I came across a very interesting radio interview on NPR with Edward Jay Epstein author of the new book The Hollywood Economist. He made the interesting observation that movie going has changed since the 1940’s.
“In the 1940s, [going to the movies] was the national pastime. Approximately 67 percent of the American public — every week, on the average — went to a movie. And they didn’t just see movies — they saw newsreels, they saw cartoons, animation, shorts, a second feature — but it was their weekly pastime. Today, less than 10 percent of the public, on the average, go to the movies in a week.”
I don’t have to go back as far as the 40’s. I can take a trip down memory lane to the late 80’swhen I spent an afternoon in a movie theater around the corner from my apartment on West 71st in NYC and sat through a double bill of Lina Wertmüller ‘s – Swept Away and Seven Beauties. (If you’re familiar with Ms. Wertmüller ‘s work, you’ll understand when I say I needed oxygen and a trip to a relaxing spa when the credits rolled.) Regardless of my emotional state – I loved the fact that I could spend an entire afternoon in a movie theater. It was normal to go to the movies at least once a week.
So, what happened? Why is it that only 10 percent of the population goes to the movies now? Is it the price of the ticket? Perhaps it’s the fact that I can download a film on Netflix soon after its release. Or could it be there’s a dearth of good films being made? I can recall going to the movies a few months ago and watching the trailers for upcoming films. My comments ranged from “Oh, that’s definitely a rental,” to, “I wouldn’t see that film even if I was locked in the bathroom on a cross Atlantic flight and it was playing on a screen in front of me.”
So the question is – Do you go to the movies? How often? And why do you think there is such a dramatic decline in movie going?