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How has the Evolution of the Silver Screen affected the theater and movie going experience in the...

philosophygirl78

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... last 50 years..

Once upon a time, live theater and (often barbaric) fight shows were the source of entertainment for societies...

As time passed, fight shows become Olympics and Sports, and theater became the silver screen.

Whatever the case at its own time, both Sports and Theater have had a direct correlation with sociological constructs, of their time.

Fast forward to today, with the rise of advanced technology, and the experience is 'detached' compared to its history... But does it necessarily follow that within this detachment, other psychological and sociological components suffer, or is the experience just as 'real'?

(Obviously this topic can branch off into so many ways, so in an attempt to keep it with focus...)
 

Bushman

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People say that with the rise of streaming services, what is the incentive to leave the home, buy an overpriced ticket and some overpriced snacks, and listen to people chatter on while you try to watch a movie? I had the pleasure to attend a lecture by Michael Phillips, a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune, where he addressed just that. He stated that we attend movies for the experience as much as we do the show. That's an assertion I couldn't agree with more. Yeah, the popcorn and candy is overpriced, yeah, you could just wait for it to come out of Netflix, or Amazon, or whichever streaming service is the hit of the month, but to go see a movie means indulging yourself into an experience that you get to share with others. Some of my best theater memories come from opening night viewings. Like when I went to see the Gareth Edwards "Godzilla" movie, and the audience cheered when Godzilla's atomic breath burst from his mouth. Or when I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and everybody cheered when the opening crawl blared, when the Millennium Falcon showed up, or when Harrison Ford stepped on screen, or when 3PO and Leia appeared. There's a certain kind of feeling that comes from sharing an auditorium with a crowd of people who love something as much as you do. I think that, despite in home streaming services becoming more and more popular over physical home releases, that movie theaters will always be around.
 

LizzieMaine

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You're talking about an industry I've been around in one way or another, on and off, since I was five years old. So I can speak from personal experience about what I've seen, and what I'm seeing now.

The number one difference between then and now is that filmgoing in the pre-modern era was less about the actual film, and less, even, about the "theatre experience," as it was about the idea of sharing in a communal experience. People in the Era went to the movies because it was a part of community life -- theatres were where you met your friends, shared an experience with your friends, and came away with the feeling that you were part of something more important than yourself. The movie was incidental -- millions of people went to the movies once or twice a week because it was the thing to do, not because they desperately wanted to see some Grade Z Universal potboiler with Lyle Talbot, Linda Darnell and Baby Sandy. It didn't matter what was on the screen. The shared community experience was the real product being sold.

Exhibition today is a far different thing -- there is no longer any mass audience, and there are no more time-filling Grade Z potboilers anymore that people will go to see regardless of how good, bad, or pointless they are. Movie entertainment today is focus-groupped and psychologically marketed to appeal to finely-aimed niche audiences, and theatre exhibition is just a small part of the total deal -- the secondary market is now far more important to Hollywood than the primary, and that secondary market is increasingly a solo thing.

The only place where you'll still find a hint of what movies used to be is your local independent theatre. This is also a niche audience -- generally made up of middle-class white people in their forties or older, and a scattering of "indie" kids -- but it tends to view the experience the way all audiences did in the Era. They come to the show regardless of what's on the screen because it's a chance to mingle with at least a small slice of the community. The appeal is primarily a social one rather than an aesthetic one -- it's people reaching out to try and nullify, at least for a couple of hours, the soul-crushing isolation of the modern world.
 
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I think all that Bushman says is true, but many people (myself included) are, quite often, choosing to forgo that shared experience for the advantages of staying home to watch a movie. To some extent, this has already impacted the movie industry in that it produces (or tries to) mass-appeal (both in the US and internationally) movies for the movie theater and niche films that, IMHO, I don't think they expect to have long or even successful runs in the theater, but make money via streaming service, cable and, eventually, regular TV revenue.

