Chain (Theater) of Fools

It’s official, I’m well and truly done with the theater chains. This was not triggered by a single event that left me bitter and disenchanted. No, it’s merely that over the years they have managed to slowly squeeze the magic out of the movie-going experience. A night out at the movies is simply no longer fun.

I find it galling that these chains complain about lagging attendance and slumping revenues. They blame this on alternative forms of entertainment – DVDs, video games, and the improved home entertainment experience in general. But they never step back to look at just how joy-sucking the contemporary movie theater is, at what the audience is put through before they can actually enjoy a movie. I could go on about all the ways in which theaters have bastardized things, but I’m sure this is more than self-evident. If not, this Slate magazine article does a pretty good job of laying it out. In short, people are not interested in paying $10 a ticket for the privilege of paying $9 for $0.90 worth of popcorn and soda, and then watching 20-minutes of seizure-inducing advertisements before the movie begins.

No, instead we’ll find alternative ways to actually enjoy movies. For me, this means going to a locally owned theater where tickets are $3 apiece. Where for the price of a small soda and popcorn at a chain theater, I can get a pint of beer and a turkey club (fries included!). And where I can chat pleasantly with my wife and the folks around me while waiting for things to start.

Or, better still, we’ll go to a friend’s house and relax on their patio while they project whatever movie we want on the side of their garage. Or maybe we’ll get creative and compile our own animation movie festival from the plethora of shorts and independent films found on the web. Oh, and you want a popcorn or soda? How about something a bit healthier like carrot sticks and hummus, or maybe a glass of wine? I’ll grab you one while I’m in the kitchen.

So, to you folks at AMC, Regal, Wehrenberg, and the rest, and to the executives at the MPAA, I wish you luck. May you get exactly what you deserve in the years ahead.

[Image is the Colonial Theater in Richmond, VA circa 1930. Found on – check ’em out!]