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Monday, June 27, 2005

Ty Burr asks: Are the movies dying?

So many great observations and ideas in this piece from Sunday's Boston Globe, by movie critic Ty Burr. Among them:

- "When my wife and daughters and I head to the multiplex to see the latest Pixar or `Fever Pitch' or what you will, the experience is often about everything but the movie. It's about costly tickets, snacks priced at three times the market rate so the theater owner can cover his `nut,' 20 minutes of aggressively loud commercials and coming attractions, followed by a print unspooling with a big green gouge in it while two morons in the row behind us talk about somebody named Denise."

- "...Why should we put up with it when the home-viewing experience can be as good, if not superior? Why shell out $40 for sticky floors when you can buy the DVD for $20 and watch it on your plasma TV with Dolby 5.1 surround sound? Or punch it up on-demand for $4.95 and pause whenever you need to run to the kitchen? The medium has evolved, as mediums do, in the direction of ease and efficiency. If there's still a reason to go to a movie theater -- call it communal dreaming -- exhibitors are chipping away at it to make their weekly payroll."

- If theaters install digital projectors that are linked to the Internet, wanna-be auteurs could rent the room for premieres of their own masterpieces, made with digital video cameras and Apple's iMovie. Fill it with friends and family. Try to build buzz that'd support a second showing to an audience that doesn't know you as the gal in the next cubicle.

- Or simply invite your friends to a showing of your favorite cult classic, downloaded from a vast studio archive. (In both examples, the theater is very much in competition with the home theater set-up that Burr describes above.)

Burr's conclusion is that the decline in movie-going could be approaching a tipping point, where "theatrical exhibition is suddenly no longer economically viable, and movie houses start blinking out. Entertainment formats and mass mediums can and do go extinct; the big screen could yet go the way of vaudeville, the art form it killed off."


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