New Yorker film critic David Denby examines whether the theater-going experience has a place in Hollywood's future - in spite of iPods, DVDs, film downloading, etc. The answer, basically, is yes, but the 8,200-word piece offers several areas of concern, including the lack of digital technology in most theaters, the "platform agnostic" attitude of young movie-watchers (they don't much care whether the film is at the cinepelex or on a cell phone), and the often-unpleasant theater-going experience (sticky floors, pricey drinks, obnoxious audience behavior, etc.) "If we want to see something badly enough, we go, of course, and once everyone settles down we can still enjoy ourselves," he writes in the Jan. 8 issue. "But we go amid murmurs of discontent, and the discontent will only get louder as the theatre complexes age." Denby was out here talking to studio heads and others about alternative platforms, but found almost all of them lacking in one way or another. Here's what he says about the iPod experience:
In September, Apple began offering previously released Disney movies through its iTunes Store. I downloaded the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” onto my hard drive, then put it onto a video iPod. The screen was only two inches across. If you are sitting down, the natural place for an iPod is in your lap; that way, your arms don’t get tired. At that distance, however, I couldn’t focus on the image. So I rested the iPod on my stomach. And there it sat, riding up and down every time I took a breath. I was on the Black Pearl, all right, standing on her foredeck like a drunken sailor as she plowed through heavy seas. The horizon line kept pitching and heaving, and I had trouble seeing much of anything. “Pirates” has lots of wide vistas and noisy tumult—a vast ocean under the dazzling sun and nighttime roughhousing in colonial towns, with deep-cleavaged prostitutes and toothless drunks. What I saw, mainly, was a looming ship the size of a twig, patches of sparkling blue, and a face or a skull flashing by. The interiors were as dark as caves.