Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Small screen vs. big screen
March 26, 2006 8:17 AM   Subscribe

It's still about the means of production, you see — but in the overdeveloped world, at least, it's not about the production of goods and services anymore. Today's virtual revolutionary is happy to leave all that to capitalists. The virtual revolutionary wants to control the production of meaning — representations of herself and her world as she wants them to seem. Or be. Or whatever. That's all she asks.
Or, rather, takes.
Thomas de Zengotita welcomes the big world of the small screen. Peter Bogdanovich, instead, still mourns that last picture show.
posted by matteo (22 comments total)

 
bugmenot for Los Angeles Times
posted by matteo at 8:20 AM on March 26, 2006


We've been over this before, I think. If the Hollywood brass didn't want the movie theater phenomenon to die, they shouldn't have killed it with incessant advertisements, shrinking screens, skyrocketing ticket and concession prices, and uncontrollably rude audiences. Meanwhile, technological advances have given us huge, crisp pictures and perfect surround sound in our own living rooms. There will always, I hope, be a place in our lives and hearts for the grand old movie palaces of the '30s and '40s, such as Baltimore's beloved Senator, long may its silver screen shine. But the ugly, sticky-floored multiplexes, with their dim projection bulbs and muddy sound? Let them die.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2006


Both very interesting articles, thanks for the post.

From Bogdanovich's essay: Movies, when you used to see them on the big screen, had a mystery that they no longer have. For one thing, they were irretrievable: Once the first and second runs were past, most films were not easy to see again.

One thing I've never understood: how did film scholars watch obscure films in the days before video tapes and DVD?
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2006


how did film scholars watch obscure films in the days before video tapes and DVD?

On actual film. The bar for entry was set pretty high when, in order to be a serious film scholar, you needed to install a projector in your own home.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2006


If the Hollywood brass didn't want the movie theater phenomenon to die, they shouldn't have killed it with incessant advertisements, shrinking screens, skyrocketing ticket and concession prices, and uncontrollably rude audiences.

Apart from the rude audiences, these developments were a reaction by theater operators (not film producers) to dwindling ticket sales after the rise of television. The crapification of the theater experience was at first a symptom of the malady, until it became part of the malady itself.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:51 AM on March 26, 2006


On actual film. The bar for entry was set pretty high when, in order to be a serious film scholar, you needed to install a projector in your own home.

Where did the films come from? Were they rented or sold?
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:52 AM on March 26, 2006


Apart from the rude audiences, these developments were a reaction by theater operators (not film producers) to dwindling ticket sales after the rise of television.

Agreed, but surely people were aware of the problem. Why didn't any film producers step in and say, "Hey, wait a minute. You're making our product look bad."?

Where did the films come from? Were they rented or sold?

Owned in private collections, I believe, generally speaking. Remember, duplication was extremely difficult and time-consuming in those days, compared to our modern era. People paid vast sums for prints. If you wanted to watch some obscure film, you needed to make contact with someone who owned a copy and was willing to let you view it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2006


Baltimore's beloved Senator, long may its silver screen shine.

Not to nit-pick, but even most true silver screens died a long time ago. My film profressor used to complain that the real Hollywood movie experience ended with the advent of color and the loss of real silver in the screens.
posted by soiled cowboy at 9:01 AM on March 26, 2006


The aesthetic of traditional movie lovers, the conviction that nothing can compare with the experience of a hushed audience...

The last time I was in a theatre with a hushed audience (outside of a film festival) was.... I don't remember. The late 70s, I think. I saw a movie in the theatre once where someone made two phone calls.

With the Toronto film fest included, I used to see (up till the mid 90s) upwards of 220 movies a year in the theatre. Now? I see 30 - 50 at the fest, depending on my work schedule, and maybe 5 the rest of the year.

Fuck their prices, their ads, their idiotic audiences (which they no longer send patroling ushers to keep in line), their line-ups, their improperly advertised start-times, their trivia screen bullshit, their $3 Cokes, their tiny screens with subway noises and sound from other theatres sneaking in, their just out of highschool managers who don't give a shit, their inconsistent projection, and their scratched up prints. I'll hit the dvd store, thanks.
posted by dobbs at 9:09 AM on March 26, 2006


dobbs!
posted by matteo at 9:14 AM on March 26, 2006


Oh, and my post also should have said fuck them for making it this way. I truly love seeing movies on the big screen when the audience is quiet and things are the way they should be. However, they ain't that way and HWood blaming everyone but themselves (pirates, downloading, dvd, etc) takes the cake.

matteo! :>
posted by dobbs at 9:20 AM on March 26, 2006


From Peter Bogdo: And though our communication capability has never been faster or more inclusive, it does not have the ability to let us experience the silent interrelating that happens in a live theater, at church or at a movie house.

Can't help wondering about the ass backwardsness of our times. Look at the size of mega-churches and the McJesus congregations compared to the ever shrinking screens of the humiliating multiplex experience (when you factor in the price, noise and herding mentality that forces audiences to sit through half an hour of trailers as Faint of Butt pointed out).

