June 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

One of my brothers and I like to discuss movies and our different notions of why we go to cinemas to watch them. He’s convinced he goes purely to be entertained; while agreeing with that on one level, I also believe we, as a society, go to the cinema for deeper emotional and psychic reasons which, without falling into academic gibberish, are connected to more primal, spiritual and emotional needs.

This week I read with no surprise and much disgust that Pirates of the Caribbean : Cha Ching (possibly not the actual title, although if it were, much of the film’s audience would probably just have assumed that the latest installment was set in China) had grossed over 650 million dollars globally.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m confident of two facts: 1, that I would have walked out after 10 minutes if I had and 2, that a majority of those who did see the film would happily label it “entertaining”.

The Oxford’s primary definition of entertain is “to amuse, to occupy agreeably”.

Huh. I thought, upon opening the dictionary, that its definition might support the argument I’m trying to make. I was wrong. That is quite the low bar. Oh well- I guess I have to cede the arena of modern movies to people like my brother although, being a relatively discerning adult filmgoer (I’m going to catch heat for that thinly veiled condescension), even he would blink at seeing Pirates 4.

But I’m a little late, aren’t I? One only has to go to the modern multiplex (the word ‘cinema’ is, appropriately, nowhere in sight) to see that discerning grownups ceded the territory of mainstream film to teenagers years ago or, more accurately, it was taken from us when mega-corporations started buying movie studios and telling them to only make theme park rides.

Which brings me to the Laemmle, a little gem here in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. It is a true living dinosaur awaiting its proverbial meteor, an entity bearing the name of Art House Cinema.

Last night Victoria and I went there to see an Italian film called La Doppia Ora (The Double Hour). While waiting to go in, I strolled through the quiet, unassuming foyer, with its non-digital signage, listening to the low chatter of fully grown adults with high school diplomas in some drawer in their homes, and it hit me:

This is what all cinemas used to be like.

Yep, even the ones which showed blockbusters. No massive multiplexes, no cinemas housed in gigantic malls, no coke cups the size of oil drums, no Vegas-like digitized displays. Just a cinema. Where yes, kids were welcome, but they were here with the adults’ blessing, which accounts for why the majority of films in those old cinemas were rated mature or above.

Now I know that stadium seating works. I know that the sound in modern plexes is perfect, and the visuals are… well, I guess somewhat better.

But guess what? Great films, good films, even decent films don’t need all that crap. In fact, they’re probably the worse for it. There’s a reason why paintings are given a frame, and no one can tell me or any other lover of movies who lived in the pre-plex age that the experience of the cinema itself didn’t add to the enjoyment of the film we were seeing.

Am I being nostalgic? Sure. Is my dreamy stroll down memory lane solving anything? No, unless you count my mood.

But it is important to recognize what we’ve, in most cases, lost. It’s even more critical to salvage what we still have, and now I’m not just speaking of modern cinema. Librarians shed a tear when a library closes. Book enthusiasts mourn the departure of their local, independently-owned bookstore. I am a lover of movies, and for the most part I, along with millions of others,  no longer go to the movies to watch them.

Visit the Laemmle. If you live somewhere else, eschew the mall and visit your local cinema.

As for the film? It wasn’t bad and, even better, I didn’t leave feeling numb. Or, as fans of The Hangover Remake call it, “entertained”.

Picture:  Victoria strolling through the foyer of The Laemmle 5 on Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles. One of the last of its kind in this town.



  • Deborah says:

    I so agree Marc, when we lived in Kempsey we used to go to a quaint little cinema called the ‘Band Box Cinema’, it doubles as a playhouse for the local actors to do their plays & also showed movies. it was set in the grand old movie times, fantastic – so all hail the old cinemas !!

  • So true…….as Debbie said, we loved the old Bandbox. And I love you for putting these thoughts into form…..great karma and great service to us all. By the way, I took mum to see Pirates 4 – she loved it and I feel asleep!!!!

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