Death of a theater

There’s a lot of bitching about the supposed death of movie theaters. The argument goes that the only way to appreciate filmmaking is on the silver screen with a fellow audience. Because of the proliferation of internet streaming, the communal experience cinema has fallen by the wayside.

Do I agree with this assessment?

Yes.

Do I give a shit?

No.

Perhaps I became a cinephile at the wrong time. I mean, I get it. I really do. But the dynamics of the filmgoing experience has changed. And that’s alright. EVERYTHING changes at some time or another.

But I quit caring about movie theaters a long time ago. Long before COVID even. The last time I’ve been to a theater was in 2017 to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This is largely because I have truthfully never bought into the “communal experience” of watching a movie.

I remember watching Joe Dirt in theaters long ago. I realized it was funny before everyone else did; before it became a cult classic. When Joe Dirt threatened to blow up the Grand Canyon and got poop spilled all over him, I laughed hysterically. Everyone else sat in their seats stone-faced. Audiences (except for me, of course) wouldn’t know what was funny if it bit them in the nuts. So fuck what other people think.

My argument is this: if you want to enjoy a movie, it has to be just YOU and the film. My love of cinema didn’t start in the theater. It started at 11 years old, after midnight, while watching Taxi Driver on Cinemax. Of course I was watching Cinemax at that hour to see some gratuitous T&A. At least initially. In fact, if anyone caught me, I would have probably quickly switched to porn and denied I was watching the classics of cinema. The first time I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was with some friends and, to be cool, I had to say it was the most boring thing I’ve ever seen. But in my heart, I knew it was genius. At 12 years old, I stayed up late to watch The Deer Hunter and cried myself to sleep. I never told anyone that until years later. Enjoying a movie, to me, should be an intimate experience; it should reveal things about yourself both good and bad…things that you may never tell another living soul. THAT’S the power of filmmaking.

This isn’t to say that theaters don’t have their purpose. But I’d argue that theaters simply offer the spectacle of film. They serve a similar purpose to churches. Sure, everyone can come together and listen to a sermon, but to have a truly transcendental religious experience, one must transcend the spectacle and enter a state of gnosis; of opening one’s mind to things unseen. Movies can be more than a spectacle. They can be a revelation.

Honestly, the slow death of movie theaters probably started with VHS.

10 thoughts on “Death of a theater

  1. “I got the poo on me!”

    I used to hold my phone to the TV and leave that as a message on my friend’s answering machine when he didn’t pick up.

    Is Joe Dirt a cult classic now? I watched it an absurd amount of times back in middle school. Another case of me being cool before it was cool 😎

    Agreed on all points. I stopped frequenting theatres when I outgrew remakes and superhero movies. If anything, the other audience members annoy me and detract from the experience. The last few times I went have been positive, though. I left the family at home and saw Three From Hell by myself. The movie was meh and it actually felt kind of surreal being alone out in the world but I had fun if that makes sense. Then, in 2020 I think, a friend rented a screen and we watched my blu-ray of Battle Royale. That was really cool. Last thing I saw was Bob’s Burgers with the kiddos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember a time when Joe Dirt was (briefly) considered a David Spade embarrassment. Now people have come around and quote it all the time. But while it was in theaters, I was the only one laughing.

      I don’t mind watching something with someone as long as we’re in simpatico. But theaters are entirely out of the question. Probably won’t go back until my son’s of age. He’d probably get a kick out of it. I think I just have a thing against crowded places. And even if it’s just me and one other patron, I quickly get annoyed with their eating habits. That’s what ruined Inception for me. I don’t know, I think I just don’t like going out into public 🤷‍♂️

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I mean, I grew up in a stage theatre practically, and it would be terrible if people were eating during it! Ha!

    I don’t remember what film it was that a friend and I went to, and OMG the movie volume was so loud. Like excruciatingly loud.

    And I was all like (I could rarely afford to go to the movies anyway, so it had been years since I’d been. Probably the Titanic movie.) “When did movie theatres become restaurants?” I mean, they had pizza and fried chicken and french fries and I was astounded. Some of the people there were at the nearby restaurant at the same time we were, eating, and then they ordered meals at the theatre, too. It was mind-blowing. Like, I asked for a small soda at the urging of my friend, and the counterperson was like “What kind? We have over a hundred and sixty to choose from.” and they slapped a packet of laminated pages on the counter. I goggled at the pages for a moment, and then i was like “Um, never mind.”

    I have never felt so much like I’d been left behind in modern times as I did then. Sigh. <–curmudgeon

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a part of a dinner theatre at one time. But I think they served dinner before the show, but I don’t know. I was always on the stage 🤷‍♂️

      But I couldn’t believe they’ve started serving alcohol at these theaters! It seems like that would be a bad combination. At least for me. If I got ripped at the movies, I’d be noisy as hell!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I did get paid…not very much, but I did. 🙂 I was often drafted, though, as a kid, to do everything from run the box office, to ushering, to lights, to spotlight, to set building…I had a family member who was a stage actor and also ran their own theatre.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, you gotta be in it for the love of the game. People think it looks so much fun but putting on a stage production is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever been a part of.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Some say that television was responsible for the beginning of the slow death of movie theaters. Personally, I loved watching movies in a theater, but doing so has gotten to be so fucking expensive, not to mention the outrageous prices for popcorn, soda, etc. Now with streaming and huge flat screen TVs in our homes, who the hell needs to go to the theater anymore? And I agree with you about the experience of seeing a film by yourself late at night. I still vividly remember the first time I watched “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” as a young teen, after the rest of my family was asleep in their beds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I forgot to mention the rise of television. The quality of TV is almost surpassing the quality of most movies these days and really nothing new or interesting is happening in theaters, except for a few select genres (which are shown in theaters that aren’t accessible to most people). So why waste $50 on a shitty three hour movie when you can sit at home and watch something better? But I think a good movie should be experienced like a good book, where you set some time aside and just feel it. It was those kinds of experiences that made me love movies, not in the theaters.

      Liked by 2 people

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