WHAT MOVIES…?

This time of year, or at least here in Los Angeles, would be in the middle of movie “award season”, where all of the groups, organizations, and guilds would hold their annual award shows for films that opened and played in traditional movie theaters during the previous calendar year. These awards from such groups that are better known by their internals (WGA, BFCA, SAG, etc.) would present citations for the best of movies in specific categories. (Best editing, best writing, best supporting acting, etc.). This season would last between the first weekend in January with The Golden Globe Awards, and would end at the last weekend in February with the granddaddy award show of ‘em all, The Academy Awards a.k.a. The Oscars.

Since the last thirty to forty years (give or take), the majority of these awards would go to prestige films, usually released in limited release between October 1st through December 31st, that would focus with complex dramatic stories, featuring players that are better known to appear in such features, although a big box office star would make an appearance in one of these kind of titles for the sake of getting this star’s name out to those voting members that tend to care about such features!

However, 2020 was not any other year of late. In fact, if may not have been like any kind of year or recent times, distant era, or even ever before!

Thanks to the pandemic known as COVIG, many movie theaters were forced to shut down, keeping closed for months at a time. Some communities allowed to keep some theaters open, but with limited capacity. In New York and in Los Angeles, those theaters are still closed! Those two markets are perhaps the biggest ones for movies in the nation. This is ever so true for Los Angeles, where Hollywood finds its home--the location that feeds the world with movies!

The studios kept afloat by offering their big blockbuster features, usually released in the spring and summer months. This is the time where the films offer a lot on the screen. They could be loud, and they could offer more visual special effects that one can tolerate. Gunfire, explosions, and other forms of action (lots of action) may prevail! For those films that are more lighthearted in nature (comedies mostly), their special effects may be limited, but they offer plenty of laughs no matter at what price, and exist for the reason why people will go to see such movies--to be entertained!

Of course, the studios themselves make these kind of movies for one reason. They are profitable! That is the real reason why such films are created in the first place. After all, making movies is a business. And the purpose of a business is to make money and become profitable! 

But studios themselves want to make the maximum dollar (or its equivalent) out of a film, especially in the first week(end) of its release. Folks would be willing to plunk down somewhere between ten to twenty dollars a person for the privilege to become entertained while seated in a big room full of total strangers to laugh, cry, yell, and overall react to the action that is taking place on screen, if not react to what is being played out on the soundtrack, for two hours worth of time. Those times may vary, depending on the movie and the theater that’s showing off the film. The movie house may pad out the time as much as thirty minutes additional to show trailers, advertisements, and other forms of visuals that isn’t part of the movie itself!

So what did the studios do to keep their films flowing to the public that desires to see them without the use of movie theaters? One of two elements. The first element is to keep those movies tucked away at bay until movie theaters around the nation, if not the world, open again in near full capacity. It may be a while until those movies see the light of day, but those studios invested millions of dollars for their creation, and they want to see their investment turn a nice profit.

The second move is to offer those films through streaming video, where for a monthly subscription fee, one can see those films in the comfort and privacy of their homes where many people have built their own movie theater-esque arrangements where they can sit on a comfortable seat while they watch on a big(er) screen with a decent audio system. These folks not only can watch these movies without leaving the house, they can do whatever they want while the film plays out on the screen. They can dine on gourmet food, they can talk on the phone during the feature speaking as loud as they desire, and even do other things one can’t duplicate verses watching in a movie house! They can do their taxes, clip their toenails, and even “make out”! After all in this day and age, who has the attention span by sitting like a monk for two hours at a stretch watching anything on a video screen?

For many folks, they are getting used to seeing their favorite (or not so favorite) film within their home domains. They may never return to a theater once they open again! There are many reasons for this choice. Perhaps the most obvious ones are the fact that it’s more convenient! No shlepping out of the house! No driving to the movie theater location! No plunking down ten or more dollars a person! No paying for overpriced snacks and beverages! And no dealing with other people in attendance that may act in obnoxious ways! (Talking through the film, playing with their phones, etc.). Folks at home can also watch the film whenever they desire and not depend on when the movie theater schedules the film. If one wants to watch a feature at 3:17 in the PM or AM, so be it! And if one wants to stop the film in its middle to do something else (grab a snack, answer a phone, visit the loo, etc.), they can do that without missing out on anything! With all of those options at their disposal, why go out to the movies in a theater setting ever again?

There are advantages in actually seeing a film in a traditional movie house, mostly based on getting out of the house for a while, and perhaps for the emotional appeal in seeing a movie in a large darken room loaded with stranger that react to the audio and visuals. But only a select few find those elements as part of the movie going experience. However those folks tend to be older. Others may not have cared for any emotional appeal! Just as long as they are entertained for the minimum effort, they will climb aboard!

Only time and tide will tell what will become of the fate of movies and the movie going experience. However, once folks start to get used to performing a method that’s smaller-faster-cheaper, they won’t be turning back! It’s all or nothing with it comes to changing a lifestyle, especially if that new and revised lifestyle is for its better. 

Life may imitate art, but the real art is to head to the source, even if that source is more for less! That’s just part of show biz!!
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