Saturday, June 26, 2010

Simultaneous release

I still love seeing movies in a theater. Back in Seattle, I often made the effort to see things at the Cinerama. Here in Austin, I continue to make the effort to see things at the Alamo Drafthouse theaters.

But especially here, as often as not it's not the new releases that I make the effort for, but older movies.

There are any number of reasons I end up missing new releases in theaters. Time, money, effort.

But as often as not, I already know what I'll see in a theater before its release. I bet you do, too. I bet the vast majority of theater-goers do.

So, it wasn't a revelation to read Here, There and Everywhere... At the Same Time! by Greg Ferrara, in which he endorses Simultaneous release, but it did remind me of the issue. As he wrote, "How many more older movie lovers would give a look to the new blockbuster everyone is talking about if they could, easily and conveniently, right from their home? But they can, you say, when the DVD is released. True, but the excitement is gone..."

The people who are going to watch these movies at home could be contributing to the conversation right away. They could be part of the excitement. And possibly even a positive force in it. How many movies have been discovered by home viewers already?

Cinema isn't dead, it's just different by Jim Emerson notes that elements of the mystique of the theatrical experience are exaggerated, especially at this point. Increasingly other people are avoiding theaters altogether.

I remember seeing Aliens the first night, in a packed crowd that was just amped up for the movie. I've had similar experiences before and since, but it still stands out. Most times I rush out to see a movie early on, it feels like I'm chasing that dragon to diminishing returns.

On the other hand, I'm glad I got a chance to catch The Long Goodbye theatrically a few weeks ago, and that was terrifically satisfying. But it was one I was prepared for with an established relationship built on home video.

Frankly, the arguments against this are absolutely ridiculous at this point, raging against the inevitable. Arguing that theaters are superior only gets so far. Certainly under ideal circumstances, they are. But how often are circumstances ideal?

At this point it's like arguing that being able to watch football on TV takes away the joy of seeing a game at a stadium. There are arguments for it, but most of us are happy to watch the game at home most weekends.


Greg said...

Frankly, the arguments against this are absolutely ridiculous at this point, raging against the inevitable.

I agree. In fact, in my piece or in the comments, I was tempted to bring up the "buggy whip" speech from Other People's Money, not a very good movie, but a good speech that perfectly summarizes what's good and bad about romanticizing a beloved habit or thing or tradition.

Seeing movies in the theatre can be great and in the 1970's and before, that was the only way one could see the movies. But now there are several different options. Why stall two of them (DVDs and On demand/streaming) for the sake of the third, theatrical viewing. Why not just release all at once? Of course, I wholly support the idea or wouldn't have written about it but it bears repeating: the 14 to 24 market is going to go to the theatre to see the blockbusters, regardless. The over 30 crowd that usually doesn't, still won't. Why delay the experience for them when everyone knows beforehand whether they're going to see it in the theatre or not?

Neil Sarver said...

I had to look up the buggy whip speech, as it's been about 10 years since I've seen Other People's Money, but, yes, indeed. Great addition to the conversation. Thanks.

As you say, theater-going has any number of advantages, and the 14-to-24 market won't be affected at all because of them. Neither will older audiences.

I will see the exact same movies at the theater then as I do now. Either movies I think look particularly good or particularly worth seeing in the environment of a movie theater, big and dynamic or exciting to see with a crowd. There's no reason for that to change.

Hell, it might add more movies to my theater going list, because so many of the people I read and pay attention to are people who don't see those movies at a theater. But if you, or someone like you, had seen some recent blockbuster on DVD and wrote it up as exciting, I might make the effort.

Hell, in a few cases, I could imagine myself checking things out again at the theater if it revved me up. Hollywood doesn't produce much that would inspire that from me these days, but there are certainly movies over the years that if I were seeing for the first time, I'd make the effort to see it while it was still running in theaters. Blade Runner comes to mind. As does Aliens again, which isn't because it's my favorite movie of all time or anything... but it is one that works, and works best, in a crowded theater of excited viewers.

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