06 October 2008

Monday Musings...
Something I couldn't help noticing something the other night while watching our freshly purchased IRON MAN dvd.
Actually it was more like a feeling.
There used to be a time when going to the movies was an honest-to-God great experience.
Entire FAMILIES could venture out to take in the latest cinematic fare, and for a reasonable price. Dad and I went out many a time to go see something like The Great Escape or Bridge on the River Kwai. Good times indeed. Dads were great at that.
It used to be that way.
I say used to be, because, in all truth, I'm not really seeing it today.
I recall times (back in Philly) when the place you went to see a movie was called a THEATER...a REAL theater. Names like Mayfair, Merben, Midway. Crest, Tyson, and Orleans (and those were just in the Northeast part of town), along with the Stanley, Boyd, Goldman (and others) downtown. come to mind.
We even had movie theaters right in the middle of our blocks, they were that prolific and popular.
In almost EVERY one of these houses (except the Orleans), we're talking TWO levels (orchestra and balcony), with NICE plush seats, a good view for everyone, a floor you didn't stick to, and a honking HUGE screen , sometime in excess of FORTY FEET WIDE and over TWENTY FEET HIGH. And those balconies provided a nice place to swap spit with your girlfriend. Many a young man and woman learned the great art of "necking" in those places.
I remember dating a young lady in high school and we got tickets to go see Funny Girl. And we didn't get ANY old tickets either...
They actually had RESERVED SEATING...just like at a concert. And when you got the tickets, a UNIFORMED USHER (complete with flashlight) would conduct you TO those seats. I remember having to mentally count the rows and then the number of seats into the row, in case I had to get up during the film.
And in THOSE days, many films had an actual INTERMISSION; a time to stretch, get some refreshments and take a whiz-break.
Ben Hur had such an intermission, as did Funny Girl, Doctor Zhivago, GrandPrix, and even Ice Station Zebra, and 2001: A Space Odyssey (the last two filmed in CINERAMA).
People would drive all the way into Philly from HARRISBURG just to see a CINERAMA movie...they were that popular (and not many movies houses could show that format). That was close to a ninety mile drive.
And the concession stands were places you could actually get something to munch on or drink WITHOUT having to take that second mortgage on the house!
Ticket prices (for any first-run film) were a whopping $2.50 for a matinee, and for those with "money to burn", the evening performances were tickling $4.00! But you, as the paying customer got so much more back then for the price.
I mean the architecture ALONE in those theaters was amazing. Every major theater house had it's own unique aspects to it, whether it was mirrored foyers with crystal chandeliers, or a throwback to the art-deco 1930s with it's Gothic statuary and ceiling adornments.
And did I mention that EVERY SINGLE ONE of those theaters was a SINGLE SCREEN movie house? none of this multi-mega-giga-plexing crap back then...oh, no. ONE screen...ONE movie...period. Well maybe a preview along with the movie of another movie playing a few streets over...and a nature short, and a couple full-length cartoons, courtesy of Warner Brothers. Somehow Bugs & Daffy seem a lot more funny when they're 15 feet tall.
The sound system were rudimentary to say the least. None of this THX or Dolby 5.1 surround sound for us. We were lucky if it WAS plain old stereo. And we were glad to get that. I do remember the oft times funny "Sensurround"...where the chairs vibrated (which felt good on the back). That was a flash in the pan.
Then, like everything else, things became more costly.
Film copies were expensive to transport (and fragile), projectors became costly to maintain, keeping people on staff was eating into profits, concessions needed to make up the losses by overcharging on stale everything, and so on...
Movie houses closed by the dozens, and those that managed to remain were halved or quartered in order to accommodate two screens...or more. No longer did we see ushers, even to keep the peace, because the clientele was changing as well, becoming more boisterous, even to the point of tossing things at the screen, something WE didn't even do at the Saturday $.75 cent matinees!
Sadly, many of the old movie houses are lost to the ages, along with their special way of making us feel a part of the movie experience. What we're left with today, is nothing short of a quasi-stadium atmosphere.
I have been to the new RAVE theater...not all that impressed to be honest. The sound was good and like everything else, a little TOO heavy on the BASS, but it did drown out some motor-mouthed, ratchet-jawed mooks a few rows up. Prices were outlandish, both for tickets as well as food & drinks (WTF is up with eating NACHOS with jalapeno cheese in a movie theater anyway?).
And so that's why my wife and I opt for watching movies at home.
We don't have to pay exorbitant prices.
We make our OWN popcorn and get free refills whenever.
We can have alcohol with the movie that we didn't have to "sneak" in.
We have very comfortable chairs.
We have NO one sitting in front of us with a huge hairdo, a big hat, large head, or a crying infant.
We don't have ANYONE explaining the movie to the person next to them.
We can PAUSE the movie, if we need to hit the head..
And we also know that after the movie, our CAR will be where we left it (in the garage).
OK, so maybe we don't have a "keeping up with the Joneses" state-of-the-art, stereo surround sound system (that can wake the dead) or a 60 inch plasma/LCD screen with a bazillion line resolution, but it's OURS, and we find it up to the task of entertaining us.
And we didn't go into debt to accomplish this.
So what if I had to wait a few months to see IRON MAN?
It was only 4 months...and well worth the wait.
I see it with NO interruptions or distractions...the way a movie SHOULD be watched.
(yeah, I'm a cinema purist in that regard)
Plus, I can watch it (again) any damn time I want to, sans the (societal) problems inherent with going to the movies today.
Will there be a time when movie theaters become a thing of the past?
They already ARE, supplanted by the multi-screened mini-movie "rooms" with airline seating that we "enjoy" today.
Gone are the old, great theaters of days past, and with them, so many good memories of so many good movies.
Preservation societies have reclaimed a few, but not enough to restore the greatest ones, nor be profitable As a movie house (except for occasional niche cult flick gatherings) against DVD sales as well as movie rentals such as Netflix (and others).
Be nice to revisit that era again, if even to only watch a cartoon or two.
In the meantime, EVERY seat is a "aisle seat" at our place.


