WARNING: The following contains obnoxious opinions! You should know this by now!
Ok so, it's been a year since I did one of these because of work and life in general, but obviously there’s a lot going on right now. Global pandemics, lots of panicking, *insert exhausting joke about toilet paper*...In the midst of all of this, my work position has been put on furlough, which means I have more time to do things like this! (Yay?) So Today’s topic of ranting is…..pause for effect…..Movie theaters!
So as states start to implement various stay-at-home initiatives, one by one, movie studios are reshuffling their release dates on their big budget movies (mostly their Summer blockbusters). Disney rearranged their entire Marvel lineup over the next 3 years and bumped completely finished films like Jungle Cruise all the way into next year.
Moves like this are obviously having an effect on movie theaters. They can’t sell content online, they can’t do preorder sales when there’s nothing to watch and they can’t do curbside pickup (Like anyone wants 15 dollar disgusting nachos that bad anyway). New reports imply that China is already on their way out of this crisis, and despite reopening their theaters, nobody is coming out because there’s nothing to watch. This week, many sources are speculating that the first official casualty in this situation could be none other than one of the best possible theater chains, AMC, who has just put every corporate position, including CEO, on furlough.
First of all, I assume some will want to argue that other theater chains are better than AMC so losing them isn’t the end of the world. They aren’t. You’re wrong. I’m right. An argument can and will be made for Alamo in a moment. Let’s move on. AMC has good food, nice theaters and most important of all, they have Dolby Atmos. Have you ever tried one of those theaters?! Speakers everywhere with moving surround sound, a massive 8k screen, super comfy electronic recliner seats and a little half-wall by your feet so you don’t have to see the countless disgusting masses in the rows in front of you. You IMAX enthusiasts get lost. Atmos took the IMAX concept and made it sophisticated, almost rustic. I still remember my brother trying to talk me into seeing Rogue One in Atmos down in Tysons Corner, VA when it came out and I almost didn’t listen. He won out on that one tenfold, as we ended up seeing virtually every blockbuster release there since. Even their regular theaters are nicer than most others.
Now let’s make that Alamo Drafthouse argument. I would give anything for them to build a theater or two in MD, but this is another VA voyage I make a few times each year. This was my first encounter with a food service theater. When you arrive and get your seats, you’re greeted by your server and they get you drinks. After that and during the movie, you write orders down using the pen and paper they provide and stick it in a little holder and the end of your table. There’s even little lights under each table so you can read your menu without disturbing your neighbors. They come by like ninjas to grab it and a short while later your food is delivered to you silently while you watch the movie. The check is delivered near the end of the film and you’re all set. The food is amazing, ranging from usual theater snacks to pizza to full entrees to movie-specific, feature menus (The Wakanda menu when Black Panther came out was amazing!). What sets them aside for me however, is there one warning phone and noise policy. Nothing I hate more at movies than people making noise or using their phone, which is ALWAYS on full brightness for some villainous reason. Write down your issue on a paper and leave it for a server and after one warning, the *o**e**u**e* responsible will be ejected from the theater without a refund. The purest form of satisfaction. I’ve seen it happen and it is GLORIOUS. They also have ticket and food discounts on certain nights and a full range of beer because “Drafthouse” but I can’t take up this entire post to talk about this wonderful place.
