Thursday, March 02, 2017

Three Reasons Why I Almost Never Go To the Movies Anymore


The last time I went to a movie theater was in January to see the Ben Affleck film Live By Night. Before that, it was a good year earlier, to see The Peanuts Movie in December 2015 and Spectre the previous month.

And the last before that was Big Eyes, in December 2014.

As you can see, there's a pattern here. I'm only going to the movies, on average, once or twice a year. And as it turns out, I'm in good company. Recently I came across the following chart showing the results of a survey taken just last month polling Americans about their moviegoing habits. (You have to subscribe to the site to get access to all of the source details, but you get the idea....however, I would be curious to know how many people they actually polled.)

Source: Statista
Hollywood should be alarmed by these stats; according to this, a combined 45% of those surveyed--nearly half!--stated that they never or almost never go to the movies. Of course, I believe there's a few obvious reasons for this: it's cheaper to rent and watch a flick on on-demand or from your local library  or stream it vs. paying a high ticket fee to see it on the big screen.

But for me personally, the reasons go a little deeper. Going to the movies isn't quite the joyful experience anymore that it was for me in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Here are three ways how moviegoing has changed from earlier decades--and hence, three reasons why I'm hardly going to a movie theater anymore (hopefully these won't make me sound too curmudgeonly.)

1. Less Movies Being Made That I Actually Want To See

I didn't watch any of the award shows this year, or last year for that matter. Part of the disinterest is because I've grown tired of listening to actors use the awards stage as a soapbox for their political beliefs. But mainly, most of the movies being nominated lately just don't appeal to me and even just the films being made in general feel very underwhelming.

When my friend and I went to see Live By Night, we had to sit through about eight previews and I can honestly say not a single one appealed to either one of us. It was one dark looking, shoot 'em down, action-oriented, CGI riddled hot mess after another...the new Vin Diesel movie, another with Keanu Reeves (John Wick: Chapter 2...was there even a chapter 1?), Kong: Skull Island, a dumb-looking comedy, and some horror flick that takes place in a Swiss mental asylum.

Where were the previews for the intelligently written dramas; something that looked like it might have a compelling story behind it and is capable of pulling some heartstrings? It doesn't seem like there's much that fits that definition in the pipeline for 2017.

Speaking of which, it seems lately that when Hollywood does produce a drama, it's a depressing one with no point or redemption to the story. For example, one of the winners at the Academy Awards the other night was Manchester by the Sea. I had no interest in seeing it and since recently learning the entire plot, will definitely pass. This movie (warning: spoilers ahead) is about a young man who lost his three children in a fire (that he set while drunk) and spends much of the film depressed and wallowing in his self misery. Although it was deemed an accident, his wife blames him for the fire, divorced him, gets remarried and has a kid which makes him even more depressed. He gets a chance to better himself when he is named the guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother passes away, but apparently botches that up too, and at the end of the movie he's no more happier than he was at the beginning of the film. The end.

I know someone out there right now is saying, "But Pam, that was a movie about what life is really like; sometimes there's no happy ending."

To which I say as an optimist, I would rather my money be awarded with knowing that the possibility for a happy ending can still exist in this world.

I'm not saying that Tinseltown should be giving us nothing but technicolor lollipops and sunshine, but if you're going to make a sad fictional film, at least give moviegoers a silver lining to it.

At least Manchester by the Sea isn't a remake, or the latest of a long list of sequels (do we REALLY need another Pirates of the Caribbean installment?)

I could dwell on this all day, but bottom line -- there just hasn't been much coming out lately that I want to see, and that includes renting it on on-demand.

There's been very few films during the past decade that have dazzled me with a combination of a compelling plot, juicy dialogue, authentic looking costumes, sets, cinematography, etc. and that includes Best Picture Oscar winners in recent years, like Spotlight and Birdman. Snooze. Lately I find myself skipping over the latest releases for on-demand, and curling up with a book instead.


2. The Rising Cost of Going to the Movies

I know that nothing is really exempt from inflation, but it's crazy to fantom that a family of four can easily drop around $75 or more on an afternoon at the movies today if they get regular priced tickets plus some snacks. It seems every time I've gone to the movie theater, the price of popcorn has gone up yet again; you'd be better off saving the money for an actual meal before or after the show (except the smell of that popcorn is so damn addicting.) I realize that theaters have added a lot of perks such as reclining seats, bars, and reserved seating to the modern moviegoing experience, but personally I'd rather have the "luxury" of paying only $8 a ticket, be allowed to bring in my own food and drink from home if I wish, and watch the film in a standard stadium seating theater.

Some movie chains do offer memberships where you can see a movie for free or receive money off the cost of a ticket after you've seen so many films, but I can't help but feel this is a marketing ploy to help offset the cost of lost business in recent years.

3. Putting Up With Other People

Thankfully this really hasn't happened all that often, but right in the middle of Live By Night, a couple came in with a young child--perhaps no more than 5 years old--who then proceeded to talk and make a fuss until one of the parents took him to the concession stand to get a snack. But...WTF? The movie was rated R. I realize the kid was with his parents, and believe it or not, he did quiet down once he had food, but I do have to question why anyone would bring a child that young into a movie that contained violence and profanity. It seems that a lot of parents these days do not want to be bothered with hiring a babysitter, so their solution is to push the limits and take their kid anywhere, even if it's typically a venue for adults only.

As my friend and I were leaving the theater, a couple behind us was actually complaining about what happened as well, and we ended up chatting with them a bit about how one parent should have taken the boy to see a kid's movie while the other parent watched the Ben Affleck film.