Murphy said...

Ayup, pretty much why I stopped going out to the movies a long time ago... tired of the phone jabberers, back-of-my-seat kickers, overpriced everything, and just general hassle of restraining a natural inclination to commit mass murder...

Bobby G. said...

Yeah Sarge...
I know what it's like to have to control MY "motivations of passion" in a darkened environment as well...lol!

I always thought they should have a sequestered area (like a detainee center) where all the peeps who HAVE to talk through a movie can go to....or be placed into so those of us that CAN figure out the plotline, dialogue and characters can ENJOY the damn thing.

Plus...I never watched a "stinker" since we've been viewing in home. And we always have the snacks we WANT on hand - not what we have to "settle for".

No wasted resources all around...makes the "top-brass" (the missus) happy every time.

Carry On.

Jana said...

I'm with ya when it comes to just waiting for the DVD to come out!

The only time the hubs and I will actually go to a theater is if it's a late showing (9pm or later).

We haven't done that since Transformers came out last summer, though.

I think we might go to a late showing of the new Star Trek movie next year because I would like to see it BEFORE everyone starts running their mouths about it online and ruining it for me...

Bobby G. said...

The last movie D and I went to see was that last TREK movie (ST:NEMESIS) on opening night.

We can count on ONE HAND the number of movies we've taken in the last 10 years.
And I've always loved the movies...but that was THEN.

Plus, I finally just snagged the trilogy of Lord of the Rings for $7.50!!!
(that's over 500 minutes of frigging MOVIE!)

Try going to see ALL THREE movies at THAT price for TWO people...

I dare 'ya!

ida said...

well i wait for the dvd to come out, or do the old 5.00 hookup....and i hate going to the movies anymore. just for my daughter and i its like 20.00 to get in. then another 20.00 for snacks.......its like wtf and i am the one with the nachos......:)

Bobby G. said...

If ya gotta go w/ the nachos..isn't it WAY better to have em home instead?
Always a paper towel nearby when 'ya need one...
And you don't have to worry about someone ELSE spilling THEIRS on you, right?

Too many reasons NOT to go these days...
(get to know the family once more - by SEEING them at HOME)


Thanks for the comments.