will call “Olif” because “Olif” doesn’t want to let anybody know about his status (what status..?) recently told me (or “confessed” as it seems to be more of an accurate description) that he will no longer be going to a traditional theater to see a movie.
What were the reasons why Olif called it quits when it comes to watching films in a theater-type setting. “Lots” he claims! And what specifically are those reasons to permanently exit the movie house? Costs of admission, annoying patrons, lack of titles worth seeing, inconvenience, and yes, the ups and downs of pandemic related threats and protocols.
Olif has reasons why going to the movies isn’t what it used to be over the many years that movies were once the be-all-to-end-all method to consume visual entertainment. For those that desired a special evening out or the notion to get out of one’s home to view a spectacular event that TV could not (or world not) deliver in the same way, movies meant a lot to those that were on the other end of the film industry. These people on that end were the loyal fans of watching a specific kind of film that offers nearly any and every kind of human emotion that was out there, from joy, sorrow, excitement, fear, wonder, and perhaps the sense of passion and even disgust! Whatever the filmmakers wanted to express themselves through their cinematic creations, movies were there to deliver the goods to a captive audience. And of course, there was the hope that somebody was going to profit from all of their hard work and labor that goes into slapping together a motion picture that would be remembered throughout the ages–or at least that was the idea in mind.
For the many decades that existed within the first half of the 20th century, movies was the only form of visual entertainment that wasn’t something presented as a live event. People that appeared in front of the camera became “move stars” that people admired through their appearance and acting techniques. The person that formed its look and feel were the “directors” that because names within their own right. And there were others that worked behind the scenes that placed the visual ideals all together. Set designers and decorators, lighting people, costume designers that made those movie stars look glamorous–or not, make up artists that gave these stars their pretty glorious and pretty ugly faces, and others that made the move just what it was. There were the cinematographers that envisioned the look of the movie. There were the film editors that toiled on finding the right shot and how to place it in perspective, the people that created a musical score that was could be upbeat in nature or downright depressing and ugly. And there were those that did the special effects that made sure that characters could indeed fly, change into a bat, or to have those flying saucers rage through the skies causing havoc to the earthlings below.
Of course, television came along. At first, those studios that were making movies saw TV as a threat. They thought that television would keep people away from the theaters to view their visual entertainment. That did occur, but not in the waves of ex-movie theater patrons did as first expected. But the studios did have a few tricks up their sleeves. They would offer films that were so big and glamorous, TV could not compete within that magnitude. So what was offered was everything from vibrant color pictures to booming sounds (sometimes in stereo), along with a lavish look that was meant to be experienced on the big screen. And there were the stars in front of that camera that were bigger than life. They were so big in stature, their faces would rarely appear on television since TV was seen as a lesser vehicle in terms of status and fit. That was one of the many reasons that viewers tuned in to the annual Academy Awards ceremony. For a few hours on that glamorous night, one can see all of those moving picture stars at the awards show that beat all award shows! They would be donning their tuxedos and gowns to give and receive gold colored statues for movies that people wanted to see in their local movie houses. If the public have already seen the films, then they can compare how great that movie were that was indeed worthy enough to grab an Oscar or two–maybe three!
By the moment of the turn of the 21st century, movies, and the notion of going to the movies, have changed within the times. When cable TV companies were offering more channels that one could even do with, along with others offering older titles to view via videotape and later laserdisc that moved toward digital video disks (DVDs), one can see whatever there was that was offered. TV sets changed as well. There were sets that not only offered sound quality in stereo (when available or course), but had screen sizes that were as big as 35” across! The sets themselves were as big and as heavy as a bolder, but it wasn’t likely that the TV device was going to be moved around the room. And this isn’t counting projection TV sets that offered screens similar to a movie screen (1:85:1 ratio) that mimicked a movie going experience at one’s domicile.
