we like ’em jung

7/28/08

Fascinating bit of news from the weekend: fancy techniques and nuclear-launch-code-type secrecy kept “The Dark Knight” out of the hands of internet pirates for 38 hours after the movie’s release, which is considered a huge success for Warner Brothers. Apparently they staggered the release of the film’s reels to theaters, so that the entire movie was never in one place for long. They also got infrared goggles for movie theater owners in Australia (where the film opened two days before the US) so camcorders could be spotted.

It all seems like shoveling snow in a blizzard, but it’s proof that if you have a big enough shovel, you can do anything temporarily. The first copy of “The Dark Knight” available on a decent file-sharing site didn’t appear until two whole days after the premiere.

If you look at the endless credits of a huge blockbuster like this one, you can see every possible weak link in the chain. Hell, if you really wanted to see a film a month or two before schedule, you could find out which movie-trailer house was making the previews, bribe a mid-level PA, and get a rough edit all to yourself. Far simpler, I’d think, is to befriend some manager at a googleplex in Fayetteville NC, have a private screening of “The Dark Knight” at 3am with a camcorder, then split the proceeds on the black market.

StarWarsSteal.jpg

Movie studios aren’t worried about a bootleg copy robbing them of opening-weekend revenue; they’re worried that the small, mean-spirited, froth-mouthed fanboys who download the movie two weeks early will start a negative word-of-mouth campaign. That’s the sort of rumor that eventually filters up the food chain to you and me, and translates into millions of lost revenue.

Of course, the unspoken admission here is this: the studios know the movie sucks, they just want to get as much money out of it before YOU know it sucks. Even box office bombs can make 3/4ths of their money back before the audience knows they’ve been had, and if you factor in overseas sales, notoriously shitty movies turn a tidy profit.

There are a lot of experiences no longer available to most of the American public: drive-in theaters, high diving boards, public hangings and worry-free sun exposure. Lately there’s been much grousing that the movie theater itself will be extinct. I could be wrong, certainly, but the reason most American habits disappear is because they can be replicated more conveniently – and there is simply nothing available to the American consumer that can replicate seeing a movie like “The Dark Knight” on a giant screen.

But there’s something even more important. Going to a movie with strangers offers a Shared Experience with Unpredictable Company, meaning, simply, that you’re opting to share a cultural event with hundreds of other people you’ve never met. By not knowing who they are, you have placed yourself – subconsciously – into the collective mindset of your culture.

You can’t do it at home – you know when your friends or family are going to laugh, how they react, and you possess an innate safety that lessens any possible magic. You’re also “timeshifting”, or watching your entertainment whenever the hell you want, thus handicapping its emotional importance. At the theater, all of you are experiencing something in real time, it took effort to get there, and the fact that your row is populated with strangers makes a huge difference.

There are times when I can’t be fucking bothered, and I really do just want to download a movie like “The Wackness” or “Hancock” and to hell with America’s collective entertainment unconscious. And god knows I have friends, two in particular, who are positively allergic to paying for entertainment, choosing instead to game the system at every possible turn. They’d rather spend 18 hours downloading a shitty dub of “Pineapple Express” than 2 hours watching it.

But if there’s anything to remember from this era, when strangers still went to the movies together, it’s this: transcendence and magic only reveal themselves to those who dared venture out of their comfort zone.

0 thoughts on “we like ’em jung

  1. Anne

    Word. We just saw “DK” and I can’t imagine it having the same impact on the TV at home, both because of the action and for the reason you mention. As long as audiences don’t repeatedly laugh at the wrong places in a flick, I love sitting in the big dark cavern and hearing the collective gasps and “oh!”s.
    LOL @ the SW subtitle. Now there is a series I wish would come back for a run on the really big screens, in its entirety. I’d pay quite a bit to see it.

    Reply
  2. GFWD

    Went to see The Dark Knight on Friday night. Was able to keep an empty seat to the left of my wife, who sat to my left. Was lucky enough to have a petite hottie sit on my right. Was not so much excited about the looks, but her lack of size. It meant no elbow jockeying for the shared arm rest. Mine all mine. She was fine as a theater neighbor, except for the fact she had hot dog breath. Bad. It was like she went to the Braves game, had a foot long dog and then burped intermittently throughout the movie for my displeasure. Nothing knocks you off of a hottie pedestal quicker than hot dog breath. If I had gas, I would have given her a “taste” of her own medicine, but alas I could not burp in my pants.
    The only negative experience was a young black woman who sat behind and to the right of my seat. Given that we were in stadium seating, my head was aligned more with her shins, so it was not like she was talking into my ear. About 2/3 of the way through the movie, she started talking to her boyfriend/hubby about the action on the screen.
    Being black myself, I wanted to stand and turn to her and yell, “Really? You’re really going to play into the fucking stereotype and talk to the movie screen? Really?”
    Thankfully, the movie was so loud that it drowned her out if I didn’t focus on her.
    Talkers in the theater are the primary thing I don’t miss about going out to see a movie. If I am in the superior position, i.e., sitting behind someone, AND I think I could take the offender in a fair fight, I’ll tell someone to be quiet. a firm hand on the shoulder and a deep voice is usually unsettling.
    At that particular screening of the Dark Knight, I was about the perfect height to be kicked in the teeth and her boyfriend/hubby was taller and bigger than me. So I just talked tough in my own mind!
    Sigh.
    So, where’s that link to see The Dark Knight on line?

    Reply
  3. Matt

    My nearest hometown in Iowa still has a drive-in theater. I loved going to it when I still lived there. That felt like a fun experience, and not just the sneaking in via the trunk, either. I haven’t seen many movies that were packed, and thus had much of the collective audience reaction. The Simpsons on opening night may be the only one I can recall. I saw TDK at midnight in Williamsburg last weekend and there were maybe 30 people in the large theater. I prefer having the large screen all to myself, and putting my feet up on the seat in front of me.

    Reply
  4. Julie

    Question for all those on this blog – is it really as dark and menacing as the critics say? I have an almost 6-yr old boy who so desparately wants to see this movie. He has seen all the others (and all the other trilogies out there with prequels/sequels).
    Even though I know he won’t be scared, I am reticent. He’s a sharp boy, but maybe the darkness will be over his head?!? My hubby (who is basically a child himself when it comes to the rules and regulations of movies) could care less about what others say and is promising to take him.
    Thanks for the thoughts…

    Reply
  5. Dean

    I have a 6yo also and I would not take him. There is very little acute violence (blood and guts), but lots of bombs and also moments when the villain has their knife to a person’s throat, etc.
    The gadgets are cool and your son would like them.
    I imagine your son would enjoy the movie even if he does not fathom the underlying themes of good/evil, temptation, motivation, etc.

    Reply
  6. GFWD

    Julie, you know your six year old better than us. I wouldn’t think it was appropriate, but if you see it for yourself, you’ll know whether yours can handle it.

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  7. Rebecca

    Julie, it’s rated PG-13 for a reason. Of course, if you’re child has seen “all the other trilogies out there with prequels/sequels” maybe he’ll be numb to the violence.
    I will tell you that other parents will talk shit about you behind your back for exposing your kid, and therefore their kids when your kid talks about the movie. Sorry, but it’s true.

    Reply
  8. karin

    transcendence and magic only reveal themselves to those who dared venture out of their comfort zone.

    i love this line.

    Reply

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