Does it seem that lately American culture is slowly becoming more and more homogenized, insular and isolated? Advancements in technology have made it so we can experience almost any form of entertainment from the safety of our homes. We can buy the latest Black Keys CD or see the latest Harry Potter movie while sitting around in our underwear. We can watch Leonard Cohen live in London on hi-def Blue Ray with surround sound without having to cram ourselves into a crowded arena amongst other (gasp!) humans and we can order our dinner online and have it delivered in 30 minutes. Dinner and a show? Done! All without leaving the house.
Unfortunately, as a result, record stores are closing left and right, live music venues are struggling to survive, and now independent movie houses are in danger of closing across the country. With just a general Google perusal, I see that the Warner Theater in Morgantown, West Virginia closed in August after more than 79 years and The Old State Theater in Auburn, California closed in December. In Seattle, The Columbia City Cinema, who we sell tickets for, is fighting for survival and the Neptune Theater will be changing from a movie theater to a performing arts venue in February of this year.
Of course, much of this has to do with a changing movie industry. In the press release for the Warner Theater’s closing, Patrick Corcoran,from the Los Angeles office of the National Association of Theater Operators, was quoted as saying that “markets can only sustain a limited number of screens. It’s often much more difficult for the small original independent theaters to compete with the major chains.” If this continues, what concerns me is that the only films that will receive any public viewing outside of major metropolitan areas will be big-budget Hollywood productions. The indie film will be forever relegated to cable or DVD, to be viewed by one or two people at home, essentially killing the communal independent movie house experience; where folks could gather and see the latest Jean-Pierre Jeunet film and share knowing laughs at obscure cultural references and smart humor, united in the knowledge that they expect something more from their films than regurgitated plot-lines, scantily clad Hollywood starlets and explosive, big-budget car chases.
Let’s not passively sit by and watch independent movie culture disappear. Movie snobs need a place to gather and the indie movie house belongs to us. Get off your couch! Get out there and see a movie at your local indie movie theater or attend a local independent film festival (watch the blog for more on attending film festivals coming soon). Feel proud knowing that you’re supporting something important; something worth saving. In the words of Cecil B. Demented, “Power to the people and punish bad cinema!” Here’s our chance people! See you at the box office.
Photo of Columbia City Theater seats by Joshua Trujillo – seattlepi.com