The Decline of (MY) Movie Theater Experience by R.P. Lauer - Distant Web

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The Decline of (MY) Movie Theater Experience
The Decline of (MY) Movie Theater Experience by R.P. Lauer - Distant Web
R.P. Lauer
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10/11/2019
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From my childhood, pretty much up through my early adulthood, there really was nothing quite like the experience of seeing the latest anticipated motion picture at a movie theater. The massive wide screens, the impressive (and loud) sound systems and quite often the atmosphere of enjoyment that only a large crowd can achieve in such a way that no group of friends/family can match (to say nothing of not having to wait a year or more for home viewing depending on the era), the movie theater experience use to be well worth the bloated prices.

Lately however, not so much (for me personally at least). Today there is very little that can get my ass to that over-priced, uncomfortable, sticky, dirty and obnoxiously distracting theater. I can only speak for myself of course, and maybe I am alone in feeling like this. But regardless, allow me to vent my frustration with something that I once loved.

(In case it is not abundantly clear, I am only speaking for myself and 99.9% of this will be completely opinion based. You can agree or disagree, and either option is just as fine, as with any opinion based sentiment.)

Honestly, I feel like it's pretty clear some of the biggest changes in home entertainment that have drastically changed the landscape of the 'cinema', but it does start with what came before today so I may as well start there as well. When I was younger, going to the theater was such a treat, and a lot of it came from the external, formal theaters vs my own home. At the theater, you have giant wide screens with massive sound systems, while at home the typical household had heavy, boxy, small bubble screen TVs with built in mono speakers that could only go so loud. It's no wonder to me at least why the theater experience was so preferable.

For years in fact, even as newer home technologies came to pass, at least with what any household I ever visited could afford, the actual movie theaters were still preferable, even with decent stereos that could hook up to a VCR and eventually modern (at the time) TVs directly. The TVs themselves still remained the biggest draw towards the theater; no matter how big they came, they were still just 4:3 boxes that didn't come close to the clarity and magnitude of what a movie theater could offer. No sound system alone could make up for what you lacked in screen size and proportions.

In fact, I myself at least wouldn't even want too big of one of those TVs due to the weight alone; what could hold that weight? No entertainment center I ever owned, that's for sure.

At this point in the timeline, the pros and cons to seeing a film in theaters is as follows:

Cons: Uncomfortable seats. Cannot pause if I need to pee. Miss part of the movie if I do have to pee. Cannot rewind if that jackass next to me causes me to miss a line, or the jackass in front of me obscures my view. Expensive. Super expensive. Especially if I want anything to eat or drink.

Pros: Get to see a movie without waiting potentially a year (or more) for home media. That screen. OH that screen! That screen wins the day!

Skip ahead to around 2008 or so, and we bought our first HDTV; it was a 32” LCD, and even though our previous primary TV was 42”, the quality difference was so vast that everything old I watched felt new again, and anything new was just amazing! But even as great as that was, it still didn't quite hold up to the movie theater experience. Even when we upgraded to a 47”, it STILL wasn't quite a match for that large theater screen; though it was getting close. Close enough, in fact, that I did find myself starting to weigh the pros and cons of actually going to the theater vs waiting for home media.

At this point it was probably about a 50/50 chance that I would actually want to go to the theater, but even with those odds, the movie itself didn't have to be anything special (this will be more clear in a bit I hope). The only real change in the Pros vs Cons list is that the screen of the theater doesn't quite hold the exact same weight as it once did. But it still wins HALF of the days.

Skip ahead again to 2016, and the purchase of a 55” (still LCD and 1080P) TV, and that was the final nail in the coffin for me with movie theaters, even the ones that try and provide something special with $6 beers, $8 pizza slices and reclining seats. That upgrade alone pushed movies from 'can I wait to see this' to 'does this provide a worthwhile spectacle and do I absolutely have to see it now'.

(In fact, further upgrades like 4K have really been purely indulgent.)

So with a 55” 1080P TV and a 5.1 surround sound system alone (technically it's a 5.2 system, but I cannot for the life of me figure out where that extra 0.1 is coming from) I no longer found the movie theater experience particularly noteworthy.

The Pros (as few as there ever were) no longer win 9 times out of 10 (or so). I have to really, and I mean really want to see a movie now, and/or I need to know that a movie is going to provide a visual spectacle that will be so impressive on a massively large screen that no amount of home HD and personal comfort will top it, otherwise I'd rather just wait.

I love dramas, for example, but visually few dramas (if any?) require a 'big screen' to draw me in. And if the big screen isn't needed, neither is a trip to the cinema in my opinion.

Now, I will say that there was something that happened even earlier, 2014 to be exact, that did get me thinking more and more about the actual expense of going to the theater. This thing of which I speak didn't actually sway me much, but it did get me thinking and paying attention to prices and the over-all cost of a trip to the theater.

