Hate Those Sticky Floors
An article in today's Christian Science Monitor asks whether the new "Star Wars" prequel will reverse the overall decline in theater-going. Surely not! Long before we humble consumers figured out that we were not alone in preferring to watch DVDs at home, the industry had us pegged. For some years now, Hollywood has been happy to take its real profits from shiny little discs ("'Blood Out Tha Wazoo'! Own it now!") than from all those dreadful cineplexes with their icky decor, endless ads and previews, crummy projection and sound, and sticky floors.
Yet much as I dislike the cineplex, I regret the prospect of no more movie-going. Like railroads, movie theaters are so full of memories and meanings, it hurts to think of them as obsolete. At the moment such feelings attach mainly to those theaters that have a sense of place and history. Fortunately, many of these are now part of the Landmark chain, which does a pretty good business showing first-run independent and foreign films.
But Landmark theaters do not exist in many parts of the country, and that leaves millions stuck with the choice between cineplex and home. I wonder, then, why some smart entrepreneur doesn't enter this market with a new kind of cineplex.
Think Borders. Think Starbucks. Millions of people gravitate to these places, because while not historic or exclusively highbrow, they offer pleasant, interesting surroundings and fare suited to human beings over the age of 12. Why not do the same with a chain of small, classy movie theaters? They could even serve latte! And although this is probably too much to hope for, an audience built on such theaters might even stimulate the production of more midsize movies suited to human beings over the age of 12.