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?”
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!
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”