New Years Resolution: Go to the Movies (Especially THESE Movies)

Happy New Year everyone. As you think about your resolutions, I would like to suggest one to add to your list…It’s time to head back to the movies.

In conversations with friends over the holidays, I’ve heard a ton of excuses as to why many of them have not been to a movie theater in quite some time. Well, the time has come for everyone to stop with the excuses and recapture the magic that is “going to the movies.”

Let’s first deal with some of the excuses.

One common excuse is that folks are still scared of Covid or the Flu or RSV or whatever virus is floating around this week. Yet these same people are eating in restaurants– where I promise you conditions are way more conducive to viral spread than in a theater. For starters, in a movie theater, people are all facing the screen and not each other. In a well-mannered crowd (we’ll get back to this later), people may be chomping on snacks, but they are not constantly bloviating at the levels required to be heard above the din in a restaurant. On top of that, over the course of the pandemic, most movie theaters upgraded their HVAC systems to insure the safest possible air flow. If you are still nervous, just bring a mask.

Another complaint is that movie theater conditions are not great. The old tropes about sticky floors, broken seats, bad projection, etc, are hangovers from another era. Yes, there are theaters that are not well maintained, and you should avoid them. There are also theaters that are scrupulously maintained and really care about the presentation. Many of these are independent art houses, where the folks that run them have a high standard about how films should be presented. We need to support these institutions. I should add that many chain theaters are also capable of providing a good experience. Do your homework and find those locations.

Most theaters these days have reserved seating, so the annoyance of having to fight your way into a theater to get a decent seat is mostly a thing of the past. While chain theaters make you watch a half hour or more of trailers and commercials, the indie art film venues tend to limit them, once again making it a better movie-going experience. Continue reading “New Years Resolution: Go to the Movies (Especially THESE Movies)”

Premature Obituaries Part 1: Is The Movie Theater Business Dead?

With each passing week of meager reported box office, conventional wisdom in the press is that the tea leaves are pointing to the eventual death of theatrical moviegoing. While the numbers speak for themselves, the leap from near-term results to eventual demise is a simplistic analysis based on two factors that, while true, are not necessarily predictive. Yes, it is true that the closure of theaters during the pandemic helped to solidify home viewing as the default way of consuming new films. It is also true that many audiences (particularly older audiences) are not currently feeling ready to go back to movie theaters; nor for that matter, given their new home viewing habits, do they feel the need to.

But do these facts point to the end of the theatrical business? After all, the movie business has survived many existential threats in the course of its 100-plus-year history. The assumption here is that the business cannot adapt, as it has in the past, to the new realities in ways that could change the playing field. And the pundits seem not to be paying attention to other trends that are creating a potentially positive environment for a rebound. Continue reading “Premature Obituaries Part 1: Is The Movie Theater Business Dead?”

The Incredible Edens Theater

A number of years ago, I wrote a piece about Movie Theaters I’ve Known and Loved. It included the story of how I had one of my most formative movie experiences in a modernist masterpiece of a theater that was on the Edens Expressway in Northbrook Illinois. Yesterday, I stumbled across a YouTube video about the theater and its demise that had been made for local TV in the ’90s. For those of you who are fellow movie theater geeks and others who are interested in architecture, you might find this as fascinating as I did. Little did I know that the theater featured that largest hyperbolic paraboloid in the world. If you want to know what that means, you’ll have to watch the video (which by the way is separated into five short parts.) Enjoy!

Comments after the break… Continue reading “The Incredible Edens Theater”

Movie Theaters I’ve Known and Loved

I grew up in movie theaters. At a very young age, my mother started bringing me to matinees and later we would pile the family into the car and head to the local drive-in for double features. In my adolescent and teenage years, the fact that my family moved around so much meant that I had few friends. I spent all my spare time in movie theaters. By the time I went to college, movies were my life. I used to pride myself on the fact that I could name the theater where I saw every film I’d ever seen.

On a recent trip to Chicago, I walked around the Loop–the site of many of my most formative movie moments–and was astonished to see how little was left of what was one of the most beautiful movie theater districts anywhere. It made me very sad, but motivated me to write this piece about the movie theaters for which I have the fondest memories. They are in chronological order according to where they fit in my life.

The Park Plaza Theater in the Bronx was most likely my first movie theater experience. It was only a few blocks from where we lived, and this is where my mother first exposed me to movies. I remember the matrons in their white suits and flashlights trying to keep the kids–who were required to sit in a separate section unless they were accompanied by parents–quiet. The first movie I actually remember was a film that terrified me at the time. It had images that stuck with me throughout my life, even though I couldn’t remember what film it was. It was only as an adult that I realized that the movie I had seen was “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Continue reading “Movie Theaters I’ve Known and Loved”