Then there's the whole mobile phone thing...it's sad that movie theater chains must remind us before the coming attractions that mobile devices should be turned off, and ringtones set to vibrate. However, as we all know, it doesn't always happen.

OK, I've griped enough. If you're not really going to the movies all that much, either, let me know your reasons why in the comments!

13 comments:

  1. Okay, first of all, you gotta see LA LA LAND. And MOONLIGHT.

    Second, I totally hear you, especially regarding high ticket prices. I recently paid $16 for a non-3D, non-IMAX movie without even realizing it at the time, and that's not the most I've ever paid for a movie.

    Don't underestimate the value of theaters which offer memberships. Often, such theaters are non-profit, and can offer a wider range of movies besides the Hollywood stuff.

    Do you live near an Alamo Drafthouse theater? They have a zero tolerance policy on talkers and cellphone users. You can't get away with that sort of thing there.

    I'm not surprised that moviegoing has declined in the face of streaming and Netflix and VOD. I think one should be pickier when it comes to movies. Maybe it'll force Hollywood to make them better.

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    1. Thanks for the tips, Rich. "Moonlight"'s premise sounded depressing to me, but if you can tell me that it has a redeeming ending, I'll watch it when it's available on on-demand. I do want to see "La La Land", but I feel that it won't compare to the MGM musicals of the '50s and '60s. Two nominated films that I definitely DO plan to see are "Fences" (again, the plot sounds a little depressing, but I'll watch anything with Denzel Washington in it) and "Hidden Figures."

      We don't have an Alamo Drafthouse in my area, but we do have another independent theater that's a short drive away that screens a lot of indie films in addition to the mainstream ones.

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    2. MOONLIGHT is a movie about love. Full stop. Hard stuff happens, but ultimately, I think it's uplifting. LA LA LAND isn't that much like am MGM musical, but for what it is, it's sweet and pleasant and enjoyable. FENCES is very dramatic, but I wouldn't call it depressing. You'd definitely like HIDDEN FIGURES.

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  2. I've stopped going because none of the theaters here enforce the cell phone rule. I can't concentrate whith cell phones lighting up and ringing. It's just cheaper to wait till a couple months after a movie is released on dvd and buy it for cheap and get to watch it in the peacefulness of my own home.

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  3. I don't visit theaters to see films unless the film is of such quality that a big screen is required for full enjoyment. Period. Last film viewed was last July and it was "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" at the Florida Theatre.

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  4. You took the words out of my mouth. I agree on all points. I go even less than you do. I can't stand the cell phone problem and the general rudeness of people. You paid the money, now be quiet and enjoy the movie. These days I'll typically go to a historical theater here that was built in the '20s. They show classics, and it's gorgeous with Mediterranean architecture. The audience is usually appreciative and polite. The last 'new' movie I saw in a theater was "Love and Friendship" with Kate Beckinsale. That was a very good, uplifting film. I'm like you; I like to be happy.

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    1. Sounds like a cool theater! Have not heard of "Love and Friendship" but will check it out.

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  5. Pam, you make all good points here. I'd like to add two more to your list. First, most movies nowadays seem to be compelled to make some politically correct statement, even when it isn't called for by the plot or setting. I get tired of being preached to and certainly don't want to pay for it. Second, movies increasingly rely on CGI for special effects, which I find boring. I miss the special effects in the old movies, even when they weren't perfect. It added real creativity to the movie. Frankly I'd rather save my money and watch "Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus" on the SyFy channel! Much more entertaining!

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    1. Thanks, Mapster. I did mention CGI. One exception where I really enjoyed a CGI-based movie was last year's update of "The Jungle Book."

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  6. Yes, yes and yes...The real problem is that producers see CGI putting butts in the seats (i.e., 3D ticket sales), so that's what they're all pushing. On the one hand, the movies I enjoy are dramedies (personally I hate that today's comedies have become pratfall cliches), family dramas (Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? An epic classic), or mindless popcorn grazers that didn't require extreme violence or potty mouth dialogue to be enjoyable (The Thin Man series. I love the double entendre's and the fact he's a lush and makes no bones about it). It's not that we're getting older that makes us curmudgeonly, it's because most of the movies being released today are poop. Don't get me started about the lack of common social manners, it's appalling. Same with ticket prices, which can be laid at the feet of the movie companies. Theaters charge so much for the snacks to make a profit. Most movies are a break even proposition for the theater owner. Good article Pam, I appreciate it.

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    1. Over the weekend I rented "Allied", the WWII-era Brad Pitt movie that got a lot of media attention as its release coincided with the news of his impending divorce. It was just meh; very mediocre, and not something I would care to watch again. And that's pretty much how I feel about 90%-95% of the movies I've seen in the past five years. Sometimes you're better off watching an old classic, as you've mentioned.

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  7. I agree, not a particularly good movie. He does love the genre. Did you see Fury? The war violence is extreme and intense but I thought Brad did an admirable job as a Sergent on the precipice of a breakdown who keeps moving forward. Getting back to your point, it's difficult to find the gems in the muck nowadays.

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    1. I have not seen "Fury" yet, but I really loved "Inglorious Basterds" even though I couldn't stand Pitt's character in it (which made for great comic relief during the Italian speaking scene.) Another recent Tarantino favorite of mine is "Django Unchained" and yes, both movies have over-the-top violence and rewrote history, but I believe "Django" was the last film I saw in the theater that really bowled me over with all of its ingredients. And it took me a couple of minutes to realize I was watching Samuel L. Jackson when he first appeared!

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