MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Home is Still Where My Eyes Are

Last year around this time I wrote a column about my issues with the seeing the latest films in movie theaters. I wanted to revisit that column because with summer blockbusters here, there’s a good chance that we’ll all be spending a great deal of time in air-conditioned (hopefully) movie theaters, trying to cool off, have some (over-priced) popcorn and some (passable) entertainment.

Regardless of whether or not the product put on screen was something worth watching, the simple joy of escaping to the movie theater was one of the principle foundations of my cinephilia. Like most kids, going to the theater was a great way to ditch the parents for a little while to hang out with my friends and try to make out with girls, something that is romanticized in films like Truffaut’s Small Change. It all goes back to the idea of ‘escaping.’ You could be escaping a terrible marriage like Mia Farrow’s in The Purple Rose of Cairo or you could be escaping poverty like most filmgoers during the depression or you could just be trying to escape the unbearable summer heat.

My problem remains that going to the movies now doesn’t offer much of an escape. And if you’re a kid, you might not want to blow all your allowance money for a single movie ticket and then break open the piggy-bank if you want some popcorn and a soda. And if you’re an adult, you’re stuck watching movies that are either out of focus or not properly displayed on the screen amidst a sea of rude people who will gladly put their stinky shoes right next to your face while they text message their friends about how bored they are.

The problem of cell phones is not merely the nuisance of being around someone who is texting, calling or twittering constantly but the concept that people are bringing the outside world into a movie theater. For me, going to the movies was a sacred experience; again, not just watching the movie but watching the faces of the people around me and laughing with an audience or crying with an audience. Now, I find myself resenting the audience I’m around because they don’t want to immerse themselves fully in the film; they want to do business or talk to friends on their phones while the movie plays in the background. I understand bringing a cell phone with you and keeping it on silent in case of an emergency or if you might use it as a watch, but you should be in that theater to watch a movie – or to make out, which is fine with me as long as you’re not puckering too loudly.

I’m incredibly lucky in that I’m now able to go to a lot of press screenings these days where the audience is a bit more interested in what’s happening on screen. There’s also comfy seats and great sound. But, I don’t really like going to press screenings all that often because I hate to see the faces of a lot of the folks around me; they all seem profoundly unhappy with the task at hand. I still get jittery and excited when I go to press screenings, somehow feeling like I’ve gained entry to an exclusive club that doesn’t realize I’m underage. But, some of the critics and journalists are on their fourth screening of the day and it’s become a real job for them. So, if it’s a comedy, there will be a few laughs but it’s not the same as being with a real audience that is howling not just at what’s on screen but at the fellow audience-members whose laugh has become infectious.

More and more, however, the home viewing experience has gotten better while the movie theater experience has gotten worse. With HD plasma screens and Blu-Ray players, I can watch movies at home with ease and pleasure and not feel like I’m missing out on anything besides an audience. If you’re sitting fairly close to a large High Definition television, sometimes the picture is even more clear and crisp than the best that movie theaters can offer.

Beyond that, one of the principle advantages that movie theaters have long held is the ability to see first-run films that you couldn’t see anywhere else. But there are two phenomena that are putting a crimp in that type of business: 1) the window between theatrical release and DVD release is getting shorter and shorter and 2) more and more films seem to be available on demand on the same date as the theatrical release.

The shorter window between theatrical and DVD release is primarily a wonderful thing. Some might say that this is precisely the reason that people stay home from the theaters, but I think a large part of why this has occurred is because of the studios being more and more adamant about grossing the largest portion of money during the opening weekend. During that opening weekend, studios receive the largest percentage of the receipts, which eventually evens out between the studios and exhibitors over the run of the film. Because of that, the majority of people are there opening night and weekend and then by the fourth weekend of wide release, people are no longer interested. So it makes sense that three months later, the studios would release the DVD before people forget the movie existed at all. But the problem is that more and more I find myself waiting for DVD because the wait isn’t as long as it used to be; if I knew, as I knew in the past, that I would have to wait six months or longer to see a movie at home that is currently in theaters, I would rush to see it. But now, I know the wait is only a few short months.

But I think the real future of the business lies in the VOD market. Just recently, I got to watch the new Steven Soderbergh film – The Girlfriend Experience – in the comfort of my own home for ten bucks. So, if I had a date with me, I would be saving fourteen dollars on ticket costs alone, plus I could make my own popcorn and open a soda and save an additional ten to fifteen dollars. Plus, I can kick my feet up on my coffee table and enjoy it and even pause the film if I need to use the restroom. Soderbergh’s Che and Bubble followed a similar release pattern and I think it is the wave of the future, giving people the choice of whether or not they want their movie-going experience to be shared with an audience in a theater or at home on their own couch.

Recently, when I went to go see Duplicity I was enjoying the movie thoroughly, but the guy behind me kept putting his feet on the back of my chair and hitting me in the head with his dirty shoes. I’m not one for confrontation, but I shot him a look and he stopped until later on he did the same thing. I moved my seat a few rows ahead. Now, this is not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in a movie theater, but when that is the typical experience of visiting a theater, it makes me long for my couch.

E-mail me your worst experiences in a movie theater. The winner will get their submission printed in next week’s column and virtual pat on the back from yours truly.
– Noah Forrest
May 11, 2009

Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon