I went all “grumpy old man” today after reading an opinion piece that tried to justify a governmental financial bailout for the cinemas in the United States, something I’ve heard murmuring about for some time now as people are decrying how theater chains are being decimated by coronavirus.
Here was my response to the idea:
I’m sorry, you fail to make a compelling argument.
Theaters basically died for me as soon as they essentially became projection TVs with overpriced concessions, rude people with cellphones that talk during the performance, all while I am getting charged half of what it costs to just wait and buy the film so that I can watch it multiple times on my own large-screen TV.
And now, Hollywood is recycling content from pre-2000 because they are singularly lacking in an creative talent for developing new ideas in the pursuit of the almighty dollar via summer and holiday blockbusters, which is regurgitated pablum from yesteryear.
There was nothing magical about the last few times I bothered paying to see a film in the theater. I say they need to justify their existence, something haven’t done in at least 20 years.
Now, a point to make is that I’m lumping in theaters with Hollywood, but the I’d also argue that they are largely interdependent. Now, as content providers, Hollywood has the upper hand in this situation, but everything they do is based on ticket sales at the cinema.
Some time around 2000, maybe as early as 1995, theaters went through a process of consolidation in the US, with big monopoly chains progressively buying out the neighborhood ma & pa theaters and either splitting them into multiple screens to generate more ticket sales for the same overall seats, or they closed out the competition so they could do the same elsewhere without competition. Pretty soon, our options consisted almost entirely of small theaters with the revered “stadium seating”. Except for a few stubborn art house theaters, you can’t find a full-screen theater to save your life. With televisions getting bigger, prices going upwards for tickets and the cost of concession treats… I can stay home and watch a movie without distraction for twice the price and keep the film for my collection afterwards. Or rent it for a third the price of going solo to a theater.
And that’s just the theater elements, not to mention the whole “reboot”/”remake”/”sequel” fever that Hollywood has going on right now. There are worthwhile, deep films out there, but they’ve gotten to be something you hunt for, and they never get promotions, so you always hear about them after they’ve gone digital. Because… movies with something new to say are not the white bread film Americans will pay millions for. And they are typically consigned to the art-house theaters. Americans have gotten so much into their comfort food of super hero and pixar films that they can’t imagine anything but rinse and repeat.
Now, Hollywood should see the cinema’s decline with a worrying eye. And yet, no one is going out of their way to save the cinema — you know, the industry that has a stake in it.
So why the FUCK should I bail out someone who’s always trying to get their hand in my pocket to take my money when their own pimps won’t pay out diddly-squat to save them? And continue to overpay lackluster talent like Tom Cruise millions?
There’s very little that gets me this irate, but when we start talking bailouts of industries that make millions of dollars (airlines, cinema, professional sports) a minute — I spit nails. Where was their nest egg for emergencies like this? And why should I give away mine because of their irresponsibility?