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If it isn't really broken?
In the good old days, like last week, people got together and made a movie and when it was finished, it was released in the theaters for all to see and enjoy. Or in some cases, for no one to see or enjoy. Either way, you, the audience, had the opportunity to go somewhere and sit in a dark room with a bunch of other people and share a common experience. That's part of what made it a movie. And part of what made it fun.
Then, after a few weeks or a few months, the very same movie became available on DVD, then pay-per-view and eventually, HBO or Showtime and the other cable networks. That was, and is, a pretty good system that allows movies to be released in theaters so people can go to them. It also helps smaller movies that perhaps got lost in the summer blockbuster blitz find new life and a new audience.
Is the system perfect? No, nothing is. It does seem to work pretty well though. However, rich guy and media mogul Mark Cuban and Director Steven Soderberg think otherwise and want to see it completely changed. Starting very soon, Soderberg will begin releasing movies through Mark Cuban's company, 2929 Entertainment. The major difference for these new films will be that they'll be released in theaters, on DVD and on pay-per-view all at the same time.
Theater owners, for one, are not so happy with this new plan and we are not so hot on it either. Although, not necessarily for the same reasons. Theater owners are concerned, and rightfully so, that people will just get the DVD of a movie and not bother to see it in the theater. That's a valid concern, especially if your main business is selling popcorn and soda to people coming to see movies at your theaters. No people, no sale.
Our major reasons for being less than enthusiastic about this new idea are of a more artistic bent. Movies are made to be seen in a theater. It's that simple. They are designed that way, shot that way and should be shown and experienced that way. Even if you eventually go out and get the DVD or watch a movie on TV, the movie's creators intended it to be seen forty feet high on a white screen. And that's they way it should be seen.
Putting aside the aesthetic argument for a moment, we also worry about what this will do to people in general. We already spend much of our time in solo pursuits, surfing the net or sending instant messages or email; none of it with another person in the room. Or, if someone is there, they are probably in the next cubical and you don't really pay much attention to them anyway because Iris in accounting told you that they said mean things about your shoes.
As technology gets more sophisticated, we are spending less and less time with other real, live people. Part of the magic of the "movie experience" is that lady in the back of the theater screaming "don't open that door!" as the woman who is home alone during a blackout searches her house for the source of the mysterious phone calls she has been getting.
When the killer jumps out of the closet, knife at the ready, everyone screams because its scary but we also know its going to be ok because we are with others, scared and laughing and sharing the experience. That's what will be missing when someone decides to stay home and just get the DVD. It will be one more reason for us not to interact with others.
Of course, you can get the DVD or watch the movie on cable or whatever you want. This is, after all, America. We can do pretty much what we want. It's just unfortunate that this is one more thing that will not help to bring us together but instead, will enable us to move further and further away.
When you choose to go it alone, you are missing out on something special. Sure, sometimes that lady in the back of the theater is really annoying and decides to take a call during the most important part of the movie. But the good parts of the experience very often outweigh the negative. Really, the whole point is just to be there in the first place. People can often be very nice once you get to know them a little.
The reality is that the more people choose to stay away, the fewer movies will ever be released in theaters. If they have a movie and nobody shows up is it really a movie at all? No audience means eventually there will be no more theaters. It's just simple economics.
This experience will just be gone, as so many others have before it. And that's just not right.