Sunday, September 18, 2005

Here Lies Cinema

It's no secret that movie theater attendance is dwindling in respect to DVD sales. Americans, it seems, would much rather watch movies in the comfort of their own homes while enjoying all of the special features offered by most DVDs, rather than allow Clearview, Loews, and the like to swindle them into paying exorbitant prices to watch a half hour of commercials before watching the feature amidst ringing cell phones and spilled popcorn (also exorbitantly priced). It's hard not to see their point of view.

The above linked article by Christopher Parkes in the Financial Times (of which, sadly, you can only see an excerpt unless you're a subscriber. No worries, it's no great work of journalism; I'm just using it as a jumping off point, really.) also cites the overwhelming glut of uninspired sequels and rehashed comic book movies (he better not be talking about Batman Begins) as a cause for the drop in ticket sales.

While both of these are understandable reasons to not want to go to the movies (I personally still cannot accustom myself to paying more than $7 for a ticket. Call me old fashioned.), there is still something magic about watching a movie on a big screen. The lights go down and, if the movie's any good, you're transported to a different time and place where you live someone else's life for a while. Watching a movie at home, no matter how good your entertainment system may be, just doesn't do that. The simple knowledge that you have the power to pause the movie, freezing the on-screen action for as long as you like, is enough to ruin the illusion.

Perhaps the commercialization of American cinema has robbed us of our innocence - the aforementioned commercials have stolen all the magic from that moment when the film projector kicks into life - and we can no longer summon up the childlike wonder we once felt when spending an evening at the movies. Maybe we've just become members of the cult of convenience and we'd rather not leave our homes during our hard-won free time. Whatever the cause, I don't like it. Cinema may be dead (or at least dying) in America, but it's alive and well elsewhere.

In a few days, I'm moving to Paris, where moviegoing is more than just a weekend diversion; it's a way of life. Whereas arthouse cinematheques like the Film Forum in NYC are dwindling in America, they are alive and well in Paris (often referred to by film scholars as Cin City) and I intend to go to all of them. Check back to read about my observations.


Blogger Andrew said...

I find it humorous that companies like National Amusements cite piracy as a cause of the decrease in ticket sales compared to DVD sales.

I disagree, however, with the idea that watching a film at home is inferior to watching at home. It's different, of course. And the experience of sitting in an old-fashioned, quality movie theatre is inimitable. But today the intimacy of watching a film in a home theatre, perhaps with a loved one, is vastly superior to fighting the unwashed masses at Loew's, and is comparable even to watching it in a charming theatre with velour seats.

Don't get shived in Paris.

September 20, 2005 11:39 AM  

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