Why Do We Flock to the Movie Still?

I’ve gone to a few movies over the last few months and I’ve really begun to wonder why. It might even be an east coast thing, but I’m really struggling with the benefits of going to a movie theatre these days – I can’t even tell if it’s just me or if it’s a general trend in retail-type experiences. Of course, that’s one of the reasons why I think it might just be a northeast phenomenon…

Back in-the-day our parents went to the movies to be “wow’d” by an experience. They got popcorn, big boxes of candy, escorted to posh seats by ushers, and got to see a fairly long movie with a screen size and sound quality that was found only with a movie. All in all they got something that they weren’t able to experience anywhere but in a theatre – it made for a very unique experience.

Today’s theatre is an entirely different experience. First off, anything that they sell at the concession stands is bound to be overpriced by at least double of what such items should be. They have a captive audience and – like all venues that have large audiences – they know that they can rape-and-pillage the captives; I can forgive them that. What I’m not so quick to dismiss is the level of help that you get there. Well, the non-level of help or even the level of non-help as the case may be. I’ve yet to be waited on by one person that is happy to be at work or willing to move faster than a still motion action figure when serving you. Yeah, sure, who would be happy working at a movie theatre for more than five minutes, but that’s not my problem is it? I worked fast food – I had the same counter experience, with heavy grease added in, and even I was able to not be rude all the time. And then there’s the speed issue: unless you get to the theatre at least one half hour before the start of the movie, you aren’t going to get into the place on time – it takes forever just to get a soda.

So fine – skip the popcorn [like I usually do so I don’t have to make people move when I get up – I’ll have to pee long before the end of a movie with the tubs of soda that they sell!] and on into the movie. This is when my fellow movie watchers start to kill the experience. Cell phones ring. Cell phones get answered. People kick the back of your seat. Other people need a tissue but won’t go get one so they sniffle and snort through quiet scenes. Teenagers talk to their friends across the theatre. Candy wrappers rustle and crinkle for the entire first hour. Couples argue about a fight that started before the movie and over dinner. The dipshit behind you doesn’t know what a hobbit is. The little kid next to you has to go to the bathroom every five minutes. His little brother that’s next to him is still screaming about not getting chocolate from “the man” at the counter. Some slob spills a soda all over your shoe. The ignorant whelp on the other side of you doesn’t get the joke and their companions spends five minutes explaining it, making you miss the next three one-liners. And – here’s the winner – now, before the movie or the previews begin, the theatre forces you to watch commercials.

What the hell is the point? The screen? OK, I admit it: it’s bigger than my TV and by an order of magnitude, but if or when I go to HDTV I won’t care as much, because my TV will be clearer than the movie screen. The popcorn? SmartPop and a microwave, oh my. The seating? The stadium seating set up is interesting, but I know my couch is still more comfortable. What about the sound? My home system is better than most of the theatres that are around my place – no joke. I’ve got a subwoofer that has moved furniture before I got it under control… I’ve jumped from the ricocheting sounds out of my surround sound speakers – these Bose kits are that good. The only two things missing are the first-run features and the live laugh track that the audience provides for comedies [which makes it fun still] – that’s about it.

Aside from seeing movies that I can’t miss on their first run, I think it’s getting to the point to where I’d rather stick to DVD’s… less stress and a better experience, overall.

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