What's Wrong With This Picturehouse?

Small minded people, Larger than life.

The Great Gatsby: Small minded people, Larger than life.

Yesterday I went to see "The Great Gatsby" in the theatre.

As a filmmaker I am always a little bit ashamed to admit how rarely I go to the movie theatre. Actually, I should amend that: I rarely pay to see a movie in the movie theatre: I went to a movie theatre in March for a film festival that I was participating in (both as a filmmaker and as a volunteer) and before that I went in February to premiere a new film that I'd made. Also, this being an industry town, I occasionally go the the theatre for free screenings and previews held by other filmmakers, but the last film that we actually bought tickets for was for "Ted" in July 2012.

I mention all this to make a point: going to the movies is not easy, quick, cheap, or convenient. My sister and I went to see "The Great Gatsby" as a matinee because the thought of paying full price for a ticket (well into two digits per ticket) was a needle-like pain in our wallets. We both have flexible daytime schedules that allowed us to take in a movie in the middle of the afternoon, but I am aware that this is a rare luxury. In addition, we both have enough means to purchase the tickets which are, themselves, not cheap even for a matinee.

The theatre was virtually deserted. Not including us, the audience consisted of about five people: a consumptive old woman in a wheelchair and her nurse, an older couple who I glimpsed only as dim blobs as we ducked in front of them to find seats during the previews, and a second couple that I glimpsed only as silhouettes as they ducked in front of us to find seats during the opening sequence. Even a multi-million dollar Baz Luhrmann extravaganza based on a work of classic American literature couldn't fill the house.

I believe I am witnessing the decline of the movie theatre, and it makes me a little bit sad. You would think that as a filmmaker this would make me angry or depressed since it is the most iconic outlet of my prospective career, but I'm not. Movies as a whole aren't disappearing, they are just appearing on different screens. It makes me wistful to think, however, that big-screen movies may go the direction of live theatre, which is to say that they will become the entertainment of the affluent who have the time, means, and inclination to go out to a movie theatre instead of staying home and watching it on TV or on their computer.

Whatever the future holds, I plan to enjoy going out to the movie theatre as much as I can in the present. And on the plus side: it's not that crowded.

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