A while ago (okay, like a month ago) I was reading a little post over at Collider about why this summer's box office has been so much slower than last year's. It's an interesting little nugget, but to me it boils down to this: people haven't gone to movies this year because movies this year haven't been that good. But that can't really true, can it?
Heaven knows I don't want it to be. But I had a depressing realization this week: it has been two solid months since I have gone to a movie. (For the record it was Edge of Tomorrow, which was pretty nice until the last three minutes.) This drought often happens in January or February, which are usually reserved for studios' unplanned and regretted mistakes, but not in high summer. Of course you are thinking, must be real a tough life if not going to movies is the biggest problem you have. And, of course, moviegoing is a silly little passtime. But ask yourself: what was the last movie you really enjoyed this year? What is the movie you would go see again?
Part of the issue is that I live in Cedar City which, for being such a self-proclaimed artsy town, has a pretty large cinematic blind spot. There are exactly 16 movie screens in this town, 14 of which are owned by the late Mr Larry H Miller's car selling multi-media conglomerate. The other two belong to a pretty nice (and locally owned) second-showing theatre. There simply isn't room for a diverse slate of options down at the multiplex. Or so it would seem to one disgruntled lover of decent film.
Now, before I decry the Megaplex any further, I will say this. I like the Stadium 8 in Cedar City more than almost any other theatre I've been in. The stadium seating in some rooms is so deep, the head of the person in front of me only reaches my shins. It feels like a small-town theatre, often with small crowds and quick lines. The screens and projection are very often without fault. Part of the issue, no doubt, rests in complicated and expensive distribution deals about which I am totally ignorant. But I don't think that a little variety or quality control would kill anybody, either.
Observe the list of showtimes for this week, typical of every week so far this summer. Between the two theatres, 11 movies are playing. Now to be continually fair, this is actually a pretty nice movie-to-screen ratio compared with how it has sometimes been. But let's look at the movies themselves rather than just the numbers. There are no less than 5 showings of Disney's sequel-of-a-sidequel-for-your-five-year-old, Planes: Fire & Rescue, more than for the James Brown biopic Get On Up, which is out this week. Other movies you all are beating the doors down to see are more recent releases like Sex Tape, The Purge: Anarchy, and May holdover Maleficent, which together are tying up 8 showtimes. I guess my question with this is: Would it be a bad thing to do away with duds no one will miss for something a little more artistically and culturally satisfying?
Don't get me wrong, the multiplex is probably the crowning achievement of the mechanized entertainment industry profit machine, and I realize its primary purpose is to make money. It is a carnival for movie exhibition, and the bigger the show the bigger the draw. Movies have been this way since the Lumiere brothers. But I also believe that a theatre should do something to show off the best of the medium it showcases, and that it can do so without being confused for a non-profit arthouse in Greenwich Village run by hemp-smoking Tarkofsky junkies. Surely as much money could be made on two or three showings of Richard Linklater's critical triumph Boyhood as is being gleaned from token exhibitions of Sex Tape. I am willing to bet that you don't even know anybody who knows anybody who went to see The Purge's sequel, but anybody who saw Snowpiercer doesn't stop talking about it. Maybe afternoon showings of Maleficent to two or three people could be better used for accessible indies like Begin Again or Wish I Was Here. But of course, I don't know.
So I guess my plea here is, if you live near an independent theatre, please support it. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy will always be around (always, since there is already a sequel in the pipes, aren't you excited) but independent gems like Grand Budapest Hotel or even disappointing non-sequelated flicks like Edge of Tomorrow are far less common. Maybe you'll be disappointed or challenged or (heaven forbid) actually emotionally involved, but your experience will surely be more rewarding than sitting through incoherent pixelated robot porn.
by Chase Harrison