Saturday, July 26, 2008

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: $35 Tickets - Part V

By Lon S. Cohen

In this not so distant future there will be three types of movies made:

1) The Major Leagues. Most of the money will get thrown at great big 3-D, digitally filmed, computer enhanced, epics, period pieces with a cast of thousands, and great, big, honking, dramas. These will have the wide releases in all the big, lush theaters. Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and George Clooney all will sit comfortably on top of the heap.

2) The Minor Leagues. Then there will be the little guys: The zany comedies, the drippy romances, and the action-adventure movies. They will be ghettoized into direct releases, the digitally delivered films, pay-per-download or on-demand release. It will probably ruin a few careers in the process because those who can’t make the cut to the big guys, will never degrade themselves to the release formerly known as “direct-to-video.” But there will be room to grow as just with baseball, the big league will draw talent fromt his proving ground. Whole studios will be created just for the purpose of making movies for this format.

3) The Middle Class. Where does the middle class always get its fill of entertainment when it can’t go to the movie theater? (Remember a family of four can still easily cast $100 if you count gas and snacks in with ticket prices, which are over $10 per in most markets.) If you said television, you’re right. Just like now, television will provide the middle ground between going to the theater and the direct to video market, only the swell will get larger. Even now television is poised to take over the middle with superior technology available for large screen viewing and high quality surround sound. And it will only get cheaper to outfit your livingroom with an entertainment center as time goes on and more and more people see what is coming down the pike. It will be either adapt or die (or at least adapt or live without a decent way to watch a movie.)

4) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know that I said there will be three types of movies but I always throw in a wildcard into my lists. The fourth dimension consists of video games. Every year reports come out to show that gaming outstrips movies and other types of video based entertainment in dollars spent. While, the state of gaming is light years ahead of what it was when I started gaming with the original home based Pong that featured such exciting variations as Doubles Tennis Pong and Handball Pong, there is a sort of standard template of game with more and more interesting plotlines layered over them. Sure, you can interact with a world and story in Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto II if you choose to but the difference between another variation of first-person shooter and the next Lord Of The Rings Trilogy is still a little ways off. But things are changing fast.

My kids play X-Box 360 using the online network—called X-Box Live—through our WiFi against people all over the world. This shared experience has a crossover aspect and many great writers, directors, voice actors, CG programmers and artists have found a place at the table of gaming. Some like to overlap gaming with movies (which is why I make mention of it here) but I think gaming, while an alternative to watching movies, is not in direct competition. It’s like saying that when video books become popular it will then and only then become a competitor to movies, because it uses a screen.

Sure, television took a great big bite out of movie attendance in the 1950s but that was because you essentially got an identical passive viewing experience in the home as you got going to the theater—except possibly for the Technicolor, full sound system and the fact that television was mostly done live back then.

That said, gaming does provide a very good alternative to movies, but the concept of active engagement in a cool looking game and the passive act of having a movie storyline unfold before your eyes are two vastly different experiences.

5) O.K. O.K. I failed math in high school, so sue me. There is an even wilder wildcard out there, the beginnings of which are being seen in IMAX theaters, and that’s Virtual Reality (VR). Take the 3-D experience a step further and you have the ultimate in science-fiction plot devices, VR. Once VR gets to the point where it’s seamless, a new alternative may become available. VR will be able to enhance both movies and gaming (and the porn trade, but that’s another article entirely.)

This seems to be the way it’s going. Time to calculate all those tickets you’ve been shelling out for movies and save the dough for a better home system. Once you get used to the shape of things to come, it’ll be a lot easier to accept. With gas pushing four dollars a gallon and tickets creeping up to thirty-five dollars each, it’s going to take a while, but maybe if your home equity ever comes back, you’ll be able to afford to take the family out to see that next summer blockbuster.


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