Watching the death of the movie industry

I spent Christmas with my wife Maile's family in California this year, as we tend to alternate holidays every year between her family in California and mine in Chicago. As I assume is the case with many couples, we tend to take on the traditions of the other when going through the holiday activities.

While growing up, Maile's family would go to the movies each year. This was really odd to me the first time I experienced it. I come from a very large family with both of my parents' siblings all being in the Chicago area. There's about 10 aunts and uncles, almost 30 cousins, and scores of other friends that would join us on Christmas afternoon. My point is, we were basically going from one family function to another from about 5pm on Christmas Eve to about 11:00pm on Christmas day. There wasn't time for the movies. I've come to learn though that a lot of people go to the movies on Christmas. In fact, you probably knew this already so forgive me for being tardy on the tradition.

Over the last couple years I've started to enjoy this whole movies on Christmas thing quite a bit. It get's us out of the house, provides some down time between a hectic morning and an even more hectic dinner time, and just generally brings a couple of hours of relaxation to the holiday.

But this year it was different. The first full hour of this extremely popular holiday tradition was totally ruined for me. Why? Because this gargantuan screen was screaming terrible commercials at me from the moment I walked in. As in, for Walmart, for CocaCola, for cars, for toys. NON-STOP FROM THE SECOND I WALKED IN. Then of course there were about 30 minutes of previews.

For a bunch of people that make fun of TV, those in the movie business sure are acting like small screen people - trying to hawk every last little bit of screen space to any bidder they can find.

It appears that the people who own movie theaters have forgotten that they are selling an experience. And this experience get's more and more terrible with every day that passes. It reminds me of the scene in Office Space when "Peter" is talking about how every day of his life is the worst day of his life. That's how I feel about the movies. Each time I go, it's the worst experience I've ever had at the movies.

I have news for you movie industry people; if you don't realize you're selling more than just a bigger picture on a bigger screen, you're even more incompetent than I already think you are.

I understand now why Maile's tradition with her family was so enjoyable. While I didn't experience it as a child directly, I can imagine it. I remember as recently as 10 or 15 years ago, before the movie played, there was just music. It was nice to talk to your friends, or your date, settle in, relax, and then the movie would start. I can imagine how nice this would be with your family on Christmas day - enjoying the company of people you love.

This year I went with Maile, her brother, and his fiance of one day. That's right, he got engaged on Christmas eve! When we got to the movie theater, bought our $10 popcorn , $5 bottle of water, and settled in, did we get to talk about his engagement? How he proposed? About their excitement?

No. We were screamed at by a huge screen playing television commercials.

The movie industry wasn't thinking about how my (or your) Christmas day experience at the movies would go. All they thought about was that there was a large audience and they figured the cost of annoying you and I would be worth the price of selling a bunch of advertising space. I think their calculations are wrong.

What if instead they made Christmas at the movies special? What if there was only music playing again - even if just on this one day? What if instead of screaming at you, they allowed you to talk to your family? What if their aim on Christmas day wasn't to sell as much advertising as possible, but was instead to give us the best movie experience possible?

Of course, they didn't do all that. Because the movie industry as we know it is dying. And for acting the way they did to me (and you) this weekend, it deserves to die.

Maybe next year I'll rent a movie from iTunes or stream something on NetFlix. After all, if the experience of going to the movies is terrible, they have absolutely nothing to sell me.