Rob Edelman: The 21st-Century Movie-Going Experience
These days, movie-going can be an expensive proposition-- and I would hate to have to plunk down some hard-earned money in the hope of finding relaxation in a darkened movie theater and end up sitting through a comedy that is crass and unfunny or a thriller that simply is not thrilling, not to mention the very real possibility that the person sitting next to me will be yapping away on his or her cellphone while I am trying to soak in all the on-screen dialogue.
With all this in mind, one must thank one’s lucky stars for the ability to seek out movies old and new in the privacy of one’s home. For one thing, if you are streaming films or watching them on DVD or Blu-ray, you have complete control of your movie-watching environment. For another, if you wish to re-see a sequence in order to savor an actor’s performance or some slick directorial moves, the technology allows you to do so. Also, if the movie you are watching happens to be a stinker, well, you will not feel compelled to sit through it if only because you have just shelled out twelve or fifteen bucks for the privilege of occupying a seat in a theater.
This is not to say that I am anti-movie theater. It can be a special experience to see a film in a theater if it is a quality film, and if those around you are focusing on what is happening onscreen rather than on what they ate for lunch or where they will go for dinner after the movie is over.
For example, back in 2009, I recall seeing JULIE & JULIA at the Spectrum in Albany, which is my favored venue for in-theater movie-going. In this film, the great Meryl Streep offers a clever, vividly detailed performance as Julia Child. That night at the Spectrum, the audience as a whole was into Streep’s performance, and it was a treat to sit among moviegoers who were collectively savoring her inspired impersonation.
I also vividly recall seeing 48HRS, the 1982 Nick Nolte-Eddie Murphy action-comedy mix, in a Queens, New York movie house right after it opened. It was a Saturday night. The theater was packed. Those in the audiences were centered on what was unfolding onscreen. As a group, they collectively gasped at the action and chuckled at the comedy. This is a prime example of the communal experience of movie-going, and it is a prime example of movie-going at its very best.
Unfortunately, these days, such experiences are increasingly rare-- and so I find myself depending more and more on DVDs and streaming. With this in mind, I want to cite what has become one of my favorite sources for DVDs. That would be Kino Lorber, a company which markets everything from the latest American independents, foreign titles, and documentaries to films that are decades old and that star such legends as Buster Keaton or are directed by top-notch auteurs like Fritz Lang.
Companies like Kino Lorber are essential to the 21st-century movie-viewing experience.
Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.
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