Column: Don’t let movie theaters die off

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Photo from Unsplash Photo credit: Unsplash

On an almost unbearably hot morning in Arizona, there was very little to do. No typical summer activities could provide refuge from the scorching heat. Swimming pools felt like hot tubs and ice cream would resort to liquid before it could reach the tip of my tongue. Nothing seemed to help.

When I figured I would be spending the rest of my summer in misery, my dad invited me to go see a movie at Harkins Theatres. He bought two tickets for Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” and as a 10-year-old boy, I was just excited to see my favorite superhero on the big screen.

It was at this moment that I immediately fell in love with cinema. The choreography of the fights, the blood-pumping music in the background — all of it made me want to watch every movie and experience it again and again. I grew to know the movie theater as one of my favorite places growing up.

Photo credit: Grady Ellsworth

But today, that safe haven isn’t the same as what it was when I was a child. Popular streaming platforms like HBO Max and Disney+ offer options to watch certain movies from home while they’re still out in theaters. Watching movies from home may be comfortable and convenient, but it simply can’t compare to feelings experienced at a movie theater. I am positive that if I had seen “The Dark Knight” at home instead of in theaters, it wouldn’t have made the same influence on me that it does today. Movies should be seen the way they have been seen for the last century — in a theater.

“In my view, the only way to see a film remains the way the filmmaker intended: inside a large movie theater with great sound and pristine picture,” said Ridley Scott, a film director and producer, in a tweet from 2015. Scott is known for some of the most critically acclaimed films, such as “Blade Runner” and “Alien.”

As important as the experience of the movie in a theater is, it isn’t the only reason that it’s a better option than streaming from home.

If a movie is streamed from a platform but also available in theaters, all the money goes to the platform that has made that movie available. When we stream a movie that can be seen in theaters, the actors and others who worked so hard to make that movie possible lose money. They don’t earn a dime.

A prime example of this occurred earlier this year in July when “Black Widow” was released. Scarlett Johansson, who played the title character, was promised an exclusively theatrical release of her movie and $20 million, as were stated in her contract. She received neither.

Granted, this was the first movie that Marvel Studios had released in over a year, so it would be an understatement to say that fans were excited. Marvel wanted to make sure this movie wouldn’t flop so as a last-minute decision, the company violated its contract with Johansson to ensure the film’s success.

Disney made the film available through Disney+’s premiere access on the same day it was released theatrically. This caused Johansson to lose more than she was going to make. Instead of earning her contracted salary of $20 million, she claimed she lost $50 million, all because people would rather watch a movie from home than support her by attending a theater. A lawsuit soon followed.

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash Photo credit: Unsplash

It might be more convenient for some. Sure, you can pause it whenever you need to use the bathroom, and you don’t have to pay nearly $12 just for concessions, but when you do that, you are taking away from the two most important people in the moviegoing experience: yourself and the actor.

The annual number of ticket sales has been declining since 2002, and that number will continue to drop unless we see movies the way they were meant to be seen. Support your local movie theater, support cinematography and immerse yourself in the definitive moviegoing experience by going to the theater.

If I choose to stream a movie from home, I’m not going to get much out of it. Roommates are going to talk. Lights are going to be turned on, and I’ll be more tempted to use my phone, all of which are nonexistent concerns in the theater. So much more can be appreciated and truly admired in the theater that you frankly will not be able to experience at home.

The lights begin to dim. A massive bucket of fresh, buttery popcorn is in one hand and an ice-cold soda with condensation already dripping from the cup is in the other. The movie you’ve waited months to watch is at long last just seconds away from unfolding, and there’s no other place you’d rather be.