On Christmas Day, my wife and I walked into downtown Portland’s Regal Fox Tower, one of many such multiplexes Regal Cinemas operates. It’s a nice theater, with comfy seats, sharp screens, and friendly staff. I’m told the local owners are hip people, and this is evidenced by the oddball/artsy films they often run. Overall, however, this in not in any essential way different from other similar, big-name, popcorn-and-soda theaters.
Which is why it was downright shocking to me when, upon entering and seating ourselves, having chatted away the fifteen minutes we had until the screening, we watched the house lights dim down and the screen turn on—yes, it had been off until now—and the very first thing we saw was a grainy shot of some desert rocks, and the first thing we heard was a twangy guitar riff that opens Luis Bacalov’s theme to Sergio Corbucci’s Django, now repurposed as the opening of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
You read that right. The theater showed no house ads, no local ads, no previews for TV shows, no featurettes, no trailers. At 7:45 PM, the advertised screening time, they showed the movie we came to see.
It was magnificent. It felt like watching a movie, as opposed to going out to see a movie.
I’m sure that those local ads, TV previews, and trailers make money for the theater (by the way of making money for the studios etc.) I’m also quite positive that if this theater decided to show every movie this way—if that were even possible, because I imagine that the reels (hard drives!) they receive from the studios have some of this baked in?—they’d suffer financially and, potentially, legally. I don’t even know why it happened this time. Other screenings of Django Unchained definitely included all the advertising detritus. Was it because the movie is long-ish? Because it’s, uh, offensive to advertisers? Because, gosh darn it, it’s Christmas?
I wonder if there’s a business to be gotten into where one shows movies the way everyone wants to see them: just the movies, from the very first second you start watching. It’s a naive thought; I understand that. But I can’t forget that when those lights went down, when that screen went up, and when that twangy riff kicked in, there were audible gasps and cheers in the audience, and someone behind me yelled out “whoa, awesome!”
I want to believe that there’s a business to be gotten into that capitalizes on “whoa, awesome”.