Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Theatre Worthy

Movie Madness
Does anybody else have the feeling that cellphone ringtones have become the blaring car alarms of the decade. Remember those? They were obnoxious and ultimately worthless since they went off constantly and became electronic cryers wolf? Well, ringtones won't be quite so worthless, but i suspect they will long instill the same violent reactions from those who have to listen to them constantly until there is a national backlash and ringtones become declasse.

I am one of those who thinks that cellphones, and general rudity, has quite nearly ruined watching movies in theatres (such that i tend to go on weekday nights when few people are present -- see my pet peeves posts at milkriverreviews), and so it is with some gratitude that i see in the months since i began ranting that theatre owners are taking this seriously. It's about time considering that, coupled with outrageous ticket prices, it's driving my attendance down, and i'm sure that of many others.

Instead of jamming cellphones, what if someone came up with (probably already are capable) the technology to ring every phone in the theatre that's on, say during the ads or trailers, and when the patrons answer ask them to please turn off their phone, or set it to vibrate, and that if it rings during the show to please exit the theatre to answer it, lest they be escorted out permanently.

And frankly, though i'm mr. civil rights, i see no issue with jamming phones as long as there's a huge poster out front that notifies patrons that their phones are being jammed. The patron has a choice to enter and watch the movie unimpeded like everyone else, or they can go home and watch something on satellite. Or perhaps offer that, if they expect there could be problems with kids at home, to leave their phone at the desk to be answered for emergency purposes.

The idea, proposed in the article that it's dangerous to not have one on you in case of emergency is baloney. There's always help just out the door. We didn't have these things available until recently and unless i missed it there hasn't been a rise of any kind in lives saved by 911 calls from theatergoers. We could get hypothetical all day, but i still live in an America unfettered by terrorism, despite colored warnings (which seem to have quietly slipped away lately . . . anyone else notice that?).

Speaking of ticket prices. We're paying $6 here. When i have to go to SA or Austin to see a film i'm generally paying $10 or so. Well, besides being able to dictate my viewing environs, watching at home makes better sense for a lot of reasons. My chief one would be that, knowing already there are so many films out there i can't hardly keep up and, having a bit of patience, i can buy, on DVD, most anything that comes out for the price of a ticket. Best of all, i can then watch it ad infinitum, with friends if i want, lend it out, and have the benefit of all the extras including deleted scenes, commentary tracks and documentaries.

I suspect it's the same at a place near you -- once the initial renting boom is finished, the local video rental store puts its DVDs up for sale, used mind you, but almost always in near-perfect shape, for anywhere from $5 to $10. I can collect all the big-time shows for next to nothing. And patience and keep my eyes open means i can collect the more obscure ones, and even some that are years past their rental state for close to nothing too.

Wal-Mart (which i loathe, but will take advantage of because i'm poor) has rotating specials on overstock, some of which are outstanding movies. Recently they had some classics up for sale for $5 -- undoubtedly someone misgauged whether they'd sell -- now they're special pickings for connoisseurs.

None of that of course really beats seeing a great film up on the big screen in a theatre. What beats it is the constant distraction of people who you have to wonder why they spent all that money to not pay attention and enjoy the flick. So i'll still manage to go to some films at the theatre, but the bad is rapidly overwhelming the good of the experience.

If only there was CD rentals that you could buy cheaply afterwards. Music companies might still be happy instead of declaring war on their customers.


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