Socially, it allows us to become less engaged with each other - I go to movie theaters less often today, but probably watch more movies now - and to focus on our particular predilections and tastes in movies. That said, we also are able to reach out to people of similar interests in ways we couldn't before - although, on the Internet. So, prior to the Internet (digital advancements), I'd see more movies in theaters, but watched TCM (actually AMC when it was doing what TCM does now) in what felt like a bubble as no one in my group of friends watched it.

But with sites like Fedora, I can talk with other classic movie fans and feel very engaged - but of course, that's a virtual engagement. These are far, far from comprehensive thoughts - more just first impressions raised by your post - but the digital changes have allowed us to be less physically engaged with each other, but more virtually engaged and has allowed us to pursue our niche passions easier and to find people who share those same passions easier. At some level, this just allows us to be more individually focused and less group focused: If I don't like what's playing in the local theater, I'll just choose something to stream from my thousands of options.

Just read Lizzie's post that came in as I was typing mine. To support one of her points, I remember my grandmother would go to the movies and not care if she came in the middle of the movie (I was very young, but I think that was allowed back in the '60s) - she'd watch, say, the last third and, then, stay for the first two-thirds and, then, leave. It was an "experience" or "something to do" for her - going to the movies - and less about the movie itself.
 

Doctor Strange

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There is still something about being in the dark surrounded by strangers - something akin to our buried memories of huddling around the nightly fire listening rapt to the storyteller or shaman - that makes the theatrical experience different from any home theater setup, TV or computer screen, or "device".

Plays and films aren't going to disappear, just as photography didn't supplant painting. (Digital imaging has now supplanted photography, but that's a whole different rant!) People will always want to "go out" and congregate at performances and events. No amount of so-called "social networking" is going to change that.
 
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I think we still seek the shared experiences, but not necessarily through movies. My theater-going is limited to seeing blockbusters such as The Force awakens or a new MCU film that, to me, is too big for my home theater (at least for the first viewing). However, there are other venues for the kind of community alluded to above. We have season tickets for the local minor league team, and that is as much of a community gathering as a sporting event - maybe moreso. Our local team has been pretty terrible for many years, but still sells out every game because it's a get-together. We have seatmates we've known for almost 20 years now and many folks come to just have a night out with friends and family. I'd venture to say high school sports fills the same need.

As far as movies go, summer also brings (at least here in the midwest) Drive-in Movie season. And there is a great experience to be had piling the family in the car with a cooler full of snacks to go see a flick at the drive-in. In fact, a good portion of my family are doing just that Saturday night to see Finding Dory. Sisters, brothers, uncles, nieces, great nieces and nephews, all getting together to sit outside and watch a movie on a summer night. And not a crushed soul in the bunch.
 

Inkstainedwretch

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When I was a kid you went to the movies with other kids. Lots of other kids. You saw the movies grownups avoided because they knew there would be a lot of kids there. It was great. In high school, going to the movies became a dating experience and the date was more important than the movie (I saw "Zorba the Greek" on a date with Anne Rice's sister). After that, it was a more occasional thing. Now, if I see one movie per year in a theater it's an exceptional year. Another factor is the demise of the neighborhood and small-town theaters. Where I live it's almost 60 miles to the nearest theater. A long time ago going to the movies meant spending half the day in a palace. Now it's sitting in a multiplex in front of a screen not much bigger than a large-screen tv. So, mostly, I pass.
 

Julian Shellhammer

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706
Attending the movie theater nowadays for me represents an increasingly smaller return on investment. The ticket prices and the concession stand prices are too high for my budget (and I understand it is not the theater owner's decision, but the result of the cost of film exhibition, i.e., the studios' price to the exhibitor). Add to that the behavior of people who act as though they are in their living rooms, as well as my own lack of interest in the content of the films being shown.

That said, I still have a part of me that likes the movie-going experience, or at least the experience I enjoyed going back a couple of decades: big picture, big sound, a product of a massive budget, actors at the top of their game doing what they do best.

Zillions of years ago, when I was single, an enjoyable evening was taking a date to a "revival house" to see The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca or It's a Wonderful Life as they were made to be seen, on the big screen.
 
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Attending the movie theater nowadays for me represents an increasingly smaller return on investment. The ticket prices and the concession stand prices are too high for my budget (and I understand it is not the theater owner's decision, but the result of the cost of film exhibition, i.e., the studios' price to the exhibitor). Add to that the behavior of people who act as though they are in their living rooms, as well as my own lack of interest in the content of the films being shown.

That said, I still have a part of me that likes the movie-going experience, or at least the experience I enjoyed going back a couple of decades: big picture, big sound, a product of a massive budget, actors at the top of their game doing what they do best.

Zillions of years ago, when I was single, an enjoyable evening was taking a date to a "revival house" to see The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca or It's a Wonderful Life as they were made to be seen, on the big screen.

I agree with all this. The cost and the way others act has turned me off to going to the theater (doesn't matter who is to blame, the experience is still diminished) / most of the movies shown are "blockbusters," yawn / still have great memories of when it was a better, IMHO, experience / did the exact same thing in my dating days when finding a revival or quirky movie made a date more special.
 

philosophygirl78

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People say that with the rise of streaming services, what is the incentive to leave the home, buy an overpriced ticket and some overpriced snacks, and listen to people chatter on while you try to watch a movie? I had the pleasure to attend a lecture by Michael Phillips, a movie critic for the Chicago Tribune, where he addressed just that. He stated that we attend movies for the experience as much as we do the show. That's an assertion I couldn't agree with more. Yeah, the popcorn and candy is overpriced, yeah, you could just wait for it to come out of Netflix, or Amazon, or whichever streaming service is the hit of the month, but to go see a movie means indulging yourself into an experience that you get to share with others. Some of my best theater memories come from opening night viewings. Like when I went to see the Gareth Edwards "Godzilla" movie, and the audience cheered when Godzilla's atomic breath burst from his mouth. Or when I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and everybody cheered when the opening crawl blared, when the Millennium Falcon showed up, or when Harrison Ford stepped on screen, or when 3PO and Leia appeared. There's a certain kind of feeling that comes from sharing an auditorium with a crowd of people who love something as much as you do. I think that, despite in home streaming services becoming more and more popular over physical home releases, that movie theaters will always be around.


Re - "...that we attend movies for the experience as much as we do the show."

I would say that's the way its meant to be, but there is also the plausible effect that certain genres are driven towards certain niche groups like @LizzieMaine has indicated. And that can foster a culture of leading audiences, getting into consumerrism etc...
 

philosophygirl78

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There is still something about being in the dark surrounded by strangers - something akin to our buried memories of huddling around the nightly fire listening rapt to the storyteller or shaman - that makes the theatrical experience different from any home theater setup, TV or computer screen, or "device".

Plays and films aren't going to disappear, just as photography didn't supplant painting. (Digital imaging has now supplanted photography, but that's a whole different rant!) People will always want to "go out" and congregate at performances and events. No amount of so-called "social networking" is going to change that.

"Dark places with strangers".. Now that's interesting. I wonder why people are generally attracted to the dark and unknown... Haunted houses are another example of this cultural construct.
 

philosophygirl78

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When I was a kid you went to the movies with other kids. Lots of other kids. You saw the movies grownups avoided because they knew there would be a lot of kids there. It was great. In high school, going to the movies became a dating experience and the date was more important than the movie (I saw "Zorba the Greek" on a date with Anne Rice's sister). After that, it was a more occasional thing. Now, if I see one movie per year in a theater it's an exceptional year. Another factor is the demise of the neighborhood and small-town theaters. Where I live it's almost 60 miles to the nearest theater. A long time ago going to the movies meant spending half the day in a palace. Now it's sitting in a multiplex in front of a screen not much bigger than a large-screen tv. So, mostly, I pass.

There is an excellent point in here!!! That social constructs can have more than 1 purpose for each compoenent. i.e. - going to the movies not just for the movie but for dating....
 

Doctor Strange

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"Dark places with strangers".. Now that's interesting. I wonder why people are generally attracted to the dark and unknown... Haunted houses are another example of this cultural construct.

I used to have another observation for this argument: When you watch a projected (celluloid) film, you are actually looking at a dark screen 50% of the time, because the projector's shutter closes as frames are pulled down and positioned 24 times a second. The persistence of vision phenomenon makes it "invisible", but at some subconscious level, you know you're in total darkness.

Alas, with the now nearly universal switch to digital projection, which refreshes the image much more frequently and without intervening blackness, this is no longer true.

(So I always pull out my 16mm cartoons when I throw a party: old-school projection still has its own particular magic!)
 

MikeKardec

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I love the idea of movies as the ultimate haunted house!

I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to games and involvement in virtual realities. The next step will be to expand the "reality" beyond the limitations of the various interfaces. In the 1980s we went from keyboards to keyboards and joysticks and then from joysticks to mouses (mice? mousing?). Then a few years later car and gun control simulators showed up. Games moved from something one did solo to massive on-line multiplayer events, entire social networks evolved both in and out of game space. Even though the interface possibilities are limited as to how you can manipulate the virtual reality (basically moving and executing ... mouse and click) the mental and moral components have evolved significantly with the Karma effect and some fascinating plot oriented material (see the Mass Effect and Fable games). Now another aspect has been improved with automatically orienting 3D headsets like the Occulus Rift. Even though the processing and animation challenges are huge I suspect that will push the boundaries of a player being able to "wander around" in various game environments more and people like me, who are fairly game illiterate, will enjoy being a tourist in the game more than actual playing ... certain games have increased this aspect recently.

The next step will probably be to increase the possibilities when it comes to interacting with the VR environment ... basically something better than the current state of moving, pointing, clicking, shooting and talking to other players. The possibilities for education, rehabilitation (VR "game like" spaces are already being used to treat PTSD), and completely new and different (not like current "games") types of entertainment are extraordinary.

I just study media because it's the business I work in, I don't regularly play in any of these VR experiences so some real gamers should chime in. However, it seems to me that being in the game development business today is like being in movies in 1916

With a background in or working in literature and film, the multidimensionality and ability for "time" to pass differently in game space is VERY challenging to me! My art has been the total control of the audience's perspective. The idea of giving up that control has me wondering what to do and if I would even want to try but it is exciting. So many of the directions our future is headed in seem pretty rotten to me but this one at lest feels like a brave new frontier.

It's a whole other way of being both alone and with others in the dark.
 
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MikeKardec

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On another subject: if I was a filmmaker wanting to try something innovative today I would experiment with beautiful "environmental movies that followed characters through a interesting but low conflict story. Given some of my experiences dealing with contemporary college life I suspect that millennials might enjoy this if done right.

Normally, any piece of fiction proceeds by giving a character a goal and then making the absolute WORST possible things happen to them in the pursuit of that goal. If they succeed at something prior to triumphing in the end it is only so the writer can set them up for an even greater failure along the way. I don't believe that it is healthy to feed millennials pretty, conflict free and morally unquestionable film and fiction but I do believe it would be an interesting experiment to see if they'd like it. I think that a paradise-like virtual reality, even if it was just the crude VR of the cinema, might go over with them. A SLIGHT experiment in the direction of this sort of lifestyle porn was the TV series Entourage, a show where there were nearly no stakes, was highly hedonistic (the stereotypical millennial would object to some of that), and everything tended to work itself out with little consequence ... oh, and very pretty. Entourage Lite.
 

philosophygirl78

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I used to have another observation for this argument: When you watch a projected (celluloid) film, you are actually looking at a dark screen 50% of the time, because the projector's shutter closes as frames are pulled down and positioned 24 times a second. The persistence of vision phenomenon makes it "invisible", but at some subconscious level, you know you're in total darkness.

Alas, with the now nearly universal switch to digital projection, which refreshes the image much more frequently and without intervening blackness, this is no longer true.

(So I always pull out my 16mm cartoons when I throw a party: old-school projection still has its own particular magic!)

