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megaplexes

1.31.98

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
- Pete Townshend

Don't you just love these huge megaplexes? Roughly the size of airport terminals, they have coffee nooks, arcades, gift shops, stadium seating, Thunderdome sound systems ... everything but a selection of films commensurate with their number of screens.

A plex near me recently added four theaters. Golly gosh, that means they have twelve screens full of mainstream shit instead of eight! And the same movie playing on two and sometimes three screens! This is where those insane opening-weekend numbers come from. Major releases now open on damn near 3,000 screens on average. This still leaves no room for anything that can't be sold in a 30-second sound bite during a SEINFELD commercial break.

With all these amazing, prodigious theaters, you'd think at least one plex within a half-hour drive would free up at least one screen for a movie like THE SWEET HEREAFTER or FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL. Nope. Even the first megaplex I ever visited, Framingham 14, is sliding lately. Gone is the theater where I once caught SHALLOW GRAVE, DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, and CRUMB. Mainstream crap has crowded out true independent films.

The fault isn't entirely in the theaters. It's partly in Hollywood, which cranks out so many sausages that it reinforces Gresham's Law of bad money driving out good money. Exhibitors have to eat, and they have to make some hard choices. But small independent companies and filmmakers also have to eat. And Hollywood is still the fattest glutton at the buffet table -- they're Cartman and indie films are Starvin' Marvin.

Partly, too, the fault is the public's. Another plex near me was dabbling in art movies for a while, showing such non-mainstream fare as CRASH and MRS. BROWN. But not enough people came out, and now the plex is being noticeably more cautious about what it acquires. It doesn't help that Hollywood movies are taking up every available screen (see above). But if more people took a gamble once in a while on movies that are original and different, more such movies would be greenlighted, produced, distributed, exhibited, etc.

We live in a country where FLUBBER outgrosses L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, where TURBO: POWER RANGERS outgrosses THE ICE STORM, where MR. MAGOO outgrosses GATTACA, where KULL THE CONQUEROR outgrosses THE SWEET HEREAFTER. Somebody is going to these shitty movies, and not enough people are supporting the intelligent adult-oriented films upon which the future of cinema is founded.

So, a triple plea. Hollywood: MAKE FEWER MOVIES. Plexes: MAKE ROOM FOR INDIES. Moviegoers: MAKE AN EFFORT.


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