So much has come around in the last 40 years to change the way you spend your leisure time. The granddaddy of what I am talking about is home video.
It is pervasive, and maybe too pervasive in everyone’s homes (and outside as well now). It actually started when AVCO and Sears introduced a system called CARTRAVISION in the late Sixties.
After that came the SonyBetamax, followed by VHS and the soon-to-be-forgotten U-Matic (Quasar).
Also, two competing video formats came along and really didn’t survive the 80’s: RCA CED Disc and LaserDiscs.
Of course, we now have DVD and Blu-ray, and my total hated of vending machines for video rental. And I am not a Netflix fan either, but that is for another day.
What each of these shared was that they in some way revolutionized what up to then had to be delivered to the home by antenna and cable. Before then, feature films could take four years to show up on your home screen. However, these films became events. They became what you planned around. NBC SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES was watched on NBC on Sunday Night, or you missed it.
Many will say that it is great that we don’t have to time it like that anymore, but something was lost in the move to continual access to material at all times. While it is great to be ON DEMAND to watch something, it has become less special to watch a film or an event.
One of the major TV events of my lifetime was THE BEATLES appearing on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. Think about it. So many millions of people would say that they saw history that night, and talk about it the next morning, and not worry about revealing “spoilers”. Sure, there are not so many events that are truly “of the moment”, but sadly, that shared experience is fast disappearing from our lives.
Probably, only the final episodes of LOST approached that feeling this year, and yet, many people watched at their leisure, on their DVR’s, on demand, or on computer. However, for all but the real time viewing, the “event” is lost itself. Once it is put off, or done later, it may be entertaining, but it is no longer special.
We share by blogging about what we’ve watched, we share by posting comments on Twitter and Facebook, we share by e-mail. How many even really plan a night in front of the TV based in the excitement of what they can watch, instead of by sitting down and seeing what Netflix has delivered or what is on the DEMAND menu?
We even take a film made in IMAX and talk about how exciting it is to watch it on a 4 inch screen. I still do not get that one. I’ve had mini-TV’s for convenience at sporting events and such, but never have I enjoyed trying to watch a film on one. Smacks of gimmick to me.
So, this started out as a chastise to the way the Blu-ray studios are fucking up Blu-ray beyond repair, and has turned into a nostalgic and probably unrealistic return to yesterday, or not yesterday, but a bit more specialness to what was once a special experience.
When I was a kid, CBS would show THE WIZARD OF OZ every year, once a year. They made it a big event. The film was bookended with intros and material, hosted by Danny Kaye or Dick Van Dyke. We would go to relatives or friends houses to watch it, and watched it attentively, knowing that it would not be back until the next year.
Danny stood in front of this long staircase that lead to what seemed like the sky, the skys the limit. Who knew that climbing that staircase would not allow you to turn back to the good feelings of a special event. Current ways to access films and entertainment are all convenient and available, but they are not special, they are just there.
Yes, they were my life for 27 years, and I hope that it will be part of my professional life soon again. But my interest and love for the home video business was always the shared experience of both watching and helping to choose. IMHO, that is lost in front of a computer screen.
In the last 18 months, I haven’t changed my opinion. In fact, it has gotten stronger. Unfortunately, things are looking weaker for my thoughts. Bluray and DVD selection is available in fewer and fewer retail spaces, and those selections are much less thorough than before. CD’s are being forecasted to be severely affected this year.
And I even read tweets from independent filmmakers who prefer to watch films on a portable unit, not an HD TV set.
I’m working on a post now that looks at my own perception of the changes in movie going experience throughout my lifetime. I’ll post that in the next day or so.
In the meantime, I take my films on a screen experience that can both be shared with other and be comfortably watched by myself.