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The Melting Pot

A digital, cultural conversation

the American culture shift with the decline of the cinema

Yeah, I'd be scared too, kid. Image from ramascreen.com

Reshaping American culture in an age of declining theater cinema.

There’s nothing like a day at the movies.

You walk into the ticket booth, shell out the appalling ten bucks and change, head to the concessions and inhale all the aromas of everything fattening and artery-clogging. Exhale. Pay up another five, six, seven – who really knows, anymore? – dollars for the necessities. Two minutes later, you’ve ambled down the processional to the main event: your film.

It’s shaped American culture from the early days of the black-and-whites and back-to-back features starring the likes of Humphrey Bogart to CGI effects of today. There’s something thrilling about the cinema. The aesthetic is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, and the focus is deeper and more special. Something about seeing the stars on the big-screen has made celebrities seem larger than life, and made our Hollywood entertainment what it is today.

The culture-defining phenomenon.

But recently, the classic Hollywood business has taken some heavy blows.

  1. We’re in a recession. It’s hard to shell out those extra couple of bucks. Movie theaters are struggling to make a profit while audiences give up and wait for the RedBox alternative.
  2. Big-budget companies are starting to get it. Upcoming Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy film Tower Heist was slated to be released on DVD just three weeks after its opening, but scrapped that plan after outrage from movie theater companies.
  3. UltraViolet is a new viewing library that can filter its options for each member of the family, unlike Netflix. Films like Green Lantern are choosing to release here, as well. This has caused the slow decline of DVD sales; people would rather stream it.
  4. For a beyond-personal viewing experience is the new Sony headset that will incorporate 3-D viewing just inches from your eyelids, making it all the more realistic without the ridiculous theater prices for a film in the third dimension.

The bottom line: people are becoming streamers rather than moviegoers. They’ll opt out of the gas+ticket+concessions prices of the theater to get the same experience in a more personal, individualized setting at home.

Maybe the decline of the theater was always imminent – after all, with all the changes of other media to become more personal (music to iPods, computers to laptops and TVs to tablets), the theater just can’t adapt. Does it sell one ticket per theater now, to compete with the sentiment of the iPod? The beauty of it is the appeal it has to larger audiences, so it flounders in an era where people want the trendy personalization and isolation.

It’s depressing that something so close to my heart and the hearts of almost everyone I know is disappearing. My dad would always take me to the movies as a kid – it was a treat to go once every few months. I remember being astounded by the size of the screens and my favorite characters came to life within that large setting, but a setting that was personal, nonetheless. I grew up in the Harry Potter era – seeing each movie with my friends at the theater was the best part. The large sounds, the thrills, the fact that we talked through every single movie trailer – those were the best times of my childhood.

But the culture that defined an entertainment genre of larger-than-life celebrities and the glamorous Hollywood in sparkling lights is dwindling. And that kills me inside – gone forever are the cinematic gems of my childhood. Soon, the movie theater and its all-American vibe will be just a memory among the personalized headsets and gadgets.

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