ENJOY THE SHOW
There was a time when I found Mike Leigh's films, as much as I love them, worth waiting for. With few exceptions, they're perfectly fine for watching on DVD or on television far after their theatrical debut. But recently I caught Happy-Go-Lucky (seen above) in theaters, partly to see for myself if Sally Hawkins' performance is really as Oscar worthy as everyone is saying, and partly because it only cost me $6.50. That's little more than half the price that movie tickets are usually going for in most of New York City these days, so it's a total bargain. And I'd honestly go to see just about any film for so little if I could.
As an excited supporter of digital 3-D second only to Jeffrey Katzenberg, I was disappointed to learn only after the fact that the NFL and 3ality Digital transmitted last Thursday's Raiders vs Chargers football game live in 3-D to cinemas in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. I don't care for football in the slightest, but I would have loved to be there, just to experience the technology. Of course, even had I known about the event beforehand, I probably wouldn't have gotten into the screenings, as they were exclusively for team owners, producers and a handful of invited journalists (assumably those more reputable than myself).
What compels people to endure the crowds? Is it really the best time, the only time, for them to be there? Is it the chance to see something first? Really, for every benefit there is to seeing a movie on a weekend, there is also a negative factor that should keep us moviegoers more spread out, more comfortable, attending a show at any other time except that busy Friday to Sunday period. One thing that baffles me most about the weekend moviegoers is their ignorance of what day it is. Are they really surprised at the lines and the fact that tons of others want to see the same hot new movie on opening night? And are they really that shocked that they can't have an empty seat between themselves and a stranger when attending a sold out show? If they are so agoraphobic, they probably shouldn't be at the multiplex on opening night anyway.
I used to think the worst moviegoing experiences were those in which the print or projector breaks mid-film and you're sent home with a readmit ticket and only a partial viewing. We've all experienced such snafus, more often perhaps in the age of non-professional projectionists, though modern practices have also allowed for quicker repairs. When I worked as a manager and projectionist, I had plenty of film snaps, tangles and power shortages, but I rarely had to cancel a show completely unless an outside technician or bulb replacement was needed. Usually the movie was back on screen in a matter of minutes.
What are you going to do when all the movie theaters are gone? I know, you'll probably take the money you would have spent on tickets and save up for a really nice home theater. And you'll still enjoy watching movies, only on a smaller scale. No big deal. Well, not me. I'm really not that into DVD, VOD and streaming video as permanent alternatives to moviegoing. They're fine as supplemental viewing options, but if they were the only things available, I probably wouldn't be as much of a cinephile as I am. If all the movie theaters disappeared, I might have to get back into live music or take up recreational sports.
It was partly my love for Argentine cinema that influenced my decision to vacation in Buenos Aires and Patagonia last month. Yet I didn't watch a single film during the two weeks I was there. I'm just not much of a moviegoer when I'm on vacation. Sure, there's the occasional trip to the movies when I'm out of town visiting family, and then there was the time I went to Sundance, which was basically a vacation despite the fact that I was there working with a press pass (I somewhat covered the festival for a zine, but the trip was mostly a big holiday from my regular "day job"). However, when truly traveling, particularly in another country, I just can't find the time - or bear to make the excuse - to go to the movies at all.
One of the big "what if?" questions in film history is whether or not Hollywood could have survived so tremendously during the Great Depression had it not been for the recent development of "talkies" in 1927. Another related and more specific question is, what if the conversion to sound hadn't gone so smoothly or so quickly? It's very interesting to look at how long it's taking the studios and theater owners to adequately switch over to digital projection, and subsequently to 3-D-ready cinemas, compared to the sound changeover of the '20s. Was Hollywood really that much more efficient 80 years ago?
Christopher Campbell has worked in the trenches of the movie theater industry for many years, employed by three different companies, in both art houses and multiplexes, as everything from a concessionist to a manager of concession operations. And yet after experiencing so many horror stories, he still favors popcorn to all other foods and prefers spending money on movie tickets to all other payable leisure activities. But most of all he is still passionate about the exhibition industry, commenting on ways to improve it, discussing all the trends and innovations involved with it and overall celebrating the wonderful pastime of going to the movies. We welcome him today to FS.net where he'll be contributing.