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Popcorn & Peanuts

Week of December 1, 2002
You can't stop progress.

I wonder when last Jack Valenti remembered there's more to seeing a movie than seeing the movie.

There's sitting in the dark, all alone at the matinee, together with complete strangers at the evening show; there's the theatre smell itself; there's the eating and throwing of popcorn, raisinets, Good'N'Plentys, and malted milk balls; there's drinking coke; there's getting your arm around your girl and cuddling up and making out in front of that really big screen with lots of that really big sound; and there are actors and actresses on that larger-than-life screen who hopefully are doing such a good job they can help you escape for a couple of hours, long enough to forget your shitty job or whatever else might be bothering you.

And that is where the profit is too. It's not in the theatre admission - that just goes to the landlord, covers expenses. It's in all that other stuff, the food and drinks and stuff.

And in the summer there's the air conditioning. And in the winter it's cheaper, because at least in NYC, where the movies and the most modest collection of refreshments runs minimum $20 per head, people can bring in their own refreshments from Duane Reade and stash it under their coats.

And what do the third world people, who see the movies last and can't afford DVDs, pay for movies in their theatres such as they are? They only make about $20 per month, and the bicycle that powers the projector is always breaking down.

In other words, the MPA's stated rationale for DVD regions makes no economic sense at all.

Wouldn't it be simpler to produce the movie in DVD format from the start? All you would need would be a very big DVD screen. Theatres could stay in business. The screens would be more expensive than the white wall, but any DVD player could be used to run them. Even a better player especially for the theatre wouldn't break the budget.

It would be easier to have world-wide movie premieres. Film is heavy, expensive, expensive to store, and must be continually shipped back and forth. DVDs are light, cheap, cheap to store, and need only travel one way.

I like film. I like going to an old theatre where there are bats flying around and the projector sputters and stops and the celluloid melts and everyone yells and stamps their feet. But you can't stop progress.

So the motivation for the DVD Region Dance is probably not money. It's probably good old megalomania laced with a lofty desire to preserve our fine global class structure.


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