Saturday, January 03, 2004

What the World Needs Now...

From December 23, 2003 through January 1, 2004, I didn't set foot in a movie theater. Crazy as it sounds, that's probably the longest stretch I've gone without doing so in some time. (A look at my screening log would probably reveal that it was the longest time all of last year.) Such is life when you've seen all the holiday releases before Christmas arrives. How else to get the new year going than a trip to the multiplex?

I wanted to see ELF again, and the reduced show times are a strong indicator that its days in the theater are numbered. I expect it will hang around through the end of January, but chances are that it may be down to one screening a day by that point. If it can make it through the month, it will have played for almost three months, an eternity in modern day theatrical exhibition. I also was curious to check out WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!, which was unspooling in public sneak previews. (A look at the calendar showed that I might miss the eventual press screening, giving me as good of an excuse as I needed to go.)

What sight greeted me and my fellow moviegoers at the theater? A simple sign that read: Attention Guests. Our country is on high security alert. By attending a movie, you will be subject to a visual inspection of all backpacks, handbags, or purses over 8 1/2 x 11. Thank you for your cooperation and have a safe holiday season.

Is it me or is there a disconnect in linking the logic in the country being on high security alert, a warning which was underlined on the sign, and the need for a movie theater to inspect patrons' possessions? Sure, a terrorist act could be carried out anywhere, and there's nothing preventing a movie theater from being a target. If that's how we're going to treat this orange threat level, then why aren't we being patted down at the supermarket, the mall, and the gym?

If anything, this warning seems designed to deter film piracy under the guise of domestic protection from terrorists. If the intention is to thwart potential pirates, the sign is redundant, not to mention a gross abuse in taking advantage of the current climate. Other postings address what items are subject to search and will not be permitted into the theater.

It's all quite laughable, though. While security was on the premises, one ticket taker was the only person between the ticket counters and the theaters. Maybe if I had a big bag with me someone would have come over, but I highly doubt it. That's the way it should be too. I've grudgingly become accustomed to the sham that is the security shakedown that takes place prior to advance screenings to which the public is also admitted. Either the guard runs the wand around you or performs just a visual check. It slows things down, but I suppose it's the price one pays to see STUCK ON YOU four days early. Supposedly guards are also watching the audience during the screening for signs of anyone taping from the seats.

The process amuses and aggravates me. It's insulting to be treated like a criminal, especially when before the film a representative warns and scolds the audience about the illegality of recording the movie. Some guards go berzerk when an audience member tries to take in a cell phone that can take pictures or capture video. Last time I checked, those phones don't have very much storage capacity and aren't going to be grabbing high quality images.

The irony is that clamping down so tightly a couple days before a film's release doesn't eliminate the problem. When a film opens, the same measures are not being taken. (It's also true with public sneak previews. I went through no security to see WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON! three weeks before it opens.) Anyone willing to run the risk of being caught can probably get a camcorder into the multiplex because these tougher security procedures are largely absent--for good reason too. I don't think most moviegoers go to the theater to record the film off the screen. Although they probably won't admit it, I think the studios realize this. They can get away with inconveniencing people at advance screenings because no one paid to attend. Try the same thing on a Friday night, and paying audiences are more likely to raise a fuss. Of course, it's also highly impractical to extend this security to every screen in the nation.

It would be nice if the piracy issue were being approached and combated in a sensible manner. I don't deny that studios have a problem, although I'd wager that the biggest percentage of piracy takes place under the studios' noses, whether on their lots or from people affiliated with the companies.

As for the films, ELF was just as delightful as the first time I saw it. WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON! turns out to be a funny and really sweet romantic comedy that should make Kate Bosworth and Topher Grace stars. Since I've already far exceeded the library's time limit, reviews will have to be forthcoming. (Sitting in a coffee shop, I scratched out most of an ELF review in the time between films last night.)

No comments:

Post a Comment