Home Movies

Anthony Lane uses a mini-review of the dreadful Tower Heist as a jumping off point to discuss the emerging business of home theaters, or rather, the day when movies will be shown at home instead of in theaters.

Lane acknowledges the conventional thinking: “Showmen like James Cameron, I suspect, will continue to haul us off our couches for the grand, marquee events, but smaller fare may be streamed to us direct, and new films whittled down into just another channel on TV.”

Lane, then pivots however, with this wry observation:

here’s only one problem with home cinema: it doesn’t exist. The very phrase is an oxymoron. As you pause your film to answer the door or fetch a Coke, the experience ceases to be cinema. Even the act of choosing when to watch means you are no longer at the movies. Choice—preferably an exhaustive menu of it—pretty much defines our status as consumers, and has long been an unquestioned tenet of the capitalist feast, but in fact carte blanche is no way to run a cultural life (or any kind of life, for that matter), and one thing that has nourished the theatrical experience, from the Athens of Aeschylus to the multiplex, is the element of compulsion. Someone else decides when the show will start; we may decide whether to attend, but, once we take our seats, we join the ride and surrender our will. The same goes for the folks around us, whom we do not know, and whom we resemble only in our private desire to know more of what will unfold in public, on the stage or screen. We are strangers in communion, and, once that pact of the intimate and the populous is snapped, the charm is gone. Our revels now are ended.

I love that. For some, like Lane, movies are an experience bordering upon the religious. There are sacred rituals involved. But Lane and people like him (myself included) are the minority. Most people just want to watch the fucking movie as cheaply and as comfortably as possible.

The entire experience of going to the movies kind of sucks. It’s expensive, the concessions are over-priced shit, etc. etc. etc.

Given that movies can be torrented within three to four months of their theatrical release, no one under 35 will honestly go to the movies in the future if they can just wait a few months, effortlessly download the movie (illegally, I might add) and then watch it on a Saturday night with a few bottles of vino and some friends on their not-so-expensive 42″ LED TV with a great sound system.

Hollywood needs to figure this out pronto before their entire industry erodes in five years or before Apple forces their hands with the iTV. With rumors of Apple working on a next-generation television content system is there any doubt that “New Releases” may one day just be an app inside your TV?

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