For a few weeks now the world of film buffs and cinema-goers have been at either end of a fledgling argument over the future of public movie exhibition. Napster founder and bona fide billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker has laid plans to bring the cinema experience ever closer to the homes of us mere mortals via his new service The Screening Room. The basic idea behind this model is that people with enough money ($150 for the hardware and an extra $50 per movie, to be exact.) can now watch movies on the same day as its theatrical release streamed instantly to the buyer’s home entertainment system. Seeing as I am a couple of weeks late in regards to hearing of the news, I no doubt have a strong response to this possibility and I think as consumers of entertainment we owe it to ourselves to fully think about the implications of getting rid of the cinema and taking movies home.
My first thought when I saw of the sheer possibility of this being a thing was one of hope and elation. I consider myself an avid fan of movies and I am an idealist when it comes to the sanctity of the institution that is cinema, although, I find myself saddened at the realities of what was probably once a great thing. Don’t get me wrong, the physical sensation of sitting in a giant theatre with surround sound and a giant screen showing me the film in all of its glory is magical to me. What ruins this experience for me is sadly the component that a lot of people find to be the most vital… people.
“What on earth are you on about, Paul?” Say some of you. ” I completely get what you mean.” Say the others. Cinemas are designed for experiencing movies as a community, and I am one hundred percent behind that ideal. My qualm, however comes from when I realize that I have zero control over the kind of people who join me in the darkened room. I am taken back to a memory I have of a time when I was taken to the cinema by my mother to see a film the name and memory of which escapes me completely most likely because it was for shadowed by the horror my 10-12 year old heart felt when my serenity was disturbed my the smelly, pungent decaying sock of a cocky twenty something man resting his bare feet in the gap between my chair and the one next to me. The thought of hearing the loud smooching and the blatant talking fills my mind with dread and anxiety. The film was completely ruined by other people being in the room with different intentions completely different to that of someone who simply wanted to watch the movie. It still lasts to this day. many visit to the cinema are ruined for me by people who seem to think speaking full volume during a movie is acceptable behaviour. I ask you, defenders of the cinema, is this the sanctity you are defending? If so, I’m not sure that I am on your side.
These instances are not the majority, of course. There are more times when I go to the cinema and I thoroughly enjoy the experience. I enjoy the excitement that comes with watching trailers of upcoming movies and I adore the feeling of consumerism when I debate on whether or not to have my drink in a large, over priced novelty cup. (The recent Kung fu panda shaped cups were a particularly tempting example.) My life and many of my happiest memories are in the cinema. I personally split my viewing between my local Showcase Cinema and a nearby independent cinema that attracts a more mature albeit sometimes obnoxious crowd of film fans. It is safe to say I am trying hard to enjoy the cinema and what it has to offer.
So, what does the idea of seeing these movies in the comfort of my big red chair do to this hopeful yet pessimistic consumer of cinema? Not as much as you would think. Film making legend and personal hero of mine Quentin Tarantino made a wonderful point that relates well to my opinions in a recent interview with Chris Hardwick on his Nerdist Podcast. He talks about how he only goes to the movies when he wants to see that movie now rather than later and not much else (Paraphrasing, of course.) It is obvious that the communal experience of the cinema is waning in a time of streaming and anti-social viewing. If we are living in a world where the social aspect of cinema is slowly disappearing, then what’s the point? I often consider myself a “tail-ender” when it comes to viewing movies. I wait until the tail end of a movie’s run at a cinema and go at a time when there are as few people as possible. This reduces the possibility of ever having to struggle through an anxiety fuelled two hours of putting up with noise and disturbance. So would I purchase one of these magic boxes for $150 and bunk up my ticket prices to $50 per viewing? Probably not.
As great as the idea is. It is one that seems to be reserved for those who can make such a flippant expenditure in the name of seeing a movie at home. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a private home cinema worth ten of thousands with custom built chair and my own popcorn and cinema screen you can bet your bottom dollar that I would never set foot in a cinema again. But when I look at the prices for a ticket in a cinema and scoff, how can I even start to think about buying the same thing only now it costs a whole day’s work. And it’s even worth mentioning that this isn’t even the most expensive version of this service There’s a similar product that costs $35,000 for the box and $500 per viewing!
So, while I would love the opportunity to rid myself of all the bad parts of going to the cinema, there is something magical in these large rooms that without a six figure annual income or a penchant for home improvement, we mere mortal can’t possibly replicate. So if you would like to donate to my home cinema fund. Please get in contact.