That 'thing' was the fact that I ended up seeing X-Men: Days of Future Past 4 times in the theater, which alone made me think about how much money I spent seeing it vs how much it was going to cost (and did cost) when purchasing it on Blu-Ray.

[Detour]

It's not so much that I loved the movie that much (I did) that got me to see it 4 times in the theater, it's just how events played out. My wife and I are both big fans of the franchise (her more than me), so when it came out we both went to see it together, just the two of us. I loved it so much I took our son to see it a few days later; he really wanted to see it and I was fine seeing it again because I loved it so much.

That was to be the end of it, but about 3 or 4 weeks later, we heard about a new IMAX theater in town that had reclining seats, beer, pizza and a bunch of other 'perks'. My wife and I just had to go test it out right away; more comfortable seating alone is something to test out. Unfortunately, the theater was so new that it didn't have many screens yet (they were still building onto it) and not many movies were actually playing. In fact, there wasn't a single movie we hadn't seen yet playing.

But, X-Men was and we thought, what the hell? We both loved the movie, so seeing it again was a small price to pay to see if we could make this our new 'primary' theater.

That experience was so great that we just had to show the kids. However, the same dilemma faced us; there was nothing to watch other than X-Men. So, we saw X-Men. That made 4 viewings for me, 3 for my wife, 2 for our son, and 1 for our daughters.

[End Detour]

Anyway, thinking about how much money I alone spent seeing that one movie (two Blu-Rays worth) got me to really examine the over-all cost of going to the theater, which really did start to wear on me and pushed the then 50/50 to a little more like 35/65 or so.

The average ticket price (not counting specialty theaters that show movies that are about to come out on home media and offer super cheap tickets) is around $10 a person. I've seen them as low as $7 for a matinee but I've also seen them bloat to over $12. So roughly it's $10 a person. A single drink and a single popcorn can range from $10 (if they offer super super small portions) to close to $30 (again, for a single drink and single popcorn). When my wife and I go out, we tend to spend about $15 between the two of us and ONLY get a single drink and a single popcorn.

This means that a trip to the theater, just the two of us, spend around $35 for a one-time experience that can be significantly hindered by things like bad screens, low sound, bathroom breaks and (more than anything else) rude ass patrons who basically act like they alone are in the theater and they alone paid to see this movie.

I could seriously write a novel on all the horrible 'crowd' experiences I've had in theaters.

A Blu-Ray, when released, tends to cost around the $20 mark, though an actual average is probably about $25 (the range can be from $15 to $30, but most seriously tend to fall at $20 from my experience).

This alone means it's significantly cheaper to just wait for home release and BUY the Blu-Ray; and the fact is, not all movies need to be purchased. Many are perfect for a single viewing, making your total cost whatever the rental is (less than $2 for Redbox, around $5 I think for digital rentals and local stores if you happen to have any of those, which we do).

I've never rented digitally, so I have no idea if this is something you can do or not, but with any physical purchase or rental you have the ability to pause, rewind, and/or turn the volume up as loud as YOU need it to be, ensuring that you WILL NOT miss anything. Plus, watching at home means being as comfortable as you are at home; for me that means lounging on the couch in PJs when watching most movies lol.

Anyway, the bottom line for me is that there have always been a mass of 'cons' related to going to the theater, but the 'pros' are almost non existent now. Waiting for that home release is probably the worst part about skipping the theater, but even that is dwindling; most movies tend to hit the home market about 3 months after their theatrical release. I think the longest I've seen a movie take in the last 4 or 5 years was about 7 months, and movies with that long of a time frame are very few and far between (seriously, about 3 months seems to be the average).

This posting is a long time coming for me; I actually put something together back in 2014 but never did anything with it. I've gotten started on a 'blog' (if you will) many times since then, but never really followed through. In fact, this latest effort was almost scrapped as well, but after reading some ramblings and complaining from Hollywood Elites about the state of movies and how much 'comic book movies' have ruined cinema, I decided to finally just sit down and finish jotting out my thoughts on the subject.

I have other thoughts about that specifically (dwindling sales on tickets for movies that the Hollywood Elites want to see and/or make), but this post has already gone on long enough. The bottom line to that detour would simply be this: if you really want to blame anyone for dwindling sales on non-spectacle films, blame all involved in making the Movie Theater Experience so damned expensive, which probably includes, (though is not limited to) you Hollywood Elite.

Finally, for the last time, this was all just my opinion. If you agree or disagree, it really makes no difference to me; I'm not saying that I'm not interested in hearing your thoughts, I'm just saying that your thoughts aren't going to change my opinions on this matter. I'm also not trying to sway anyone to agree with me; as I already alluded, I don't really care one way or the other. But I do thank you for your time, assuming you've read all the way through. that is most appreciated.

(Though I will add that if anyone else does feel the way I feel when it comes to going to the movie theater, and it's a significant enough amount, it could really spell trouble for Hollywood; not that that would exactly bring a tear to my eye.)

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