We’re running a bit of a fever (Dengue? Avian flu? Munchhausen’s?) so apologies if this is a little woozy.
Looking back on the year that was, MTV‘s Karl Heitmueller sums up an oft-heard explanation for this year’s box office slump: theater-going sucks. Or at least, it does when held up against the average American’s apparently increasingly cushy home-entertainment system and increasing intolerance for other average Americans. Heitmueller bewails theatrical commercials, substandard cineplex technology, and other people, particularly young’uns.
Sorry, proud parents, but if your child is of pre-school age, he or she has no place being in a movie theater. Not even for "Chicken Little." Wait for the video. Small children simply do not possess the patience or attention span to sit quietly through a movie, nor do they enjoy the social consciousness needed to keep their traps shut so as not to bother anyone else.
So the 3-year-old running back and forth in front of us during the three-hour-long "[King] Kong" inevitably got bored and started crying, at which point his mother, rather than taking him outside, attempted to muffle his cries by stuffing his face into her armpit (!). She was asked to leave. (Yes, by us.)
The armpit method of parenting has rather fallen out of favor since its 70s heyday. Over at the New York Times, Charles McGrath presents himself as Heitmueller’s worst nightmare with a piece all in favor of talking during a film.
In my experience, Times Square theaters in the late 1970’s and early 80’s were the great arenas for talking back to the screen. I still have a vivid recollection of "The Hand" – a completely forgettable Michael Caine horror flick from back then, about an artist whose severed hand goes on to commit mayhem – simply because of some audience dialogue. "That’s his smitty!" one guy shouted as the hand crept along by itself. "No," another guy pointed out. "It’s his ex-smitty."
We’re probably in the minority here, but we’re totally on McGrath’s side, certainly for fluffier fare, but for most other films as well. Watching something on DVD (or, for that matter, a deathly serious press screening (yeah, yeah, that is a river we’re crying for you)) is a completely different and generally less enjoyable experience…we couldn’t imagine watching "King Kong" without a theater overflowing with raucousness and popcorn, and we have fond memories of everyone in the Alice Tully Hall flinching in unison at a particular scene in "CachÃ©." There’s something to be said for the concentrated DVD-watching experience, but really, it doesn’t feel quite genuine to us unless the floor’s gooey with spilled soda and someone’s kicking the back of our seat.
At best vaguely related: in an attempt to plumb the eternal cultural mysteries of the red states, Gil Brady at the LA Times hauls off to Wyoming to find out about the cowboy filmgoing experience by asking everyone wearing ranchwear whether or not they plan to see the "so-called gay cowboy movie" that is "Brokeback Mountain."