Thursday, August 13, 2015

Theater of the future? I’m staying home!

Back in the day – that would be way back in the day – I was quite a moviegoer, and probably went to a movie once a week.

I wasn’t an especially discriminating film fan. Rocky one week, something Truffaut-ish the next. If I wanted a laugh, I went to Woody Allen. (Honestly, he used to be funny.) If I wanted to metaphorically slash my wrists, there was always Bergman.

I seldom walked out on a movie, but I will have to confess that my husband and I left about 20 minutes into Star Wars. (Still haven’t seen it or any of the follow ons.) And, in one of the few acts of God I’ve ever experienced up close and personal, someone called a bomb scare into the old Exeter Street Theater about half way through Lena Wertmuller’s execrable Swept Away.

But mostly I used to love going to the movies.

And then there were VCR’s. And then there was cable. So I no longer felt I was missing out on anything by not getting to a theater to see whatever it was. I could find it a couple of months later at the video store, or a couple of weeks later on Pay per View.

Over time, movie-going became less and less urgent.

If I saw it now, fine. If I saw it later, fine. If I went years without seeing it, fine. I’d catch it eventually. Maybe. Yawn.

I generally enjoy myself when I do get to a theater, but there never seems to be any real reason to go. Most of what I know about the movies these days is the reviews I read in The New Yorker.

There are two films on the horizon that I would like to see sooner rather than later.

I adore Meryl Streep, so, despite the reviews, I want to get to Ricki and the Flash.

And Black Mass was filmed around here – including some scenes right up the block – plus it’s about one of our most iconic (in an icon-as-rotter sense) figures, Whitey Bulger.

Right now, I’m saying that I’ll get to the theater for both of these. (The biggest cinema in Boston is about a 5 minute walk from where I live, so there’s really no excuse.) But, never say never definitely.

But I can tell you one thing that won’t get me back: 4-D:

…a seating system that bombards moviegoers’ senses with vibrations and motions, gusts of wind, sprays of water, and even smells. (Source: BetaBoston/Boston Globe)

Years ago, I was sitting in a theater with my sister Trish and our friend Peter. The popcorn tub was in my hand, when all of a sudden I had some sort of weird spasm and that tub o’ hot buttered popcorn went flying out of my hands and into the aisle. By the light of the silver – okay technicolor – screen, I can still remember the stunned looks on the faces of Trish and Peter. (Sorry, guys, but that popcorn was pretty crappy, so no great loss.)

Based on that experience, I really don’t need vibrations and motions.

As for gusts of wind and sprays of water. Huh? Can you imagine the germy barrels of water that spray would be coming out of? Yuck-o-rama.

And smells? Maybe odor technology has improved over the years, but generally when something’s labeled “linen crisp,” or “sea breeze” or “citrus fresh”, the smells bear no resemblance to the real thing. (As in what’s the relationship between pine and Pine-Sol?)

But during a recent screening [of Jurassic World] at the Showcase Cinema de Lux in Revere, it’s unlikely anybody remembered to laugh. Not when their seats were lurching and rumbling beneath them at each monstrous footstep, and the stench of the burning chopper filled the theater.

Just what a want to experience when I’m at the theater. The “stench of the burning chopper.” Especially if I have to pay an additional $8 over the cost of a standard theater ticket for the pleasure of doing so. Not only would I be kicking myself for wasting that much money, I’d be worried about the carcinogens present in all that stench.

Dan Jamele, the CTO of MediaMation, which creates 4-D systems wants to transform couch potatoes into movie goers:

The 4-D experience could be the answer, said Jamele. “It’s a little stick of dynamite to get you out of your seat.”

Nothing like a ‘little stick of dynamite’ to make me want to grab a seat at the old cineplex.

I guess I’m just an old timer. One of the great pleasures of reading is to imagine what a character looks like, what being in the place being described feels like in real life, what that rose by any other name smells like. To large extent, that’s one of the pleasures of movie going as well. Do I need to have a gust of fan-generated wind blowing in my face to imagine what the desert wind was like that was blowing in Lawrence of Arabia’s face? Do I need a bit of fake North Atlantic spritzing me to feel like I’m on the bridge of the Titanic? Do I need a smell generator to accompany Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse Now when he says “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…Smelled like victory.”

I’d rather curl up with a good pay-per-view and leave the smells and whistles to my imagination.


1 comment:

Rick T. said...

The creators of entertainment today, and the consumers of it as well, have all either forgotten or lack appreciation for the role of imagination. When I was a little kid there were still radio dramas (well, soap operas perhaps, but still...) that my mother would listen to before we had a TV set. Gusts of wind and sprays of water? One had to not only imagine those, but everything else about the show: what the characters looked like, where they were, etc. Same thing you do when you read a book. I think it is more involving when it is up to you, the "entertainment consumer", to do some of the work; too easy to doze off when everything is being done for you.