The more modern digital production also allows for multi-layer messaging to occur to the receiver.... I like old projection films. Theres a saying: We always see our nose, but our brain chooses to ignore it... (PS: Dont cross your eyes). o_O
 

Inkstainedwretch

One Too Many
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On another subject: if I was a filmmaker wanting to try something innovative today I would experiment with beautiful "environmental movies that followed characters through a interesting but low conflict story. Given some of my experiences dealing with contemporary college life I suspect that millennials might enjoy this if done right.

Normally, any piece of fiction proceeds by giving a character a goal and then making the absolute WORST possible things happen to them in the pursuit of that goal. If they succeed at something prior to triumphing in the end it is only so the writer can set them up for an even greater failure along the way. I don't believe that it is healthy to feed millennials pretty, conflict free and morally unquestionable film and fiction but I do believe it would be an interesting experiment to see if they'd like it. I think that a paradise-like virtual reality, even if it was just the crude VR of the cinema, might go over with them. A SLIGHT experiment in the direction of this sort of lifestyle porn was the TV series Entourage, a show where there were nearly no stakes, was highly hedonistic (the stereotypical millennial would object to some of that), and everything tended to work itself out with little consequence ... oh, and very pretty. Entourage Lite.

Recently, my wife and I watched the Martin Sheen film "The Way."It was a film in which not much happens, but it was enthralling. Sheen plays a businessman who gets the news that his son has died in an accident taking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. The Sheen character works through his grief by taking the pilgrimage himself. The film follows him on the long walk from France across the Pyrenees and into Spain, staying at hostels and meeting other people making the pilgrimage for their own reasons, usually not religious in nature. Eventually he makes it to the end. It's a very low-key, beautifally filmed movie that is oddly satisfying.
 

MikeKardec

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Recently, my wife and I watched the Martin Sheen film "The Way."It was a film in which not much happens, but it was enthralling. Sheen plays a businessman who gets the news that his son has died in an accident taking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. The Sheen character works through his grief by taking the pilgrimage himself. The film follows him on the long walk from France across the Pyrenees and into Spain, staying at hostels and meeting other people making the pilgrimage for their own reasons, usually not religious in nature. Eventually he makes it to the end. It's a very low-key, beautifally filmed movie that is oddly satisfying.

Even without catering to conflict adverse 20 somethings, many films these days are so crammed full of everything it gives you a headache. I like a little something going on but I'm not as demanding as your average studio executive thinks I am.
 

MikeKardec

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The more modern digital production also allows for multi-layer messaging to occur to the receiver.... I like old projection films. Theres a saying: We always see our nose, but our brain chooses to ignore it... (PS: Dont cross your eyes). o_O

My nose is rather large and occasionally I get the feeling that I am suddenly plummeting down it!

If you can find it there is a wonderful old short story called "Sub-Lim" by Keith Roberts about a failing animation studio that has an employee who can draw Rorschach-like drawings that can control an audience's thoughts and feelings. After using him to battle their way to broadcasting success, the producers force him to manipulate each other thus bring their demise. Very Noir and creepy, a touch of Double Indemnity.

Something makes me thing that you would like stories by Gene Wolfe too. Wolfe was an industrial engineer, invented Pringles potato ch -- well, whatever they are, and wrote some of the most intelligent, and amusing, SF from the 1970s on. Just to start with, he wrote three utterly different short stories entitled; The Island of Doctor Death, The Death of Dr. Island, and The Doctor of Death Island. Cheeky.
 

Julian Shellhammer

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Revisiting this thread, I am reminded of an article, posted somewhere, either on the net or in a print medium, that up until the 1960s, families would go to the movies, not to see the latest "blockbuster", but because the studio system delivered a quality product that Dad and Mom could take the kids to without a worry about the content. As the author put it (and I quote from a faulty memory), it didn't matter what was showing, you were going to the movies for a well-constructed entertainment. I remember dressing like we were going to church to see Ben-Hur or How the West was Won or It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World when the road shows came to town.
 
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