Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today poring over enlightening missives received late last year. And, did we mention that we love hearing from you, our ever-alert audience.
In our blog of 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. What 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?
Well, regular correspondent Lady Eve is having none of that argument. Here is her email received Dec. 20:
Last summer I saw CASABLANCA with the San Francisco Symphony providing its score at Davies Hall. Nothing like it. And I’d seen the movie countless times before. Bogart and Bergman dancing cheek-to-cheek as the symphony played “Perfidia” was – well, indescribable.
In 2010 I saw (1959’s) NORTH BY NORTHWEST — also watched by me countless times before on the small screen — at the Rafael Theatre’s free-to-the public screening. It was as I watched (the movie) on that larger screen that I first truly experienced the full force of Cary Grant’s megawatt screen presence. To say nothing of Hitchcock’s craft and artistry.
Everything I’d seen and appreciated on the small screen was incredibly magnified. And I realized that I was seeing it as it was originally intended to be seen.
Another aspect of the in-theater experience is the audience. I’ve attended many classics screenings and festivals – very rarely in a theater that is less than packed or sold-out. The crowds are always ‘into it’/aka/wildly enthusiastic. I’m thinking of opening night at San Francisco’s Noir City 9 last year…
Much as I love the controlled peace and quiet of my own home and watching the classics, frequently in their digitally remastered glory, at my leisure – the in-theater experience gives me more pleasure.
‘Technical perfection’ only goes so far…
Thanks, Lady Eve. You make a convincing case. But how many times have audiences been exposed to faded or even mangled prints of great movies in routine theatrical showings?
Frank recalls his dismay at viewing the magnificent desert vistas of David Lean’s 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia through the prism of a yellowed and faded wide-screen print shown at a local Bijou. Seeing it on DVD was, believe him, a far better experience.
The screenings you describe sound as though they were special events, executed under ideal circumstances, and certainly not accessible to that a movie-starved buff living far from a major city.
As exhibited when they first came out, many of the classic titles we love today were shown in double and triple bills, with audiences shuffling in and out of theaters, entering and leaving at will. Hardly the circumstances applying to the kinds of special exhibitions you describe.
As for “enjoying” a movie with an audience, do you really relish that wiseguy in the rear row talking loudly and rattling a popcorn bag as the movie unfolds, answering a cell phone and then discarding chewing gum on the floor as he leaves?
Then again, Lady Eve, Joe tends to agree with you. Despite all the technology and convenience of seeing a film at home there ain’t nothing like “going to the movies.”