Why do we still go to the movies?

“He’s this way, on the way to the movie theater.”
“He’s this way, on the way to the movie theater.”

It’s summer. If you’re a kid, that means it’s time to go look at a dead guy your buddy found. If you’re a farmer, that means carrots. And if you’re a movie producer, that means pouring millions into loud, dumb-as-a-bucket-of-whey-protein blockbusters. (Or a remake of that movie where kids go look at a dead guy.)

Why do blockbusters coincide with summer? Because, historically, movie attendance has always been up in the summer because theaters were the first buildings in town with air conditioning.

But it’s not like anyone doesn’t have air conditioning these days, or that there aren’t other air-conditioned options. So why do we still go to the movies instead of, say, the local dialysis center or Ruritan clubhouse?

Good question. I’m starting to wonder myself. Maybe it’s time we stopped, and here’s why …

1. Going to the movies is overpriced

U.S. moviegoers spend, on average, $8 for a movie ticket. And if you’re looking to pull the ol’ yawn-and-grab-a-boob maneuver, then you’re really spending $16 for a dark room to pull that off in. That, of course, doesn’t factor in higher prices for 3-D, IMAX and concessions.

You know what else costs $16? The DVD of that movie when released a few months later.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go out and buy DVDs — or, as I’ve bought for the past couple of years, the even more expensive Blu-ray format — every week. And I especially won’t buy movies unseen. Yet movie theater owners and production companies expect and base their annual budgets on us doing exactly this all summer long.

And speaking of not getting to vet the movies …

2. Most movies suck.

I’m not saying that in the old man, “they don’t make movies like they used to” way. Most of those old movies? They sucked, too. In fact, you could argue that, lately, movies are better on average today than they ever were. But that’s on average, which means most will still suck.

When it comes to the Academy Award for Best Picture, the AMPAS has fluctuated from nominating three movies worthy of the honor in 1927 to twelve in 1935. It set the limit at five, most likely because it was getting tough to find ten great movies in 1945 just to fill the list. Even today, the Academy can either nominate five or, if it’s a good year, ten, but since they can’t nominate six or seven, they’re more likely to scale it back down to five than nominate anything M. Night Shyamalan makes to fill out the list.

The point is that America, home of not-Indian movies, deems only five — ten movies tops — out of the thousands made every year as being worth a damn.

Yes, they nominate a lot of other movies for other categories, but any award that 2005′s War of the Worlds was up for is, I submit, no award at all. Looking your way, Best Visual Effects.
Yes, they nominate a lot of other movies for other categories, but any award that 2005′s War of the Worlds was up for is, I submit, no award at all. Looking your way, Best Visual Effects.

But, seriously. Five to ten out of at least 1,000 movies a year. (That’s a very rough, absolutely uninformed number. I didn’t even bother Googling it because, c’mon, where do you cut that off?) That means there’s only anywhere from a 0.5 to 1 percent chance you’ll catch a decent movie.

Unless this is one of the movies on your shelf. Then you’re automatically one of the good ones.
Unless this is one of the movies on your shelf. Then you’re automatically one of the good ones.

Even if you decide that there’s one good movie coming out each week this year (and there isn’t for the entire months of January through April), that leaves roughly 36 decent movies, bumping our percentage up to 13 to 27 percent. If only 27 percent of the movies on your shelf were rewatchable, you would be classified as a hoarder.

And most of those weekly “good” movies? You’re only invested in them because …

3. Most movies aren’t original.

You know how we’re concerned with whether a movie is worth seeing in the theater? Well, the studios have the same damn problem. And this is why nearly every movie for the next five years will either be:

A Star Wars movie. Besides the new trilogy in which one will be released every other year, two standalone films will be released in between.

An Avengers movie. Phase Two just started with Iron Man 3, followed up by another Captain America, another Thor, and so on until Avengers 2. Also, there’s a Phase Three to follow. And just to save an entry, I’m including Spider-Man because he teams up with the Avengers from time to time, along with the rest of the non-X-Men Marvel universe.

Man of Steel without Shaq? I’m skeptical.
Man of Steel without Shaq? I’m skeptical.

A Justice League movie. Depending on how Man of Steel does, DC plans to Avengerize the Justice League, meaning somebody will probably lobby really hard for an Aquaman movie.

An X-Men movie. Days of Future Past is coming up, along with another Wolverine movie because, man, we needed seconds of that piece of shit.

A Hobbit movie. OK, so there’s only two left. But still. You know Peter Jackson’s ready to turn The Silmarillion into a ten-part movie, each three hours apiece and filmed entirely in Elvish.

Also, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey and whatever other three books kids and their moms read between now and 2020. And probably Star Trek, even though it should be a TV show.

And if any movie comes out that isn’t part of those franchises, odds are pretty great that it’s a remake, reboot or just a sequel to one of next year’s mildly successful comedies. (And we wonder why it’s always some British film that wins Best Picture.)

But, even if the movie’s good, you still have to go to a theater to see it at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise, somebody else will blog about it first. But at least it’s a movie that you must experience in the theater to truly appreciate it, right …?

4. The “theater experience” is overblown.

The floors are sticky. The bathrooms are flooded. The projectionist is always on a smoke break when the sound or movie cuts out. And the underpaid teenage work force is the best argument you could make for why the South never would have gotten rid of slavery on its own.

A workforce consisting of minors with less than a high school diploma who can barely tear along a perforated line? An economic system like this will surely end due to market forces any day now.
A workforce consisting of minors with less than a high school diploma who can barely tear along a perforated line? An economic system like this will surely end due to market forces any day now.

But that’s old news.

Going back to price, we pay $8 to watch a movie in a theater where, if we get there early enough, we can sit in one of the 20 “good enough” seats where they’re close enough to see, far enough back to save your neck and center enough in the row so that the picture doesn’t tilt away from you like a perspective drawing and the sound is uneven.

For the same price a month, we can wait a few months and watch that movie on Netflix in the living room we already established based on those same parameters. And we don’t have to solve the same movie title jumble puzzle while wondering if the assholes in front will turn their phones off by the previews.

Even the gimmicks that only theaters offer are mostly bullshit. Most 3D movies aren’t really 3D. Of the live-action 3D movies released in 2013, only a handful will have been filmed with actual 3D cameras. (Also, one will be a dance battle movie, and the other a One Direction concert.) The rest will be converted in post-production, creating a pop-up book effect.

And IMAX? If the point of a movie is to immerse yourself in it, then how does staring at Tom Hanks’ Adam’s apple in Brobdingnagian proportions accomplish that?

So, why are we going to the movies to pay the same price to own a movie in an infuriating facsimile of our own living rooms with strangers? So that studios will keep making movies to put in movie theaters.

No thanks.

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