I am weary of listening to the longest running death rattle ever that’s been coming out of the movie theatre industry since televisions became popular in the 1950s. Then it was VCRs, then the Internet, then DVDs, then high speed Internet. Each one of these was supposed to wipe theatres off the face of the earth. None have.
True, 2005 was the third consecutive year that ticket sales were in decline. Hence, the 2006 Academy Awards were basically about fellating movie theatres. Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a man with no gag reflex, said at the awards presentation:
I bet none of the artists nominated tonight have ever finished a shot for a movie, stood back and said, ‘That’s going to look great on the DVD!’ Because there is nothing like the experience of watching a movie in a darkened theatre, looking at images on an eye-enveloping screen with sound coming at you from all directions, sharing the experience with total strangers who have been brought together by the story they are seeing.
This irritates me more than a little. See, I love movies. Our home DVD collection is prodigious, and we subscribe to every movie channel our cable provider offers. I do not like being told that I’m not watching them correctly. Those in the industry who want to expand rather than narrow the interval between theatrical and DVD release dates are artificially trying to dampen the effects of what Sid Ganis knows the actual problem to be, but couldn’t exactly talk about at the Oscars:
Because there is nothing like the experience of handing over 10 bucks to freeze your ass off for 2 hours watching trailers, commercials and the latest remake emanating from an out-of-focus projector with audio about 20 decibels too high blasting at you from all directions, sharing the experience with some jackass loudly discussing a calf birth on his cell phone.
Attendance is down because of what people are expected to put up with when they go to the movies (notwithstanding the quality of the fare), and the theatres are actually starting to get that. Because Americans simply cannot be trusted with public courtesy, the National Association of Theatre Owners is lobbying for legislation making it legal to jam cell phones. Combine that with better equipment maintenance and perhaps some value-added amenities like valet parking (or whatever) – things that movie theatres have control over, unlike the quality of the content – and attendance numbers will come back up. People won’t even mind paying the obnoxious markup on concessions, because that, too, is part of the experience.