By Darren Johnson
We got to the theater in plenty of time, plopped down about $40 for three tickets, popcorn and a drink, and grabbed our seats — and, still, we had to watch an endless stream of commercials.
One of the commercials was for the Netflix series, “Orange Is the New Black,” along with a couple of dozen other shills. Then the movie itself, the latest “Ghostbusters,” set in New York City, was a commercial itself, full of middle-class pandering and product placements for companies like 7-Eleven and Papa Johns Pizza — as if knowledgeable people in Manhattan actually eat that.
And, I kept thinking, I could be home right now, watching “Orange Is the New Black” — I’m halfway through the fourth season, which is as addictive as the drugs the cons poop out in the prison showers — for virtually free, commercial-free and without product placements or dumbed-down content.
I’m starting to wonder, what’s the point in going to the movies, if TV is so much better at this point?
I can’t remember the original “Ghostbusters” movie that well, though I did see it as a boy, but I’m sure it was no better than this current movie. I know movies made for mass consumption in that era had plenty of product placements, too; but I’ve grown, and matured, but the movies really haven’t. Meanwhile, TV seems to get better and better.
The current “Orange Is the New Black” is complex, riveting, and with many true laughs — some suddenly, some slowly developed. It’s a wonder how this series, set in Upstate New York, can so competently juggle having so many different characters. Most great shows have, say, five or maybe 10 characters who get any lines — “Orange Is the New Black” has about 50.
While the new “Ghostbusters” did have some laughs, and unexpected humor, was it $40 worth of humor? Or could this have easily waited a few months, where I could have gotten it from a Redbox for $1.50?
Increasingly, the answer is cable TV or Redbox or Netflix vs. actually going to the cinema. While “Ghostbusters” has mostly positive reviews right now, you have to realize, most reviewers see these movies for free. There isn’t a cost factor involved, so they don’t perceive the value of paying for a movie at the theater vs. watching something else at home, for much less.
Now, I know — it is chicken and egg — if people stop going to the movies, then they will make less money, quality will suffer, and then that dearth will trickle down to lesser media.
The same can be said of print newspapers and the Internet — if people stop paying the $1.50 for their daily Gazette, eventually they will have to lay off staff, and will have less “free” fodder to give you on the web.
The print newspaper model subsidizes the Internet news model, and the movie industry subsidizes lesser media by giving them second-run movies cheap.
I get it. That said, I wish they’d give us something better than this latest “Ghostbusters.”
Or, at least, don’t show us commercials for better entertainment from different media, like “Orange Is the New Black,” before the movie. Else, we will wish we were there, instead.
(Even though it’s a prison, in this case.)