December 05, 2014

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Moviegoing, on the other hand, has been in decline for a while. Television’s five hours a day tower over the half-dozen times we go to the theater a year. Cheap home entertainment allowed video games to eclipse movies long ago, and 2013 was Hollywood’s worst summer in eight years.

Although television is healthy and film has AIDS, there is a cure. The millennials I spoke to said they pirate movies for plane rides, old seasons of TV shows, or when they want something obscure”€”but they still enjoy going to the theater for over-the-top blockbusters.

This is the logical future of film. I saw Gravity and Interstellar on IMAX, and to watch them on a computer would be like hearing Johannes Brahms through the headphones of the guy next to you on the subway. Both films seem designed specifically for the theater, as pieces of satellite shrapnel explode from one edge of the screen to the far corner 72 feet away. The bang from an exploding spaceship can be deafening, but it should be, we just got hit!

The tickets were $21 each plus about $100 in babysitter costs, but I would have paid twice that. The free market has spoken. It has banished rom-coms to the living room and reserved theaters for superheroes who throw buildings at robots.

Steven Spielberg says the only way to avoid this is to allow ticket prices to fluctuate. “€œYou”€™re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man,”€ he told an audience at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts; but “€œyou”€™re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.”€ Spielberg had a hell of a time getting the somewhat uneventful Lincoln into theaters and admits it was only possible because he co-owns the studio.

Either way, we should be pretty happy with the way things are going. Hollywood can spend a quarter of a billion making a handful of incredible films and host them in theaters that are just as mind-blowing, and the rest of us can tinker away with indies on Netflix. That’s what I did with my film, How to be a Man, and it’s enjoying an infinite run online. We gave up on a theatrical release very early in the game, and that allowed us to write a story totally devoid of restrictions. Indie films should give up on getting into theaters. They don”€™t belong there.

The studios have a choice, too: they can spend billions trying to save millions. They can prosecute individuals for stealing and try to hold back this tsunami of free movies, or they can get with the program like Monty Python did. That’s the beauty of capitalism. You can pretend to be Moses and try to move the ocean, or you can grab your surfboard and ride the wave.


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