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The Movie Experience

Phandroid has one of many articles about a man being detained for wearing Google Glass in a cinema [1]. The article states as a “fact” that “it’s probably not smart to bring a recording device into a movie theater” which is totally bogus. I’ve visited a government office where recording devices were prohibited, they provided a locker for me to store everything that could be used for electronic storage outside their main security zone, that’s what you do when you ban recording devices. Any place that doesn’t have such facilities really isn’t banning recording. The Gadgeteer has the original story with more detail with an update showing that the Department of Homeland Security were responsible for detaining the victim [2].

There are lots of issues here with DHS continuing to do nothing good and more bad things than most people suspect and with the music and film industry organisations attacking innocent people. But one thing that seems to be ignored is that movies are a recreational activity, so it’s an experience that they are selling not just a movie.

Any organisation that wants to make money out of movies really should be trying to make movies fun. The movie experience has always involved queuing, paying a lot of money for tickets ($20 per seat seems common), buying expensive drinks/snacks, and having to waste time on anti-piracy adverts. Now they are adding the risk of assault, false-arrest, and harassment under color of law to the down-sides of watching a movie. Downloading a movie via Bittorrent takes between 20 minutes and a few hours (depending on size and internet connectivity). Sometimes it can be quicker to download a movie than to drive to a cinema and if you are organising a group to watch a movie it will definitely be easier to download it. When you watch a movie at home you can pause it for a toilet break and consume alcoholic drinks while watching (I miss the Dutch cinemas where an intermission and a bar were standard features). It’s just a better experience to download a movie via Bittorrent. I’ve previously written about the way that downloading movies is better than buying a DVD [3], now they are making the cinema a worse experience too.

I sometimes wonder if groups like the MPAA are actually trying to make money from movies or whether they just want to oppress their audiences for fun or psychological research. I could imagine someone like the young Phillip Zimbardo working for the MPAA and doing experiments to determine how badly movie industry employees can treat their customers before the customers revolt.

Anyone who watches a Jack Ryan movie (or any movie with a Marty-Stu/Gary-Stu character) obviously doesn’t even want to experience the stress of an unhappy ending to a movie. It seems obvious that such people won’t want the stress of potentially being assaulted in the cinema.

In terms of economics it seems a bad idea to do anything about recording in the cinema. When I was 11 I was offered the opportunity to watch a movie that had been recorded by a video camera in the US before it was released in Australia, I wasn’t interested because watching a low quality recording wouldn’t be fun. It seems to me that if The Pirate Bay (the main site for Bittorrent downloads of movies) [4] was filled with awful camera recordings of movies then it would discourage people from using it. A quick search shows some camera recordings on The Pirate Bay, it seems that if you want to download a movie of reasonable quality then you have to read the Wikipedia page about Pirated Movie Release Types [5] to make sure that you get a good quality download. But if you buy a DVD in a store or visit a cinema then you are assured of image and sound quality. If the movie industry were smarter they would start uploading camera recordings of movies described as Blue-Ray rips to mess with Bittorrent users and put newbies off downloading movies.

1 comment to The Movie Experience

  • neonsignal

    While I think that most of your criticisms of the cinema experience are only too true, I do think there are a few (at least in Melbourne) that aren’t so cynical about their patrons. I’m thinking of indy places like the Astor Theatre, Cinema Nova, The Kino, and so on. The Astor has intervals for longer features or doubles and lots of atmosphere, the Cinema Nova has a bar; and you get to see features that aren’t necessarily available in the chain cinemas because their audience is not broad enough. Seeing Kubrick’s 2001 on a 70mm print in a large 1930s art deco theatre with an appreciative audience is a worthwhile experience, even if going to see the latest Die Hard in cinema 13 at Shoppingland isn’t.

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