So the Oscars ratings plummeted 58% from their already all-time low last year. But is that surprising? I feel like a lot of people feel disconnected from movies, hadn’t felt motivated to see the nominees, and frankly these days you can see all the highlights the next day. There is a whole conversation to be had about award shows, how relevant they feel in their current state, etc. But let’s set that aside. Because I want to focus on theatrical distribution itself. And why, to me, it’s still so important.
Personally, I wanted to see more of the nominees this year. But I’ve just been in a headspace where sitting down to watch a whole movie just hasn’t appealed. I do plan on catching up. But, that’s the point. If a movie is streaming, there really isn’t the same impetus to see it right away. And while, yes, I’ve paid for whatever streaming service it’s on, that cost is diffused. So mentally I just don’t attach the same value to it.
I dearly love going to the movies. Disconnecting from messages and social media. Being surrounded by darkness and other people. Yes, you fear bad crowds. There are friends of mine who won’t go to a serious drama or a slower-moving horror movie because the crowd might be a bunch of idiots. And, I get that. I still take the gamble though. When you get GOOD crowds… it’s magic. I don’t think theater exhibition is going anywhere.
The Needle Drop
I have a big vinyl collection. I enjoy listening to vinyl. Is the sound superior? Probably not with my set-up. But there’s something to be said for the ritual of it. There’s a reason why we humans have liked rituals for thousands of years. it’s satisfying. To me, the ritual of taking a vinyl out of a sleeve, putting it on a turntable, and putting a needle down… sure, it can be awkward and time consuming. It’s nice to have digital as an option. But maybe we should celebrate things that slow us down.
It’s Just Not the Same
Just like putting a record on a turntable, the actual process of going to the theater is one I enjoy. It is utterly unlike anything else, and there are films I’ve seen this year I’m very sad I didn’t get to see on the big screen. Am I a dying breed? Maybe. But I do think there are signs that this isn’t the case. It’s nice to have the option to watch movies at home. But I think when it’s the only choice, people might start to appreciate theater-going more.
Just like ebooks and print, or digital streaming and physical records, I think we’ll reach an equilibrium. Personally, I utilize all of the above. To me, they have different functions. There are some books or comic books I must own physically and experience physically. Some I prefer digitally, etc. So I dearly hope that there are enough people like me to continue to support theaters and physical media. Because I think our lives would be poorer without them.