When I heard about The Hateful Eight it had my curiosity from the facts – a new Tarantino movie, Samuel L. Jackson as a main character, 70mm projection – but it had my attention when I learned that there would be an intermission. Oh the joys of taking a break from a movie to have time for yourself. One can use that time to buy popcorn, go to the bathroom without fear of missing a moment or talk about the first half with friends, family, and strangers. An intermission is something I didn’t know would become a luxury of the movie going experience.
Growing up near an accessible Bollywood movie theater in Long Island had it’s perks, including, but not limited to, purchasing samosas at the concession stands, connecting with my culture through the big screen, and having intermissions or intervals. My earliest movie going memories are at this theater with movies like Mohabbatein and Raju Chacha. If the movie was good, the intermission was a moment for 8 year-old self to be pumped about how awesome a cheesy Bollywood action scene was. If it was bad, it was a chance to stretch my legs and served as an indicator of how much longer till I was home. As time went on, the movie theater closed down and my family found solace in a different theater. Unfortunately, it was a mixed theater (showing Hollywood and Bollywood movies) and the projection didn’t turn off during the intermission. I learned to accept the fact that I’d sit in darkness until the credits rolled, not knowing what a good thing I lost until it was gone.
Living in NYC, I knew I would be able to find a theater showing The Hateful Eight with an intermission. However, I wanted to ensure this would be a fact. With a weather eye out for the list of theaters showing the Roadshow Format and a quick call with a live person, I was satisfied that my venue would have an intermission. I quickly purchased a ticket no matter the cost. Being able to relive a childhood experience is a chance to stretch the limits on the purse strings, the limits being $20 plus a processing fee. My friends, not all big movie fans, were also excited to join me. We went to the Village East Cinema, a theater venue as grand as the event itself. It was a familiar moment when the house lights came on, with the tale left unfinished. I was able to get popcorn, critique the movie with my friends, and partake in other non movie-related discussions. Unlike going to non-intermission movies with others, we were able to be at the movies and truly be together during this period. Eventually the lights went back down for the movie to peacefully resume where it left off. Tarantino, being the guy he is, even made a self aware joke knowing the audience had just gone through an intermission. The movie concluded and I left feeling content from reliving something I thought would never occur again.
Overall it was a good experience, but it did come at a cost. Literally: $20+ for a movie is not practical for the everyday consumer. I am conflicted before I go out to the movies. As consumers we vote with our wallets. This encourages me to pay for movies deserving and sometimes needing of my money (looking at you The Nice Guys). I evaluate if it’s worth paying the big bucks to trek to the movies or to hold off and watch it at home. In both ways I support the movie, but by going to a theater my vote counts for more due to the impact it has at the box office. If I do go to the theater I try to find a deal from either bulk purchases through Costco or using my NYC ID to get discounted movie tickets. If I choose to financially support the movie at home I will rent via Google or iTunes and not torrent or stream through shady means. My review for The Gift was inspired after I saw it through renting it on Google one night. Ideally I would love to go to a theater every time, but it’s not practical largely due to financial reasons.
This may seem like painstaking process, hunting for deals or sacrificing a night out to watch on the small screen at home, and I’d be lying if it wasn’t one. Movies bring magic and part of that magic comes from being in a special temple with other devotees for one sermon. When discussing the matters of future multi-million dollar flops in 2013, Steven Spielberg said “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man.” With my local theater pricing a Saturday afternoon ticket at $16, sadly his prediction isn’t that far fetched. Going to the movies shouldn’t be like going to see a Broadway show where prices are so high and only high value content gets to be shown on the “stage.” With the birth of the camera the first movies from it’s creators, the Lumière brothers, showed workers leaving a factory, a family feeding a baby, and other simple moments. It depicted the life of an everyday society and that’s who should be able to enjoy movies, the everyday person. Regardless of income, age, or genre preference, access to affordable movie going experiences shouldn’t head towards the same decline as operas (NYT article).
Tom McCarthy, director of Spotlight, shares a recent movie going experience. (Slight spoiler warning) I saw his movie in theaters and when the ending came, with the list of city names, I felt my theater’s shock. Their was a moment of collective silence from the horror we all witnessed. That moment had a great impact, forging something between all the audience members. That was something that could only occur on the big screen. He describes a similar bond created by going to the movies, one created from humor instead of horror like mine. His theater wasn’t packed, but they “were totally connected through the movie… we could’ve gone out for a beer afterwards.” He also addresses the issues with the stay at home experience. Admittedly it is easy to not spend the money, enjoy the comfort of your home, and not have to deal with the unpredictably of a movie theater (rude audience, unwanted child crying, etc). He describes watching Nightcrawler at home, an excellent movie, with brilliant writing and a gripping performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. A movie sure to keep anyone glued to their seats. However, his wife had to get up from the movie, twice, because she couldn’t bare it. She had the ability to ignore the movie, distract herself from it, but if they were in a theater, “you [his wife] wouldn’t have gotten up.” The effect of being at the movies is subtle and it’s created by the journey undertaken of leaving the comfort of your home. McCarty sadly ends with a thought that “there’s a whole generation that might miss that [going to the movies] if we’re not careful.”
The movie theater is on an unsavory path, but I do not believe McCarty’s words will come true. Making movie theaters affordable and relevant again will not be an easy task. The solution could be from having intermissions. Letting the audience take a break to relax and potentially spend more could result in higher profits for the theater and lowered ticket prices. Perhaps the movie industry will realize the price gouging on tickets and adjust itself with due time. Whichever solution or solutions the market arrives at will yield one sure result – the continuation of the movie magic.