Over the past year or so, I’ve become far more interested in film as an artistic medium. I’ve always enjoyed going to the movies, but I’m beginning to seek out more interesting and unusual fare, particularly the classics. One reason I’m watching more films from the 1960s-1990s is because so many flicks these days are full of social justice pandering and parroting of the Leftist bromides du jour. It’s refreshing watching movies in which people act like people, and not drones from the HR or Diversity Departments.
In The Age of The Virus, we’ve been encouraged to stay home and watch TV—a commentary on our diluted sense of “sacrifice” in the twenty-first-century West. But that’s had an interesting impact on the cinema, by which I mean movie theaters. With endless content on streaming services and bigger, cheaper televisions, it seems that the old movie palaces and multiplexes are increasingly obsolete.
Regal Cinemas re-shuttered its theaters across the country after making a go at reopening. When I went to see The Empire Strikes Back and The New Mutants, there were very few people there, even during prime weekend screening times. The New Mutants was a full-freight flick, but Empire and other classics were just $5! Even then there were loads of empty seats—and that wasn’t just because of social distancing requirements. I asked a manager how he was doing and he said, “Well, at least we’ve got some people here tonight.” It does not sound good for the future of theaters.
But maybe it’s not all bad news. Yes, consumers have far more choice and selection than ever before, and can access flicks from home via Netflix and Hulu, but part of the magic of the cinema is the theater-going experience. That’s why the attempt to do “at-home” releases of new movies seems dubious (why pay $20 to stream a new movie when you know in a few months it’ll be on Netflix?). Alternatively, I’m personally willing to pay $12 to see a new release I really want to see on the big screen—and it’s the one place I’ll spend $6 for a Coke and $7 for a bucket of popcorn.
While at Universal Studios, I noticed that the cinema at Universal City was showing mostly classic films. I wondered aloud to my brothers if that might be the future of movie theaters: new releases get a limited run, but timeless classics get returned to the big screen. There seems to be a real desire to see older films the way they were intended, whereas new releases outside of marquee Marvel releases don’t really need to be seen on the silver screen.
Maybe that’s where the future lies for cinemas: screening the old beloved classics. Sure, you can see them on a Sunday afternoon on TBS with a million commercial breaks, or you can stream them on the platform of your choice, but there’s something magical about going to the theater. I for one loved eating popcorn drizzled in synthetic butter while watching Luke Skywalker whine to Yoda.
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