I read an article yesterday on Yahoo that literally made my jaw drop.
A new company called Prima Cinema is making deals with movie companies so they can set up special software in people’s homes that will allow those subscribers to see first run films in their own living rooms on the same day that the films open in theaters. The cost? Oh, only a $20,000 initial fee plus $500 per film!! When I saw that cost in the headline, I thought they had mistakenly added a few extra zeroes, but as Jack Paar used to say, “I kid you not!”
Forgetting for a moment that the service will only be available to the very few people with that kind of money to burn, there is a huge core issue at play here for those of us who are trying to save new movies from extinction
Just the fact that Prima Cinema thinks there is enough of a market for this kind of service (they project 250,000 subscribers in the first five years) shows the lengths that some people are willing to go to avoid movie theaters. As I noted in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:
“The Decline and Fall of The Theatrical Film Experience:
Rudeness, Cell Phones, Texting, Ads, and High-Priced Cholesterol
The slide in the fortunes of The New Hollywood can also be traced to the degradation of the theater-going experience itself.
The movie palaces of yesterday have been replaced by mall multiplexes and the new theaters are, in most ways, superior in comfort and viewing to the old theaters.
Audiences, however, are very different today.
Inconsiderate, even rude, behavior is widespread.
People talk to each other during the film as if they were watching television on their couches at home. Even more vexing is that many people actually get very hostile even if they are politely asked to desist. Cell phones ring and text messages are received and then answered.
In Woody Allen’s classic Annie Hall, there is a sequence in which Woody is standing in line for a movie, listening to another person pontificate about Marshal McLuhan’s media theories. (McLuhan’s seminal 1964 book Understanding Media coined the phrase “the medium is the message.”) Allen then brings McLuhan himself on camera to tell the pontificator that he is dead wrong about everything he has said about McLuhan’s work. Woody then turns to the camera and says “Wouldn’t it be great if real life really went like this?”
In today’s theaters, Woody might to have materialize the spirits of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Emily Post to tell patrons that telephones were not intended to be used in movie theaters so they should “please shut up!”
To save movies from extinction, we need to rejuvenate the theater-going experience so it is ironic that people who love movies and have $20,000 to spend are doing so to avoid theaters, and that very avoidance will make it that much harder to get new movies made for them to watch! As my Dad’s old friends Abbott and Costello would have asked: “Who’s on first?”