Apparently the movie industry is trying to come up with an ad campaign to get people back into theaters. The LA Times doesn’t seem to take the idea terribly seriously, as they’ve suggested the slogan, “Movies: Just like DVDs, but Larger.” Meanwhile, theaters and studios are blaming each other for the decline in attendance:
Theater owners blamed Hollywood for making inferior (and overly long) movies, studios worried that theaters were turning the multiplex (with its barrage of pre-show commercials) into as much of an ordeal as an escape.
How do you figure out who’s right? Oh, wait, that’s easy: Both of them.
Make better movies, and more people will brave the long lines, high prices, 20 minutes of annoying big-screen commercials, 15 minutes of previews for movies that aren’t terribly interesting, people yakking on cell phones, people narrating the entire @%!# movie for their friends 30 seconds ahead of the action, etc.
Clean up the theater experience, and people will be willing to go for movies that look kinda interesting instead of really interesting.
It’s not just the big screen and immersive sound. Watching Serenity at home lacked the intensity of watching it in a theater full of fans (even the second time, when we knew what to expect). Neither canned laughter nor a studio audience can compare to dozens or hundreds of people laughing together in the same room. And it’s hard to match the collective “Oh, $#!7” that swept the theater in each showing of Return of the King when Shelob showed up again after Frodo thought he had escaped. The communal experience strikes a chord that you just can’t reach with a couple of people and a TV set.
People who talk through the entire movie aren’t just distracting you from the movie, they’re interfering with that communal experience. There’s only so much theater staff can do, short of kicking people out, but at least we know in the future they’ll get to inhabit a special level of Hell. 😈