Fast forward to the third decade of the 21st century–the 2020s. Movies were still box office champs just as long as that movie was an action/adventure film with a comic book-esque superhero as the lead(s), a family friendly animation title (but don’t call them “cartoons”), or a film that was fantasy in nature–a movie that existed in a time or place that doesn’t exist, or to exist in a way that is not seen in “real life”. Comedies were a hit or miss, horror could also be dead-on or just dead, and straight drama was appealing only to a selected few. The real winners were titles that appeared on the many streaming channels that existed out there. Those that had names unique to themselves, or those that sported names that were familiar to the public with only a “+” (“plus”) symbol following the familiar moniker. And best of all, all of this visual captivity was available whenever the viewer wanted to experience it all! It could be 3:17 in the afternoon to 3:17 in the early morning or late evening depending what side of the clock one was at. It was great, easy, made simple, and cheap in cost for what it all was.
Then all of a sudden, it changed for the better or for the worse. A pandemic that was only seen in movies was taking the nation, if not the world, to its mercy. People were forced to stay at home while an invisible terror lurked anywhere and everywhere. Soon, people decided that if they could not go to the movies, the movies were going to them. And it came to them and they stayed. The content creators a.k.a. the studios reacted as fast as they attempted back some seventy years before. They ramped up their selection and offered to those folks that stayed home titles to see on their big screen TV devices that offered that same booming sound and huge viewing screen. And these viewers didn’t have to travel to the movie houses, no encounters to obnoxious people talking throughout the movies, playing with their phones, or doing something else that was as rude as one could get.
This element leads up to the now and today. The pandemic isn’t as bad as it was back in early 2020, but hasn’t gone totally away. However, movies, as well as television programs, the same form of visual source for news and entertainment that at one time could not compete with feature films, were now part of this landscape. Presently, television programs look and act like movies once did complete with cussing, violence, and nudity intact (within reason), and movies look like those TV programs that once tried to compete with features. In other words, the two elements finally clashed. So did the way people look and take part in these visual domains, and those content creators are seeing its effect. If one wanted to see the latest super hero action/adventure pic, they will and they did, even if it mean to trekking to an actual movie house! (Sony/Columbia’s latest Spider Man entry was the first feature release in 2021 that acted as if the pandemic didn’t exist in real life!!) And those titles that cater to an older audience? They would rather stay away from those same moving picture houses to see it at home. And they did, as the box office number accounts for it all!
So will people go back to those theaters to view a feature film as they once did back in the day? Only time and tide will make that preference. The same goes for what the content creators and those that will offer the way that content is accessible decide. Now people finally have a choice, and those people have spoken!
What about this writer? Will yours truly go back to those moving picture houses to take part in a flick that is worth its time and effort to see once again? That all depends on what the flicks are and the purpose to take time out of one’s busy schedule to view the movie or movies! Granted, I do occasional will go to a screening room of some sort of review a film, but lately, I’ve been watching them via a secure online screening link as provided by the distributers of the program–assuming that I have the time and interest in watching!!
Movies won’t be going away for sure. The movie theater conglomerates will have their say on the matter, and the content providers will make sure that there will be enough content to fill up the schedules of those “plus” channels that audiences were drawn to in the first place. But by offering a title that “will never be seen on television”, quoting the line once advertised for the title Cinerama Holiday that was photographed in an ultra wide screen ratio, that will never happen! If one looks really hard, one can find just about anything that was ever captured through visuals out there. There is an audience for it. The audience just has to get it for the good.
PS..Cinerama Holiday is indeed available to see on TV or through any electronic device that is connected to the internet that sports a video screen. Visit http://www.Kanopy.com and register your information using your public library card for access, and enjoy for free!! (Yep! You read that right–free with NO advertising!!) If you don’t have a library card, visit your local branch in person or online and fill out an application to apply. Also ask if that library is a participant in accessing Kanopy.com. The city of Los Angeles public library system is a participant and perhaps other libraries as well! Inquire to your library system for more details
And yes..make sure you also read a book!. Even if it is an electronic version of a physical book, that will work out, too! It’s all available within the printed word!
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