Where do you watch movies?
Do you still go to a movie theater and enjoy a film?
Or do you sit down in front of a nice flat-screen television and watch a film on Blu-Ray? Perhaps you stream a movie from Netflix or get a rental from Redbox? Maybe you watch films on a phone?
I ask this question because movies, like many art forms in contemporary life, seem to be at a sort of crossroads. To a greater and greater extent, films are not films any longer. Even big-budget Hollywood films are switching to digital video. This switch is having the effect of changing the business from stem to stern. Recently, it was announced that professional film cameras will no longer be manufactured—by anyone.
Recently, I watched the documentary film "Side By Side." The movie was written and directed by Chris Kenneally. It is co-produced and hosted by Keanu Reeves, who does the interviewing in the film. "Side By Side" collects interviews with dozens of directors, producers, cinematographers and actors to ask if the film era is over. While some say they will keep working with film, they pretty much agree that, in fact, the film era is over.
Along the course of its 100 minutes or so, the film touches on many different aspects of modern movies. It offers a primer on how film and digital video work and a long look at the transition that is going on in Hollywood.
If you are film buff, I highly recommend it.
"Side By Side" was just released theatrically but I watched it via video on demand in my living room. This isn’t just ironic, it is telling. I have not been to a movie theater in at least five years. I am sorry to say this. I miss going to see films on a big screen in a darkened room with a lot of other people. This is how films should be seen.
A lot of the reason for this lies with me. Unfortunately, a lot of it also lies with the movie exhibition industry. Many movie theaters are mediocre places at best to watch a film. And then there are all the petty annoyances: the endless trailers to start out, the people who insist on continuing their discussions during films, uncomfortable seats, sticky floors, and, worst of all, poor prints that are often screened incorrectly. And all that does not even include the expense of a ticket. You’re on your own if you want some popcorn and a soda.
Movie attendance in 2011 fell to its lowest level in 16 years, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter. That story reported that attendance in 2011 was down 4.4 percent from 2010. The trend appeared to have continued in 2012. According to a story in the Mail Online (a British website), attendance in 2012 was at a 25-year low. And numbers were down 40 percent from 2002.
Under the circumstances, I accept the diminished experience of a film in my home as the lesser of two evils.
What is your experience? Are movies still best seen in a theater? Or do you watch them at home as well? Please share your experiences with us.
Follow Shawn Sensiba on Twitter @shawnsensiba.