Welcome Eric To The Red Room
Ahhh television... It has taken several decades for the medium to come into its own, and yet it continues to redefine and reinvent itself regularly. Slowly but surely, television has arguably usurped much of the thunder once exclusively wielded by the cinema. Do not misunderstand me - I have always been an ardent movie fanatic and will remain so until the day I die; but the number of films that I see in the theater dwindles each year. My trips to the local movie house were most significantly affected by the purchase of a modest 42" 3D HDTV, but it is the apathy of the cinema chains and owners that has been the real game-changer. The indifference and complete lack of care given to the quality of screenings leaves me gob smacked. Almost half of the screenings that I have attended suffer from incorrect framing, poor sound mixing/volume, and/or out of focus presentation. This is simply inexcusable. I have seen this happen enough times to know that the projectionist is simply flipping a switch, and leaving the booth without ever checking for problems. Then there is the rapid increase of rude and obnoxious patrons who carry on conversations or use their cell phones during the film. I have almost gotten into fights by asking others to respectfully be quiet, because I have yet to see management EVER remove an unruly patron or even threaten to eject them. If theater owners want repeat business, they will have to make an effort to create an atmosphere conducive to an enjoyable experience. Finally, there is the lack of innovation. The cinema industry has languished for years, convinced that nothing would ever chip away at their hold on the entertainment market - certainly not television. For a very long time, there has been no significant change in the way that films are presented. Now that the threat to their empire is palpable, and television has started to noticeably chip away at their profits, the industry has scrambled to find hooks and gimmicks to bring the crowds back to their theaters. Among these tactics have been building speakers and motion generators into theater seats, premium presentations with full drink/food service, lounge chairs and tables, most recently 48fps presentation, and - of course - 3D. Most of this can be reproduced at home for varying amounts of money, and none of the above can really be considered truly an innovation to the industry.
Premium cable services have been around for a long time, but it was really the advent and proliferation of VHS home video (and laserdisc to a much lesser degree) that started to change the landscape of the motion picture industry. Gradually the price of owning your favorite film became affordable for even the most modest of incomes. Later, widescreen ratio televisions and higher resolution DVD (now it's HDTV and blu-ray) dramatically increased the money consumers were spending on home video entertainment. While it was true then and still remains true today that there will always be blockbuster or spectacular films (e.g. THE AVENGERS) which will draw people to the big silver screen, the innovations to home video and increased availability of films at an increasing rate have influenced most film lovers to opt for the convenience of watching films in their own homes over the annoyances of schlepping to the cinema and enduring the obstacles mentioned above. I have not even mentioned the multiplexing of cable and satellite television, pay-per-view, video on demand, and my beloved Netflix. The choices now for home viewing are absolutely INSANE. You could sit in front of your television 24/7 for months and never exhaust your viewing choices. It is not just quantity that has changed in home entertainment options, it's quality as well. While there have been many notable programs on television over the years, let's face it - never before have we enjoyed the smorgasbord of quality shows and programming that we have available at our fingertips right now. Even the networks have begun to step up their game (but only after having lost much of their viewership to edgier cable series).
So, do I - diehard film fanatic that I am - feel guilty about my increasing neglect of the theater? Not particularly. I want to see worthwhile films flourish, and I do not want to see a complete transition from celluloid to digital (I believe there is room for both). I would hate to think that I was partially responsible for hastening the demise of film. If the issue I mentioned earlier were addressed, I would be more than happy to frequent the cinema, although the days of going to the theater for every film that piques my interest are long gone.
Since networks and cable have started to spread original programming throughout the year, I find myself watching anywhere between 10 - 15 series at any given time. In between, I squeeze in movies and old series that I am catching up on or revisiting either on blu-ray, DVD, DirecTV or streaming services. Some of the series that I am currently watching are Continuum (SyFy), Lost Girl (SyFy), The Following (FOX), The Americans (FX), Touch (FOX), Once Upon A Time (ABC), The Simpsons (FOX), The Walking Dead (AMC), House of Lies (SHO), and Spartacus: War of the Damned (STZ). There are at least three or four new series starting in coming weeks that I might add my schedule as well (Thank God for the dvr!). I am also watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, 24, Alias, Heroes, and have started watching the occasional Freaks & Geeks and Arrested Development episodes when time permits.
I will be posting my thoughts and musings on these and other shows (and perhaps the occasional film) in future blogs. by Eric Billingsley Follow The Red Room Podcast on Facebook or twitter @redroompodcast
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