Seems that something that should be mostly a private experience of contemplation (Spirituality) has somehow taken over for that "silent interrelating" of a communal experience once possible at the movies. Regardless of our insular distanced society (or perhaps because of it) people are starved for communal experience, and they're going to get it where ever they can find it. I guess what I'm saying is that art or the secular should be appreciated more en mass while the spiritual should mostly be contemplated and practiced in a private way. Although of course people should act on their beliefs in deeds,( not imposing them on others). Actually as much as I've come to loath the hipster scene with its commercially manipulated herd mentality, it does manifest an almost desperate need for a shared secular cultural experience. (You can include the hip hop scene in that too.) I can say from direct experience of 20 years that I have never seen band shows in NYC so packed and selling out so quickly. Some ruminating (and procrastination) on a Sunday...
posted by Skygazer at 10:09 AM on March 26, 2006


Owned in private collections, I believe, generally speaking. Remember, duplication was extremely difficult and time-consuming in those days, compared to our modern era. People paid vast sums for prints. If you wanted to watch some obscure film, you needed to make contact with someone who owned a copy and was willing to let you view it.

True, but there were tons of retrospective theaters (especially in the bigger cities), Colleges etc..that showed old classics. Used to be a time in New York I'm told that you had your pick of great old films on any given day, but I guess tehy mostly died out in the eighties when rents skyrocketed and having so much empty space became prohibitory. Personally I enjoy watching old movies in semi empty movie theaters....although there's nothing like the opening night of a great film playing to a full house. That electricity in the air is pretty great.

I recommend the great Capra-esque Cinema Paradiso (view the original cut version first, not the directors cut!!) for anyone who wants to see what an impact the movies had on a community in the olden days (Olden days of Sicily). Everything including birth, death and all things in between take place. Ah the days when humanists ruled the earth....

*Nurse brings Skygazer a cup of hot water with lemon and informs him it's "nappy time"*
posted by Skygazer at 10:26 AM on March 26, 2006


Everything including birth, death and all things in between take place

i.e., in the actual Cinema Paradiso theater itself.
posted by Skygazer at 10:41 AM on March 26, 2006


How time passes. Yeah, I remember showing up for a movie whenever, and saying, "This is where we came in," as Bogdanovich puts it. Now, I am never ever late for a movie. If my wife starts watching a movie part way into it on TV, I walk out.

Hard to picture it, but yes, children, once upon a time you had to go to a theatre to watch a movie. And when a big movie came out and you went downtown to the big red-carpeted chandelier-bedecked movie palace, it was, of course, quite an event.

One other phenomenon of the pre-VHS days: we had a 16mm projector and would take films out of the library (mostly documentaries and cartoons) and invite all the neighborhood kids over.
posted by kozad at 10:59 AM on March 26, 2006


One other phenomenon of the pre-VHS days: we had a 16mm projector and would take films out of the library (mostly documentaries and cartoons) and invite all the neighborhood kids over.
posted by kozad at 1:59 PM EST on March 26 [!]


You can still do that at the New York Public Library Donell Media Center (They might do InterLibray Loans as well, not sure). They issue a catalog with all the 16mm films in the collection.
posted by Skygazer at 11:50 AM on March 26, 2006


Anyone here visit the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax in Los Angeles? I haven't been there in many years, but it was a great place to see old Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin flicks back in the early 90s. You have to love a movie theater that sells chocolate cake and lemon pie. And after the show walk a block down the street for matzoh ball soup at Canters...
posted by soiled cowboy at 12:17 PM on March 26, 2006


it's one of my favorite places in L.A., soiled cowboy. Canter's, too
posted by matteo at 12:33 PM on March 26, 2006


I've always really liked Tom de Zengotita.

Everyone should read Mediated. (Including me; I haven't yet. Heh.)
posted by blacklite at 6:52 PM on March 26, 2006


how did film scholars watch obscure films in the days before video tapes and DVD?

The local Film Society. Basically any decent university campus had one. Many should still.

I know a guy today who collects old movies. Ebay has been an enormous boon to this subculture in some ways, but has also inflated prices tremendously because now people get into it just for the arbitrage. He has a basement closet with literally hundreds of film reel canisters, and has a handful of unique or very, very rare originals.

There's also a trend toward cheap duplicates on modern, short-longevity film, often passed off as masters. He's been burned by this more than once (and he knows that other people don't have the chops to tell the difference, which is why it's profitable).

Used to be a time in New York I'm told that you had your pick of great old films on any given day

Is it Annie Hall or Manhattan where Woody Allen just spends hours in a theater showing some sort of old comedy film festival? But even when I lived there in the late 80s there were still a half-dozen retros where you could see a classic (though some gave you only one chance, or weren't even open all week). Time of my life.
posted by dhartung at 8:49 PM on March 26, 2006


Is it Annie Hall or Manhattan where Woody Allen just spends hours in a theater showing some sort of old comedy film festival?

Hannah and Her Sisters, the Marx Bros marathon?
posted by matteo at 5:09 AM on March 27, 2006


That's what I was thinking too Matteo. He deals with stress and turmoil by going to see old MArx bros. films. It's the end scene where he realizes that all that really truly matters in life is art and love. And he forgives Hannah (or is it Holly) for leaving him.
posted by Skygazer at 9:35 AM on March 27, 2006


« Older This heart-wrenching 4 part story...  |  Dead ravers littered the floor... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments