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Why We Don't Go to the Movies Anymore

23 Jun, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The Associated Press story may have been shocking, but it wasn't really surprising. I'm talking, of course, about the wire-service story, filed last week, that found the vast majority of Americans — 73 percent — would rather watch a movie at home than go out to a movie theater.

I'm one of them. It's not just the escalating price of movie tickets and the horrible fake butter on popcorn that's gotten to me. Three things are keeping me away from the big screen, two of them directly tied into theater owners' quest for more profits.

Item 1: The big screen isn't. The recent proliferation of multiplexes has resulted in some pretty nice new theaters. But one thing that gets to me is the incredible shrinking movie screen. I remember going to the theater as a child, watching Ken Russell's “Tommy” at the Loma Theater, and feeling like I was getting swallowed up. I don't get that feeling anymore. And it strikes me as sheer idiocy that at a time when the average TV screen in the home is getting bigger and bigger, the Silver Screen is shrinking.

Item 2: Commercials. I stopped watching TV and listening to the radio because of the commercials. The theater used to be a safe haven from the screams and demands of Madison Avenue, but no more. And I refuse to shell out $10 and get hit over the head with 10 minutes' worth of commercials before the first previews even begin to roll.

Item 3: Control. I am a control freak. Video made me into one many years ago, getting me accustomed to watching what I want, when I want. DVD has fastened me even tighter into the driver's seat of selecting my own entertainment. I know, I know — with so many screens and so many staggered starting times, you can pretty much watch a new movie on demand. But I belong to the “close but no cigar” school: Until I can get a movie to start the moment I take my seat and pop a fistful of popcorn into my mouth, I'm not really in control.

Actually, there's a fourth reason, as well. And it just dawned on me. As soon as I finish my column, I'm going to pour myself a glass of red wine and plop myself in front of the TV, remote in hand. I'm almost done with season five of “Oz,” and then there's “Saved by the Bell” and “The O.C.” and a couple of season sets of “E.R.”

And maybe, just maybe, I'll squeeze a movie or two in there. But it's got to be on DVD. With so much stuff available to watch, who has time to go out anymore?

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