Hello everybody.  Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, reconsidering today the longstanding proposition that classic movies — indeed, any movie — is best seen in a movie theater.

In our blog of last Dec. 19 — Are Classic Movies Best Viewed In Theaters? — Frank had the temerity to suggest that perhaps classic movies are NOT best seen in theaters. (Joe does not agree; he’s strictly a theater man.)

Frank figures that with advancing DVD/Blu Ray technology and High Definition big screen TV, why not relax at home?  The technical quality of the experience is competitive with that of a theatrical screening, and besides, who needs all those crowded lobbies, anyway?

In Joe’s corner is none other than Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the outfit that runs the Oscars), who in a letter written earlier this year to the some 6,000 voting members — then in the process of voting on 2012’s Oscars picks — admonishes them on several points.

The Academy president tackles full force the theater-versus-home-viewing question. Sherak writes: The studios have already mailed out some of this year’s movie screeners , and it is certainly tempting to view them in the comfort of our homes.

But I believe that the only way we can insure the integrity of the Oscar is for us to see movies as they were intended to be seen — in their entirety, on the movie theater screen.  (Oscar voters) owe it our fellow Academy members…to see their work as it was meant to be seen.  

OK, there you have it.  The head of the Academy believes that film viewing properly belongs in a theater.

But Frank was surprised when The Wall Street Journal’s respected film critic, Joe Morgenstern, interrupted his regular Friday review on June 15 to write this: For as long as I’ve had this bully pulpit I’ve preached the pleasures of the theatrical experience.  You know the litany — movies are meant to be a social medium, you haven’t really seen a feature film unless you’ve seen it on a big screen.

Morgenstern — who, incidentally, was from 1962 to 1981 married to actress Piper Laurie — confessed to what he calls a ‘private hypocrisy.’

Some movies look pretty darned good — and sound good too — on the flat-panel TV in my living room. Then doubling down, he added, now I want to make another confession….Watching movies on the new iPad can be a marvelous experience.

While making clear that his is ‘not a shill for Apple products,’ Morgenstern correctly notes that these days technology spawns miracles on a weekly basis…(generating products that can show movies) with intimacy, and even intensity, with stunning fidelity to the source materal. (First movie he viewed on iPad?  ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ a sort of touchstone for cinephilia.)

Great movies of the past are losing their theatrical homes as so-called art houses fall victim to the home entertainment revolution…Big flat-panel displays are bound to get bigger and even better, and there’s nothing to be said against them as necessary substitutes for theatrical screens. 

As for the much-vaunted ‘communal experience’ of seeing a movie in a theater, Morgenstern (who resides in Santa Monica) concluded that if I want a social experience I can drive the freeways.

OK, who’s right — Sherak or Morgenstern?

Another question we’re often asked is how old do films have to be to be considered classics. It does take a few years to see if a film will stand the test of time, but yes, we do believe there are recent Classic Films.  Two choices Joe makes are Shakespeare in Love (above) and Groundhog Day (below).


Did you like this? Share it: