Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Death of Cinema?

Though it's still a couple of weeks from being released, I want to talk about Steven Soderbergh's Bubble. The plot involves puzzling out a murder, but the mystery element isn't really what interests me. It's Soderbergh's ballyhooed move to release it simultaneously to theaters, DVD, and high-definition cable TV.

I love this quote from Soderbergh: "The theater experience isn't always pleasant. Theater owners need to address that. There are often problems with projection; tickets and concessions are expensive; theaters aren't always clean; people talk during the movie. They're making it easy for people to stay home."

Because I love the huge screen so much, I've figured out a workaround to ticket prices and noisy audiences: matinees. By sneaking in a movie right after work I'm able to pay less and I usually get the theater to myself. That doesn't help with the concession prices and cleanliness issues though. Soderbergh didn't mention all the annoying ads, but those are out of control too. He's right; theater owners have some work to do and I'm glad to see him take up the cause of trying to get them to do it. They're the only game in town for new releases and they won't feel the need to make moviegoing a positive experience until they have some real competition.

Not that Bubble is going to change anything. It's a first step in the right direction, but as an independent film with an unknown cast, I don't imagine it'll have much impact. It won't be the big metroplexes that'll feel any sting on this one; it'll be the smaller arthouse theaters (whose audiences are generally more polite and who don't have all the obnoxious ads). A couple of metroplexes may have shown Bubble on one screen, but wouldn't it be interesting if they decided to push back and not show it at all, essentially turning it into a direct-to-DVD release? Not a big splash for Soderbergh's statement.

Now if it was Ocean's 13...

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