How megaplex movie theatres shaped the movie industry — for better, and for worse

Originally published at: How megaplex movie theatres shaped the movie industry — for better, and for worse | Boing Boing

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For all the downsides of an increasingly streaming-based movie distribution, it really has democratized movie making like no other point in history. The financial investment required to make a quality independent film is lower than ever before, and with so many streaming services available you’re likely to be able to get it released one way or another even if a major studio doesn’t pick it up. So it’s not all bad for the filmmakers! I certainly wouldn’t want to have a job as an usher or projectionist right now though…

Related: there was just a story on NPR about how this last year’s economic calculations about releasing major blockbusters in theaters (or not) may have contributed in a big way to this year’s much more diverse list of Oscar nominations:

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I’ve found that (even without the pandemic) the moment I installed a home theatre system with a fairly big projector screen in my house, my inclination to go to an actual cinema dropped to rock bottom. In my own theatre I can sit in a very comfortable recliner (with an ottoman for my feet, yay) without having to cram my 6’5" frame into the measly knee room multiplex cinema operators allot to their guests, enjoy food and drink at supermarket rather than movie-theatre prices, have comfort breaks whenever I please without missing any of the action on screen, and of course, I’m in charge of what’s being shown, courtesy of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and a bunch of DVDs and Blu-ray discs that I happen to have lying around.

Why would I ever want to stand in line in order to have to cope with noisy people, sticky floors, and uncomfortable, rickety seats, or run-down screens and projectors that don’t really produce a visibly better effect than my gear at home? Not to mention having to get the night bus home afterwards.

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I don’t even have a decent home theater and my three kids still prefer to watch movies at home for some of the reasons you mentioned, and that’s when they aren’t even the ones paying for those pricey theater tickets. It’s going to take a lot to get the younger generation to come out to theaters, I reckon. I’m sure some theaters will stick around for decades to come as a niche form of entertainment but most are probably doomed.

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My son misses the theater. I’ve been taking him to see a Marvel movie on his birthday since he turned 5. Sometimes we’ve been the only 2 people in the room because his b-day fell on a week day, and apparently people don’t go to movies at 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

I think he’s still mad that Black Widow isn’t out, and that he won’t be going again this year (b-day is in a couple weeks). Last birthday movie we saw was Captain Marvel.

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This is a really good listen, and it jibes well with the trend I’ve been noticing in recent years with more blockbusters and sequels, rather than a greater range of films. Being John Malcovich getting into 630 theaters is unlikely today. Instead, we’re starting to see that sort of creativity and expansion of film moving into streaming. It’s almost unreal the choices we have now for home viewing in terms of all original shows and movies.

Theater multiplexes are a dying breed. The blockbusters will still carry them for a while, the Alamo Draft Houses will provide new services to draw folks back, but for real diversity of media, it’s streaming all the way.

EDIT: I’ll note at the end about the “feeling” some folks have in a crowded theater is one I have only experienced one time… the very film they’re playing (Avengers: End Game). Being in a crowded theater for me is usually a distraction from the film and annoying. But I get why that appeals to folks.

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Not a dry eye in the theater when we saw it. It was happy tears, as opposed to Infinity War, which also made the whole theater cry, but those were sad tears.

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Ours as well. Me still, whenever I watch it. Sorry that you and your son won’t get to do your tradition this year, that’s a real shame. You should set up the home set with a couple of your favorite movies and popcorn for him. Not the same I know, but pretend its the theater.

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Going to the movie theatre once or twice a week will be one of those “when I was a kid” stories that will find it’s cut-off at Gen X. I stopped doing that at some point in the early 1990s. Only a big-screen blockbuster will get me away from my home theatre set-up. I guess something is lost in terms of collective gasps and cheers, but how many movies elicit those?

There was a time when theatres were good places for teenagers who wanted to snog to get some privacy, but there seem to be other options now.

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We’ve had a 55" TV, a sound bar and a Playstation (bluray player) for several years, but it’s just not the same. (I’ve owned every generation of Playstation, so that’s always around.)

[full disclosure: Infinity War makes me and Mr. Kidd cry every.damned.time.]

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I got to say, going to see certain movies with the “Woo-hoo!” guy from the video could improve the experience.

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I’m not one to turn down a participatory scream or solid cheer at a great turning point in a film. Best cheer I participated in was Trek VI. You know the part.

But the cheering that just goes on and on, changing from enthusiasm to attention-seeking - when I’m done cheering and want to watch the rest, I want everyone else to shut up, too, like self-unaware woo-hoo guy outscreaming everyone in that video. I walked out on Blair Witch when the genuine screams became people running up and down the aisles and firing laser pointers. To say nothing of cellphone use and just incessant talking during the film.

That’s why I’ve avoided theaters w/o draconian rules, limiting me to pretty much just Alamo and home theater.

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We have a 3-storey multiplex a block from where we live. It’s fun to buy reserved seating tickets online, walk down and see the movie on the big screen. We get home in about 10 minutes.
Want to get back to that.

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The shared experience of Avengers Endgame was pretty great. But if that’s really the sensation that people are chasing … have they tried just going to live theatre instead of movies?

I might be biased here, being that my wife runs an equity theatre company, and I write plays. A few years back, I played bass in a play called “We’re Gonna Die” that can best be described as an indie rock stand-up comedy routine about death and suffering. The shared audience experience was the best part of the show, night after night.

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If I’m in the mood for a big picture movie and gobs of popcorn with social distancing, the local drive-in fits the bill much better than the megaplex

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For me, making the jump from (1) a 50" to a 65" TV and (2) a sound bar to a sound bar with subwoofer and surround speakers probably tilted the balance in the movie-watching experience. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the theaters I’ve been to lately (for pandemic definitions of “lately”) in the DC/MD/NoVA area have been focused on improving nearly every aspect of the movie experience except the actual movie. Even the big chains around here now have full bars, motorized recliner seats, pre-assigned seating, plenty of footroom, etc. But probably 95% of the time the bulb in the projector is just too weak for the movie to look anything but murky and dim.

It’s honestly kind of a shame–I like going to the movies as a communal experience and did so well into my 40s. I am a huge horror movie fan, and seeing a horror movie with other people in the theater is, for me, just more fun. But my home theater setup is just better for the actual movie-watching part at this point.

Oh man do I miss dates at the drive-in. There was one near me when I lived in Atlanta about 15 years ago and it made for the perfect date night.

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The pandemic bought at least an extra year of life to our local drive in (which was going to be replaced by an office park) but I doubt it will last. In California land is pretty valuable and that property isn’t making a lot of money other than on weekend evenings. It was nice that my kids got to experience It though.

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Drive-in cinemas haven’t really been a thing here in Germany recently but the pandemic brought them back.

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Moviegoing is probably the thing I miss most from the before-times. But now the thought of spending two hours with a couple hundred strangers seems pretty weird and I suspect it’s one of the things that won’t be coming back.

My memories of going to the cinema are mixed in with the memories of the movies themselves.

I recall leaving the theatre after True Romance and a shell-shocked looking older lady saying to her equally shell shocked companion - “That wasn’t very romantic…”

I saw Pulp Fiction on opening night without have seen any trailers or previews, not knowing a single thing about the film. I remember the guitar music at the start and from that moment I was transfixed.

And I have an especially fond memory of Gas, Food, Lodging, a gentle, warm movie set in a desert juxtaposed with a brutal, icy February night and the motorcycle ride home afterwards.

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