Added: Geri Bittinger - Date: 15.09.2021 12:57 - Views: 48929 - Clicks: 3009
Will moviegoing survive the pandemic? The question sounds both trivial — there are surely graver matters to worry about — and unduly apocalyptic. But not as many as Warner Bros. Lately, the news has only become grimmer. On Oct. Studios have pushed most of their high-profile holiday releases into — for now. Whether cinemas survive, Disney will find screens and viewers. Netflix, which is sprinkling some of its releases into theaters, has built a subscription empire on the belief that people would just as soon stay home and surrender to the algorithm.
What if the pandemic, rather than representing a temporary disruption in audience habits and industry revenues, turns out to be an extinction-level event for moviegoing? The specter of empty movie houses was haunting Hollywood and the press that covers it long before the Covid plot twist.
Still, the ultimate catastrophe seemed unthinkable, and for good reason. The history of cinema is in part an anthology of premature obituaries.
Sound, color, television, the suburbs, the VCR, the internet — they were all going to kill off moviegoing, and none succeeded. Cultural forms, and the social and private rituals that sustain them, have a way of outlasting their funerals. How many times have we heard about the death of the novel? Of poetry? Broadway theater? The arts in modern times can resemble a parade of exquisite corpses. Most recently, in response to the soulless sameness of the megaplexes, a new kind of gentrified cinema has emerged, with reserved seating, food service and artisanal cocktails delivered to your seat.
So which one are we mourning? What are we defending? That picture strikes me as idealized if not downright ideological, a fantasy of film democracy that has rarely been realized.
Did you buy your ticket online, or did the site reject your credit card? Did you wait in line only to find out that what you wanted to see was sold out? Was the person in the seat in front of you texting through the sad parts, while the person behind you kicked the back of your seat? Was the theater full of crying babies? Talkative senior citizens? Unruly teenagers? Or — what may be worse — did you find yourself, on a weeknight a few weeks into the run of a well-reviewed almost-hit, all but alone in the dark? Was the floor sticky? Was the seat torn? How was the projection?
Was there masking on the edge of the screen, or did the image just bleed onto the curtains? Was the sound clear? Moviegoing was often as communal as a traffic jam, as transporting as air travel, and the problems went deeper than lax management or technological glitches.
The big theater chains were kept alive by Disney, which dominated the domestic box office by ever greater margins, and which seemed almost uniquely able to produce the kind of big-event movies that could attract the masses on opening weekend. Those films, parceled out every other month or so, at once raised financial expectations among the exhibitors and helped break the habit of regular movie attendance among audiences.
There was less and less room — literally fewer rooms, but also less collective bandwidth — for non-franchise entertainment. At least at the multiplexes. Some stayed home, now that genuine cinema — not prestige TV, but restored classics and new work by established auteurs — could be found on streaming.
The pictures were, in several ways, getting smaller: somewhat cheaper to make, and also less dependent on mass popularity. But it was also true that some of the most interesting films of the past half-decade — especially in languages other than English — had a hard time finding screens and oxygen. The shuttering of theaters has accelerated this tendency, at least for the moment. In the absence of blockbusters, small, audacious movies have popped up like mushrooms on a forest floor — s of life amid the general decay, but fragile and too easily overlooked or trampled underfoot.
Will the return of independent theaters, however many remain, help those little movies survive? Will a return to normalcy herald the next stage in an emerging duopoly, with the two dominant companies — Netflix and Disney — using big screens to showcase selected content, treating theaters as a kind of loss leader for their lucrative subscription services? Making predictions, in addition to being foolish, is an expression of passivity, an acceptance of our diminished role as consumers of culture.
Instead of wondering what might happen, what if we thought about what we want, and thought of ourselves not as fans or subscribers, but as partners and participants?Anyone want to go see a movie
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Crowds, concentration, and a new perspective: The case for movie theaters