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Movie Going

March 3, 2017

When I was a kid, there was a time that it wasn’t just enough to see a movie on opening weekend. I simply had to see the sneak preview premiere. Thankfully, most of these happened in the summer, so it wasn’t out of the question to stay out late on a Wednesday or Thursday night.

But these were in the days before DVDs. So even though home theater screens could be large, the best video quality you could get came on VHS tapes. Actually, that’s not true. A few of my friends had those giant laser disk players too.

It seems, these days, that movie theaters are suffering the death of a thousand cuts. There are more and more reasons that people are reluctant to go out to the theater.

Nowhere was this more striking than in Saratoga Springs last Saturday. After the Beer Summit, I decided to catch a 10pm showing of Moonlight at the fancy newish theater just off Broadway. And it was like a ghost town in there. Seriously, it was so slow that the theater wasn’t running ticket sales from the concession stand.

But people were out in droves. The bar was so packed at Druthers I couldn’t get a seat. So it wasn’t as if people weren’t out having a good time. It’s just that their good time didn’t include the movies.

What does any of this have to do with food? I’m getting to that.

As always, before the feature played, the theater ran a bunch of ads. And, like always, one of those ads was for Coca Cola. The copy said something like, “Movies go better with the great taste of Coca Cola.” I’m paraphrasing. But that was the idea.

The visual was the timeless image of a cold and refreshing cup filled with ice, with a sharp focus on the effervescence of the soda.

All I could do was think about how anachronistic this pitch seemed.

Honestly, I don’t know what sized cups the Saratoga theater uses. But the one pictured on the screen appeared to be no less than 32 ounces, and probably it was much bigger. Now perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, but I don’t think I could drink that much liquid and make it through a feature without an intermission.

Even beyond that, the collective innocence about soda is a thing of the past.

The idea of the cinema as an extension of the candy store made a lot of sense when movies were a nickel and kids had the freedom to go see a picture unsupervised.

But in this day and age, as the theaters get fancier, prices go up, and the venues become more adult spaces, it makes sense that the concession stands evolve to keep up. And they have. There’s now wine and beer in many theaters. And a host of other options.

It’s really just the ads. The ads haven’t changed. Which makes it feel like someone is clinging to the hope that this last bastion of soda consumption can keep its grip on the American consumer. However, to me, it would appear as if the American consumer has already decided to catch their movies at home on Netflix.

Let’s be clear. This is tragic.

More tragic might be the city of Troy making all sorts of concessions to build a new movie theater on a precious waterfront lot, in an attempt to bring people downtown who have largely abandoned the cinema.

Troy’s magic is in its history. And part of its history is the river. It makes sense to commercialize the property. But when there is a classic theater that’s sitting empty in downtown, just a couple of blocks away, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around this new project.

A small art house theater would do wonders to stimulate the organic growth the city has been experiencing. Maybe a place that sold switchels and shrubs instead of sodas. But a multiplex feels far more suburban than artsy and urban. Especially today.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2017 11:13 am

    When Saratoga Film Forum showed Moonlight over MLK weekend they were sold out four nights in a row. And now it’s out on pay-per-view. So you were probably one of a fairly small cohort that wanted to see it for the first time on the big screen late on a Saturday night.

    Sorry, food blog. The nostalgic ads are part of the BowTie branding. “Movie going like it used to be… only better.” The theater, and concession stands, are usually pretty busy. My 14 year old has no problem with the large size soda which comes with a free refill although, yes, he does make a stop at the restroom on the way back to his seat.

    • March 3, 2017 11:19 am

      Good point BMF. But to clarify, there were other movies starting around the same time and ending around the same time. It wasn’t just a Moonlight thing. The building itself seemed to echo in its emptiness.

      That night I only saw fewer than a dozen people in the whole building. That includes the bathrooms, the concession stand, and the hallways. It was eerie.

      But I’m glad the theater does better business on other nights. It gives me at least a little more hope for humanity.

  2. March 3, 2017 1:01 pm

    I would rather stab myself in the face then go to an “art house” theater in Troy that serves switchel (and I like switchel).

    The Spectrum has pretty much been doing it right for years, I still like going there when I get the chance. I don’t think what a successful non-mall theater should be is all that mysterious. Good movies, ditch the skittles and the coke as the main focus of your concession, and don’t be annoying. Maybe do a kids night or the like and make it un-fussy for the young families (with whom a large portion of the local disposable income resides). I’d have a movie beer too if that ever comes around…

  3. ericscheirerstott permalink
    March 5, 2017 12:23 pm

    The problem I see with Proctors Troy is that it is too big for a one screen house these days. It could do well as a film / performing arts venue (like the Capitol in Rome- if you haven’t been there you must visit) but not by films alone.

    The Bow Tie Theaters in Saratoga do a decent business, but they don’t have much competition – it was a theater desert

  4. Dave S permalink
    March 5, 2017 4:27 pm

    The concession stand has evolved pretty far at Movie Tavern.
    http://www.movietavern.com/locations/syracuse/
    I haven’t been. Per friends, I’m told it works pretty well, the food is on a Applebee’s level.

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