Cinema as communal experience
From an interview with writer/director Paul Shrader, an excerpt regarding “the idea that the power of the [film] medium is fading, from a cultural perspective:
PS: It’s not so much cinema as it is the whole theatrical construct – the idea of the projected image in front of a crowd in a darkened room. That’s going away. The two hour format is under siege. But the whole concept of audio-visual entertainment is expanding. How much difference is there between a five-minute thing on Vimeo and a thirteen hour season of The Killing? They’re both movies.
Tribeca: What are your personal thoughts on the reason the communal aspect of filmgoing is fading?
PS: Well, films were never communal just because people wanted a communal experience – it just happened to be the economic model that made the most sense. You could sell a lot of tickets and show the film at the same time to everyone. On a nickelodeon, of course, which predated movie theaters, only one person could watch the movie at a time. Nobody said, we want to sit in a hot room together! That’s just how it was. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. You know, this myth that people will always want to go out to the movies, they’ll always want a communal experience – I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. If you want to watch the next episode of Mad Men, would you really prefer to watch it in a theater? I don’t think so.
Tribeca: Do you see any value in that communal experience, or do you think it’s a romanticized notion?
PS: In a certain environment there’s a value – if you have kids. That’s why kids movies are still so successful in theaters – parents like to take their kids and let them interact with the other kids, they can all interact. But with all of the screens available to us to watch media on, it’s not necessarily the ideal experience anymore. I always prefer to go to an empty theater – I’d rather go to an eleven o’clock matinee than an eight o’clock show, so I don’t have to be there with all those people. The seats are uncomfortable, when there’s lots of people there you can’t get up so easily, so I prefer to go with less people there.