Now why would I drive 40-60 minutes in any direction for movies when I have a theater 7 minutes from my home? Simple; my local theater is a trash heap. I will not name the company in question, as I have been to other theaters run by this company and they are perfectly acceptable. The issues I have are due to it being a local monopoly...and that local people go here.There used to be 5 or 6 theaters total in my area, and the last survivor just closed a couple years ago. With there being no competition, lackluster service and virtually no upkeep are acceptable as long as cash keeps coming in, and it does. The place is packed every weekend. Now obviously, a good bit of my issues are because I’m a snob, but when you’re paying today’s prices, should you not want to get the value you are paying for?. Screen stains and tears are never fixed so most of the time, they just dim the screen to try and hide them. Works great until a movie scene takes place at night or in a cave and you can’t see half of what is happening. Half of the seats are falling apart or screech like demons if you move a single millimeter. The last movie I saw there had some kind of fault with the projector where the screen was in 2 different tones of color for the entire presentation. 22 dollars for a movie where the entire right side of the screen is pink…..I haven’t even gotten to locals yet. Maryland has to be the US capital of disturbing your moviegoing experience. Idiots on their phones playing produce-chopping nonsense or gemstone puzzles. Parents coming into full theaters last-minute with their child who decide to just sit in one seat with the child on their lap who wants to climb and play with your armrest and kick your seat-back and scream for 75 minutes. PEOPLE IN AN EMPTY THEATER ON A MONDAY WHO LOOK AT THE VAST ARRAY OF OPEN SEATS AND DECIDE THE BEST PLACE TO SIT IS RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, A TOTAL STRANGER WHO LIKES THEIR PERSONAL SPACE >.<
Before we wander into my purchasing of theater sodas specifically to throw ice at people on their phones, let's get to the main point here. Streaming content is obviously on the rise right now, and studios are capitalizing on it. Most of the movies playing before it hit the fan have been fast-tracked to digital releases and even streaming. Disney & Pixar’s Onward was released in theaters on March 6th, available to purchase on digital on March 20th and streaming on Disney+ April 3rd. Thats gotta be some kind of speed record, and it managed to make big sales on digital before making it to streaming. There was even a push from fans to rush Black Widow and Mulan straight to digital. Obviously, that can’t happen because of notes in the actors’ contracts and robbing them of their Red Carpet release moments, which would be a PR nightmare. Still it begs to differ, why not just move purely to digital? Why drive for movies? What could possibly make the trip worth it at this point?
Memories. That's right. The angry nerd has a soft spot.
Some of the best memories of my life, even recently, come from seeing movies in theaters. Here’s some of the greatest hits.
-When Pixar forever changed the future of animation with their debut of Toy Story, like many of you, I was there. My dad got the family special tickets through his job so we could see it at a really fancy theater near where he worked. It still had curtains that raised when the presentation began and that was magic. They really gotta bring that gimmick back. We had so much fun, and I will never forget that day.
-As pitiful as this is, Jurassic Park’s realism hit so well that the raptors and jump scares legitimately terrified me and my poor father had to leave the movie because I couldn't take it. How weak is that?! Good for a laugh these days, and now JP is one of my favorite movies of all time…..My little brother was unshaken. Nerves of steel, I’m tellin ya.
-The first Harry Potter film caused a media frenzy and I saw it with my family before even touching one of the books. The setting, style and music completely enveloped me and my mom and brother got to enjoy watching me get wrapped up in a narrative that they already knew the ending of. Naturally I began reading those books a week later and saw every sequel and spinoff that has been made since.
-My dad took my brother and I to see Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in its opening week and it was incredible. My dad had read the books in college and my brother started reading them after we saw The Two Towers. Again, I was wrapped up in Star Wars novels that I was going in blind. We yelled and laughed and cheered, in awe of the technical film-making achievement in which we were entranced. By the end, we were all so exhausted that we barely got in our beds before falling asleep.
-My brother and I saw all 4 Avengers films together. This time I got to be the one who did the reading. With his love of Iron Man, he caught on quick though. Each film brought surges of amazement and nostalgia. I watched characters come together on screen that I never thought possible and we watched as 22 films culminated into a massive 2-part epic finale that brought on every emotion on the spectrum. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that Marvel will likely never be able to recreate and it was beyond rewarding to share that with my brother, as 2 grown adults. (He cried at the end of Endgame, like the rest of us, I want that on-record)
-Finally, of course, there’s Star Wars; I saw the originals at home using a VCR (terrifying thought), but I saw the re-releases and every film since in theaters. Sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, sometimes with both. When Disney brought Star Wars back from the void, my family and I were extremely enthusiastic. Every December, we worked as a team to reserve nearly a row of seats for us, some friends and significant others. Seeing them all as a family with so many people we love reminded me how things like Star Wars helped me find friendship and happiness in some not so great times of my youth. Finally and most importantly, the second time I saw Force Awakens was on a first date with a really pretty and extremely shy nerd. We had both already seen it, but wanted to go again because it's Star Wars and we are childish. Almost 4 years later, when we saw the finale, Rise of Skywalker, we were engaged. That experience is indescribable. To have Star Wars be a founding pillar in our relationship and having it grow every year as we saw each movie is something I thought to be impossible and it has filled me with more joy than I could hope for.
Experiencing those movies together and all of the memories above are things I will cherish for the rest of my life. You can watch movies on your couch with ease, but theaters make memories. Remember that when this time has passed because theaters are gonna need us and like it or not, we kinda need them too.