Soapbox: Independent Theaters

Ok, so, I haven’t done a “Soapbox” post in a bit, but recently, I felt compelled to do so.

The topic:

I have absolutely no data to back this up, just sheer observation, but the state of independent theaters is pretty damn sad. More and more of them are closing because they simply don’t make the money that the huge twenty screen, IMAX enabled mega-cinemas make. Sure, these “Davids” may make enough to keep the lights on for a few years, but that lately doesn’t seem to be enough to stop the “Goliaths” (read: land owners) from bulldozing them to build another Harris Teeter.

Because clearly, we obviously need more Harris-frigging-Teeters down here (/sarcasm).

Okay, so where am I going with this?

Earlier this week I went to a double feature of The Evil Dead 1 and 2 at the The Carolina Theater here in downtown Durham. I am not going to lie, when the lights came up, I walked out with the biggest dopey grin on my face! I was completely bathing in nostalgia!

Memories of VHS tapes, dark living rooms, my friends and I eating popcorn slowly, waiting to be scared out of our minds…. Those were some of my favorite times growing up and to have the opportunity to watch 35mm copies of those movies again in a theater, just as they were shown when I was way too young to see them originally, meant a lot to me. As if the opportunity to see them was a gift. And, to me anyways, it truly was.

I know, I know I can hear you all right now…

“Awwww, Tad likes spending time watching movies on shitty screens with crap sound systems in ancient musty buildings that smell like my old aunt Mildred’s house. That’s SO cute! But what’s the point?”

The point is this. I am 99.9% sure the double feature that I saw the other night would never be shown at one of the mega-cinemaplexes you see stamped out across America today. The Evil Dead movies are too old, the acting is too cheesy and they aren’t “classic” in the sense that “Citizen Kane” is considered a classic. But here’s the thing, they were shown here that night and that’s entirely because the Carolina Theater is independently owned. It isn’t run by a corporation and it isn’t beholden to anyone except its members (and public ticket sales of course).

Put simply, outside of porn, they can show whatever they want really. And in the case of the Carolina, they often do.

It’s hard to remember for a lot of folks but, this is the way movie theaters used to be and nothing makes me more depressed than knowing that a lot of today’s youth probably won’t ever get a chance to set foot in one. And even if they did, I doubt at this point they’d appreciate it. Their parent’s home theaters are too impressive as is and when they aren’t there, all of their friends are getting dropped off with thirty bucks to spend at places with stadium seating, bigger, higher resolution screens and sounds systems that make your skull vibrate.

So again, why should they? Or more over, why should you?

The point…

Well, for me it goes well beyond the nostalgia I waxed about above. For me, it’s about not losing the threads of where things came from.

So much of pop culture today is completely ripped off by media from the past (and yes, I say this knowing full well that my father would say the same). That doesn’t make today’s stuff irrelevant, but it does put it into context and context is something that is often overlooked nowadays.

In the case of film, I love knowing the history, I love learning about its DNA: the directors, the cinematographers, the cameras used, the actors, the soundtrack composers, the time periods and the methods that were used to make the film…

…there’s a purity in it all. There’s value in the ritual.

It’s the same reason why so many of us still seek out vinyl, actually pay to have our laser disc players serviced, or, more recently, get excited when a vintage functional 8bit NES is up on eBay so that we can still blow into the damn cartridges.

It’s those things that attach us back to everything, and everyone else that came before us. So much of everything that everyone loves today is linked to something that someone was equally passionate about from the past. It’s the essence of human connection. So yeah, in my humble opinion, it’s really, really important. If you ignore the past, you might as well ignore the present.

Supporting these theaters may seem trivial. And while this all may not seem important right now, trust me, it will become important when it’s gone.

I’m not asking for the world really, I am just asking that when that next movie you want to see pops up on your radar, try seeing if it’s showing at an independent theater near you. Give it a shot! These old relics might surprise you! (And no, none of the places I’ve been to smell like aunt Mildred’s and their equipment is often WAY up to date)

In short:

We need to stop, breath, and take time to remember how we all got to this point. Because let’s be honest, wasn’t the ride kind of incredible?

Linkage to other indie theaters in the NC, Triangle Area:

Feel free to hit me up with other indie theaters in the comments below!