Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From a former frequent moviegoer...

This originated as a comment on The Hot Blog on a comprehensive survey about moviegoing habits and marketing techniques. I suppose it works here too. It has some stuff that I thought about awhile ago but never got around to writing.

Before I became a parent, I was dead-set against the whole 'same date for theater/video/on demand' release ideas that were being floated around. Now, I'd kill for that option. I still love the movies and the theater experience, but with time commitments and the inconvenience that comes with having a family, I must concede that the primary reason I go to a theater anymore is merely to see a given movie as soon as possible so as to participate in the discussion with peers and on sites like this. But with that comes the occasional feeling of going to the movies as homework if you will.

Do I still enjoy the experience of sitting in a theater and watching a new movie on opening weekend? Yeah, and I miss being able to do it without the inconvenience. But it's usually a hassle especially when it's something that the spouse wants to see too (so I can't sneak off on a light work day, but we actually need to make plans with a babysitter and what not). For movies that don't specifically demand a big screen experience (like Extract for example), I'd gladly pay 'full ticket price' to see it on my home system on opening weekend or even a few days after if that was the trade-off. For now, I'll just wait for the Blu Ray and rent it via Blockbuster Online.

The Air Up There may be one of the best films of the year, but the character-driven drama will probably be just as good (if not better I wouldn't feel the burden of hassle and lost time) if I were to watch it at home on my 56" DLP on its opening weekend. I probably shouldn't admit this, but there are at least a few movies that I saw on screeners where I was kinder critically than I probably would have been had I had to go to downtown Hollywood on a weeknight during rush hour to see just days before the theatrical release.

There will always be movies that demand a theater experience, but even those are in shorter supply, as seemingly every horror film, comedy, and action film has an 'unrated director's cut' on the eventual home video release. And really, why would anyone see a documentary in a theater when they can wait for the DVD and basically see another hour or so of extra footage that could have made up a quasi-sequel to said film? For example, No End In Sight on DVD is basically two separate 105-minute features. So many studios are almost mocking the audiences' willingness to throw down $10 for an arbitrary cut of a film when they know full well that the 'real version' will be available in just four months in the home format.

I used to see 50-60 movies in a theater in a given year. Now I probably see around 20-30. And I genuinely do miss it. I can't wait until the two-year old is able to sit through more than just second-run animated films. A slight digression, but if every bloody kids film weren't in 3D, I'd be more willing to try first run. When the time comes, I'll gladly take her to whatever craptastic kids film she wants to see. I can't wait till she drags me to the midnight screening of Twilight part 6 or Sex & The City 3. But until then, I only see what I absolutely must see in theaters, along with ones whose theatrical runs coincide with slow work days.

Finally, being a parent has taught me two very specific things about moviegoing (well, I thought I already knew these things, but I didn't truly 'get it'). First of all, parents drag their kids to every terrible kids film because they don't care if they personally enjoy it. Yes, G-Force in 2D second run was a terrible movie, but the kid loved every stupid second of it, so I was more than content watching her point at the screen and cackle. Second of all, there is a reason that dramas and 'nutritious' films don't do as well as us film-snobs think they should. When you're married with kids, do you really need to take time out of your life to learn what you already know? Do you really spend time away from your wife to learn that relationships are complicated and require hard work? Do I really need to spend money on a babysitter and not spend time with my daughter so I can go to the movies and learn to appreciate my family? It's not so much theatrical experiences as 'an escape' so much as the need to justify spending the time and money to see or view something that you can't get in your own life.

Point being, I still value the theater experience and still find it to be the optimum way to watch movies. But priorities have shifted and I'm sometimes willing to settle for second best in the name of convenience.

Scott Mendelson


Craig said...

Agree 100%.

Used to see over 100 movies a year, and now with two boys, it's literally under 10, especially if I don't count the annual Pixar film, the Ice Age, or the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs that the kids want to go see.

I would pay almost anything for same day/date release on a Pay Per View model, but let me DVR it so that when the kids wake up or the phone rings, I can pause it and deal with whatever's going on.

Won't ever happen - the theater owners will go ballistic if studios go straight to consumers as an option instead of going to the theater.

Anonymous said...

Scott, this post bothered me for several reasons. You seem to be advocating the mindless garbage that Hollywood is putting out at an excelerated pace because you chld does not notice. While we all wan't escapism in the theaters and to check our problems at the door. Do you want to check your brain as well?

Scott Mendelson said...

I'm advocating nothing. I'm simply saying that I understand the 'movies purely as entertainment' mindset. Furthermore, escapism doesn't have to be brainless. Fellowship of the Ring is surely a superior escapist fantasy than The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising.

As a parent who misses going to the movies as a matter of course, I have no objection to taking my kid to see whatever kids movies she wants as long as she enjoys them. If it needs to be said, of course I'll expose her to the good stuff as well, such as the Miyazaki library, Babe, The Iron Giant, etc. My point is that when you're a parent who misses going to the movies, even a second-run screening of G-Force can be a treat if the target audience is enjoying themselves.


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