A few days ago I talked about the demalling of America. Today I heard a rebuttal on TV from a booster of shopping malls. She said that on-line shopping is not replacing trips to the mall; it is replacing catalogs. I am not convinced.
Another transformation that’s happening before our eyes is the slow but inevitable disappearance of the movie multiplexes that, like shopping malls, were overbuilt at the end of the 20th century. The last few times I went to a movie theater, there were an average of about six people scattered in a space that held about 200. All right, they were afternoon trips, but still…..
Why go to the theater? Home TVs are getting bigger, while the multiplex screens are getting smaller. At home, you control the environment; at the multiplex, your neighbors may talk, rattle their popcorn bags, or use their cell phones. Then there are the interminable previews and the inane pre-movie quizzes and commercials. I have it on good authority (my children) that some showings of some movies are packed, but it seems to me that there is a shrinking cohort of people who absolutely, positively, definitely must see the latest Matt Damon or Johnnie Depp movie NOW.
Then there is the fact that the hours spent on the iPad and the smart phone and the electronic games have to come from somewhere, since no one has figured out how to squeeze more than 24 hours into a day.
Finally, there is the cost of converting the film projectors to digital format, a substantial sum. I read that many theater owners just can’t afford it, but the trend is clear: celluloid is on the way out – and so are movie theaters.
Actually, I think the fade-out of the movie theater is sad. I remember warmly the nights I used to accompany my parents to the Codman Square Theater (“the Coddy”) to see a Fred Astaire musical, a “B” picture, previews of coming attractions, Movietone News, and a cartoon. They are great memories. But, as they used to say in the movies, “Time Marches On.”