The Way Cinema Used to Be
by Alex Billington
March 8, 2007
There's a fantastic piece up over at the quirky blog Popcorn and Sticky Floors, that I suggest everyone check out. In the post, P&SF blogger Jesse looks back at the Eaton Centre Cineplex (seen below), the first mega-multiplex theatre in the world that opened in 1979 in Toronto. As mundane as it is, the post almost brings tears to my eyes. Not because I had the same experience nor have I ever even been to or heard of the Eaton Centre Cineplex, but because it's so great to hear his unforgotten stories of theater-going past.
"… I realized the unappealing conditions in the theatre were conducive to enjoying incredibly bad movies - I would go down there with friends on $2.50 Tuesday …"
The whole thing made me think about and consider the idea of just enjoying cinema for what it is. Just yesterday I was discussing the fact that theaters should be kicking out low quality films much quicker and sticking with only the high quality ones. However, I'm not sure if it's a trend these days or just how it is, but even look at Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse Festival, where he's showing these horrible films that used to only play at grind houses. People enjoy seeing terrible movies, even if they are glossy studio creations. I just want to enjoy cinema for what it is, and respect the filmmakers, even if I'm respecting them for making a steaming pile of shit. Too many people are caught up in the idea that their "time is wasted" when a movie is terrible (and then they walk out), but I'll enjoy it anyway, as much as I can, and just take in the cinematic experience more than anything.
Primarily around the end of last year I started screening or seeing every last movie that came out, just for the heck of it. I love cinema to death, and of course I have my favorites and picks, but I just wanted to see everything that's out there. Even if it was bad, or even if it didn't interest me much, I thought I'd go see it and "expand my horizons", per se. Back in Jesse's article at P&SF, he discussed eventually watching Supernova, Double Jeopardy or Deep Blue Sea (which I actually own on DVD) at the junky theater. I still love to do that today, when I have the time, I'll request screeners of the little-known indies that are opening in New York only or try to catch anything that shows.
Obviously we can argue endlessly for years about how to fix and improve the current theatrical situation, but that won't eliminate every bad movie, and that won't always fix every problem. I just take the cinematic experience for what it is, and enjoy it. After Sundance I've been getting out to every last film festival I can, just because I love seeing these hidden gems and terrible creations. To me, it's never a waste of time. The way cinema used to be was that no one complained and just went for the heck of it, even if it was bad. That post is a great outlook on some time passed, but memories not forgotten.