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Just One Thing...

One of the things I think movie going suffers from is the idea of absolutes. People make wide brushed statements that really have little bearing on why people go to movies. They also make decisions based on their often faulty assessment on what the audience wants. It is a dangerous path since often this form of mass decision making by Hollywood of the large exhibitors is often thought of as arrogant by the movie going public. It is amazing the amount of substantive anger that a part of the American public has towards Hollywood and the product that comes out.

I love the Ron Underwood directed movie, “City Slickers”. It’s funny, poignant and serves out a lot of truth about being male in this modern society of ours. In one of my favorite scenes from the movie "City Slickers," Curly, the hard-core saddle faced cowboy played by Jack Palance, and Mitch, the greenhorn city slicker , played by Billy Crystal are riding along an archetypal dusty trail . The conversation is awkward as you are dealing with two people who come from very different worlds.

Unexpectedly Curly turns to Mitch and says, “Do you know what the secret of life is?” Mitch shocked replies, “No, what?” Curly holds up his index finger and lets it sit and says, “This!” Mitch responds , “Your finger?”

Curly lets Mitch know that he means that only one thing matters in life. Mitch says, “That’s great, but what’s the one thing?" Curly responds, “That’s what you gotta figure out.”

The moment hangs and the audience is suddenly faced with the only question, “what is that one thing”.

The business of exhibition has been facing the same question for years. For decades it has been convinced and wrongly convinced that the only thing that matters is the movie that plays on the screen, of course provided by those generous people who control Hollywood. They of course are wrong, but it is an untruth that does keep the exhibitors in check. Kind of like the big lie that Josef Goebbels put forward, tell people the same lie time after time and soon they will believe it.

Internally the exhibitors develop ideas and often these are ideas that push forward political posturing within the company. There was a trend to put as much neon and brushed chrome as you could in a lobby. Now this neon probably did not sell a single ticket but someone in the corporate echelon thought it was cool. It was like the circuits were putting out the statement “You came for the movie, but you stayed for the neon” geesh.

For a second let us take a look at today’s streaming experience.

I am sitting down in my family room. I am searching for a movie to watch on one of the many services I pay way too much for, but I am a movie guy and I want a choice. Now to be fair usually I spend a half hour finding something I truly want to see. So I wander down to my family room, beverage in hand and a bowl of microwave popcorn, which by the way does not even come close to movie popcorn.

I search for the remote, find it between the seat cushions and turn on the tv. I choose Amazon Prime and then go through the anguish of trying to find something I want to see. I find it and it comes on. The movie starts. For the next twenty minutes I watch the movie. There is usually some halting in the presentation due to my neighbor trying to attach himself to my wi-fi or my son trying to incinerate the world playing some pretty nasty video game. The dog barks and wants to go out to relieve herself and let the neighborhood squirrels know who is still boss. I have to wait maybe 6 minutes before they come back in. I make my way downstairs to the family room only to have the dogs follow me. Knowing that I am eating something out of a bowl, they want their share. I offer them popcorn and then they remind themselves that they love Artcraft popcorn but hate microwaved popcorn. They snub their noses at my offering and go off to mooch off someone else.

The movie starts again.

Seven minutes later my wife comes down and asks my opinion on this cute clutch purse. It comes in beige with black highlights, or a navy blue with gold highlights. Knowing full well if I say what I really feel “I don’t give a rat's patootie”, I dutifully tell her to go with the beige with the black highlights. My wife expresses thanks and goes ahead and orders the navy blue clutch with gold highlights.

I restart my movie. The phone rings.

It is obvious no one is answering the phone, so I answer it. It is someone from some Police Benevolent Fund that is looking for donations, I provide them with my brittle response that I give to all telemarketers. I traipse downstairs.

As soon as I sit down the doorbell rings, it’s Girl Scout Cookie season and again I am being shamelessly manipulated by a freckled face Girl Scout. I am constantly trying to watch what I eat but all the willpower in the world melts away in the face of a Girl Scout smiling at you. I buy 4 boxes.

As I sit down on the couch, clutching a fist full of Do-Si-Dos’s ( a cookie sold by the Girl Scout), the dogs descend on me. I should have grabbed the Thin Mints, dogs can't eat chocolate.

For me it’s simple, that is that one thing that drives me to the cinema, the ability to sit unharried and watch a movie in its entirety outside of the distractions of daily life. Streaming can never ever offer this to you. For others it’s the concession experience (yes it's vital), others community and still others the large screen. There is not one attraction, there are thousands.

Amazon can buy MGM, Disney + can trot out Star Wars, Scorsese can make a 3 hour opus, there is that one thing, the only way I can properly see a movie is in a theater. That's the simple truth and that is that one thing, for me anyways

It is really time to let the audience define the experience and not corporate posturing. Give movies back to the people.