Friday, August 10, 2018

COLUMN: Movie Theatre

I had a weird feeling the other day. It was the feeling of my wallet -- with MONEY in it for a change. It doesn't happen often, but I found myself with a small nest egg of disposable income.

The possibilities were limitless. I could have taken a weekend road trip somewhere new and exciting. I could've bought groceries for half a week. I should've put it into a savings account and let it accrue interest.

Instead I went to see a movie. Poof, so long, nest egg. It was nice knowing you.

Inflation is just a natural part of life, I guess. Listening to my grandparents talk, it seemed like everything in their era cost a nickel. Heck, I'm not THAT old but I can remember when gas was less than $1 per gallon and a fast food meal was under $5.

And I certainly remember a time when you didn't have to make decisions like, "Well, I could pay the mortgage this month... OR I could go to a matinee." "I could enjoy a steak dinner... or this medium-sized bag of popcorn."

I'm not a big moviegoer. Or at least I'm not NOW. Back in the day, we went all the time. I'm fairly sure I saw "The Lost Boys" in the theater FIVE times. There was just something magical about seeing a great story on a larger-than-life screen surrounded by friends and strangers.

These days, though, it's just not that big of a deal. I prefer the ambience of my couch to any theater, thanks. The once-infinite wait for a film's home release has turned into, what, 2-3 months tops? All it takes is a little bit of patience to watch any cinematic blockbuster in the comfort of your own home. As TVs grow larger and hi-def-ier every year, we're starting to reach the point where there's not much difference in quality.

I remember how excited I was when my parents surprised me with a TV for my bedroom. I was the envy of my friends. It was amazing. And I'm also pretty sure it had a smaller screen than the laptop computer I'm using to type this column. I've honestly seen cell phones that have a better picture quality than my old TV ever did. If Teen Shane were to walk into my living room right now and see the TV I have now, he'd probably assume that he grew up to be a millionaire -- and honestly, my TV isn't anything special.

It didn't dawn on me until I got home from the movie the other night: I completely take technology for granted. We all do. I just watched a two-hour movie in IMAX 3D with surround sound while sitting in a push-button controlled recliner. When I was a kid, I'm pretty sure the only place you could do that was Epcot Center. By all logic, I should have been at the edge of my seat, breathless, heart racing, barely able to contol my excitement at the stunning visual effects.

Instead, it was... nice. When you go to theaters these days, you EXPECT surround sound and a giant screen and motorcycles to literally come flying at you in a previously unseen third dimension. Ho-hum. How could I let myself become so jaded and unappreciative of such technological wonder?

Worse yet, I hate the fact that I prefer to watch movies at home nowadays. "Who pays to go see a movie these days?" is an utterance that's right up there with two of my least favorite sentences in the world: "Who still buys CDs?" and the unforgivable "no one reads newspapers anymore." (No one except 70%+ of adults in your local market, you thunderdolt.)

Who still buys CDs? THIS GUY does. Once upon a time, my music collection was my proudest life accomplishment and pretty much what I was known for. These days, anyone with a subscription to Spotify has access to about 80% of the collection I spent decades amassing. Thanks for making my life irrelevant, technology.

But I still win because Spotify kids don't know the feeling of accomplishment from driving three hours to spend another three hours sorting through crates to finally put your hands on that one 12" single you've been looking your entire life for. There's blood, sweat, and tears in my collection (both figuratively AND literally - "Spinnin' Wheel," baby!)

Plus, think about what an artist went through to create that album. It's an hour-long artistic statement with ebbs and flows and emotion and heart and gusto. Spotify kids just see a list of songs to yank out and stick on a playlist. That's why some artists have stopped putting out albums altogether.

Imagine if some actors decided to stop making movies altogether and instead just made 5-minute clips you could download. It wouldn't be the same. Just as a band pours their soul into a record, so too does the cast and crew of a movie. Imagine all the best boys and key grips and gaffers who gripped and gaffed their souls into this film, and you're too busy and important to get off the couch and give it its just due.

So maybe I should go see more movies the way they were meant to be seen, heard, and felt. I just need to get a third job to pay for them all. 

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