I read a column in the local paper recently that raised the question of the future of movies and movie theaters as we know them today. Movie revenues are consistently down from last year. That was a bit interesting since I actually went to a movie a few weeks ago - my wife and I took our 7 year old grandson to see the latest Star Wars film. It was, by the way, fairly mediocre. But that was the first time in literally years that I had gone to a theater. Once there, I remembered why.
Oh yes, the theaters now have better seating and cup holders, but the screens are still smaller than the giant screens I remember from my youth. The sound is better too, but better for what? Frankly, movies being produced today are loud and vulgar - full of meaningless action and shallow plots. It's bad enough that we had to sit through a half-dozen previews, but each and every one was a bang, crash, shoot-em-up mindless "action" film. That is all Hollywood seems to produce these days. That, and remakes of older films or TV shows.
But since I am a techno-geek type, let's stick to the technical facts rather than my ranting about plot and acting quality. Here's why movie theaters are doomed.
One - DVD quality (sound and picture) is at almost equivalent to that on the big screen, and home theater equipment is fully up to the task. The next generation of HD TVs and high density DVDs will equal a movie theater. Oh, it might cost you a few dollars, but putting together a decent 5.1 (or 6.1 or 7.1 now) sound system with a fairly large screen TV in your home is not at all a daunting task. And if you do have the big bucks, a real, true home theater is a distinct possibility. I know of people who have theater type seating and a large screen projection TV in their setups.
But the big advantage of having a home theater is that obviously you can watch the movie when you want, pause it to go get a snack, and play it again and again.
Two - The availability of movies on DVD - you can find almost any movie you want these days, and it costs less to buy the DVD (and play it forever, whenever you want) than we paid at the theater for the three of us. DVD rental services such as Netflix (love my Netflix!) make it easy to rent, literally, from the chair in front of your PC.
Three - Some of today's movies and probably all in the future will be "filmed" using digital techniques, rather than actual film. This will speed the availability of the movie into the DVD medium.
Four - A huge component of the cost of making a movie is paying those overpaid actors. Today's digitally generated films "cartoons" are almost photo quality, and tomorrow they will be. Hollywood actors are starting to see that their income will increasingly derive from dubbing digital character voices than actually appearing in front of a camera. And, finally, they won't have jobs at all. Digital personalities can be quite believable - everybody knows Shrek or Buzz Lightyear.
So, why go to a theater to see previews and commercials that you don't care about, to see a mediocre film, to pay $8 or more for a bucket of popcorn (!), and to perhaps even wait in line for the privilege of doing it! C'mon 'a-my house!
(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport - Oak Island area. You can visit his Website at www.bobseidel.com or e-mail questions or column ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For specific inquiries, please call Bob Seidel Consulting, LLC at 278-1007.)