Over at Forbes, E.D. Kain shares Roger Ebert’s suggestions as to why movie theatregoing is declining. As avid cinephiles, one might expect me and the missus to go to the movies more frequently, and yet our attempts to do so this holiday season reminded us once again that, for adults, moviegoing is not all beer and skittles.
Here follows a chronicle of our holiday moviegoing crusades: the first was a children’s movie we saw with our friend and her kids. Unfortunately, the multiplex went suddenly and unexpectedly “offline” that evening, forcing us to pay cash; also, me to frantically scour the neighboring mall for an ATM machine and dash back to the ticket line, which snaked around the block as the pitiable teen cashier had to write out “tickets” for everyone paying. Luckily, your heroic narrator arrived ridiculously early and saved the day for the others, allowing us to make our way to the theatre for a pleasant evening of children crying and kicking our seats like they were filled with candy and needed only to be cracked open to spill their delicious sweets.
Undaunted, our hero returned a week later for a friend’s birthday outing. We were all fairly sauced after a brewery tour, which made the blaring children comfortably tolerable as we waited for the theatre staff to figure out how to get the movie to project- a puzzler that lasted until well over an hour after the movie was scheduled to begin. In apology, the theatre manager gave everyone free passes to a multiplex film of their choice. And lo, the second crusade ended in a draw.
The next week, the knight and his lady returned for a third time to cash in that free pass. Alas, we were thwarted by an officious 16 year old martinet who insisted we return to the meandering box office line to verify that my free movie pass was authentic. The line delayed us further and when we got to the front we opted against attending the movie (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) for which we were now thirty minutes late or any of the other films at the multiplex, all of which were made for and aimed at teenage boys and their girlfriends, perhaps explaining the self-importance of the teen usher. A bit sauced this night as well (she drove) I blared to the manager, “That kid should be fired!”, which my wife has laughed about for days since because I am usually a mild milquetoast. The third crusade ending in failure, thus ends the chronicles of pain and struggle.
Today, they'd be considered starving.
Roger Ebert speaks for us. Living in the boonies, our theatre choices are limited to multiplexes, “cineplexes”, and sataniplexes. At some point, theatre owners opted to put all of their eggs in the basket reserved for teenage males of middling intelligence and bulimics who prefer to binge on elephantine popcorn tubs, since these groups buy the mostest, and lo they arrived in hordes with cell phones blazing in the night, ready to chat loudly throughout even the most bombastic and insipid Hollywood product. Film distributors, meanwhile, charge so dearly for distribution rights that theatre owners are probably shrewd in not exhibiting too many films that would be only popular with groups as inconsequential as adults or women. Finally, they have mutually discovered that teens will pay twice as much to see one dimensional plots in three dimensions. The business model is apparently to focus all of their attention on demographic groups with the largest market share and the rest of the consumers can go hang it. In the homogeneoplex, the kiddie matinee reigns supreme.
So why are huge swaths of the filmgoing public staying home and watching a lot more movies on Netflix than are being viewed in the theatres? Goodness me, I couldn’t say!