There’s change afoot at your local movie theater. Not the usual innovations, such as a 300-ounce “BladderBuster” soft drink cup or the “Sodium Mountain” popcorn feedbag. This has to do with what’s on the screen. Movie theaters are taking a hard look at content other than movies as a means of getting more butts in seats and then selling you a 300-ounce Dr. Pepper.
Because of what The New York Times calls “stagnating attendance and advances in digital technology” (read: “Let’s wait for the DVD…”), movie theater owners are now booking simulcasts of concerts, sporting events, opera… you name it. One theater chain tried a marathon of classic Star Trek TV shows. Not the movies, the TV shows. Because, you know, they’re hard to find on TV and some people have yet to memorize the dialogue from every single episode.
Movie theater owners think that non-movie content will remain supplemental and never replace movies as the number one reason people trek to the mall-o-plex. But if it’s true that people will pay to see a big live image of Celine Dion singing, loudly, in stereo… there must be a much larger world of real and real-time events that would draw crowds to mall theaters. Consider these pitches from just the last few weeks. Each event has elements of drama, suspense, and potential action. And they feature some of your favorite “stars.”
Eliot Spitzer in “Can We Talk?”
Men couldn’t get enough of the ethics-driven bounder who got busted; women were dying to know exactly what was happening in the heart and mind of the beleaguered wife. If it was possible to wire tap Eliot Spitzer negotiating with sex workers, it wouldn’t have been much harder to set up video and cover that magical moment when Spitzer had to tell his wife that his career was about to melt on the red-hot backside of a 22-year-old singer/high-end hooker. (Okay, maybe that’s language for the lobby poster…)
Why would Silda and Eliot agree to video that most intimate moment? Because it would tee up their inevitable book deals in a way that would save all of us months of tiresome Today Show segments. As one of the great “He Said/She Said” scenes of all time, it might have revealed the logic behind Silda’s decision to stand next to Spitzer at his press appearances. And imagine the chuckles as Spitzer fishes around for an opening to the dialogue with his wife. “Honey, you know how some guys have hobbies, like model trains… or models…?”
Sara Jane Olson in “Glitch!”
Audiences for a fictional movie would struggle to buy in on a story line featuring a 70s radical headed back to prison after an “administrative error” resulted in her being released early by mistake. One likes to think that the same thing would never happen with Charles Manson; that someone would have eventually wondered aloud, “Charlie? Our Charlie? Are you sure? Let me see those papers again.”
Live coverage of the Olson release might have drawn attention to the mistake and blown the whole story line. But we might have witnessed a new benchmark for reality comedy if cameras had been rolling when the phone rang later in Olson’s home. She answers, listens, then says, “No kidding? Huh. Because I kind of wondered about it myself…” and we witness a paroxysm of laughter from everybody gathered in her living room. CUT TO: Cheech and Chong getting chewed out by their boss in the Department of Corrections file room.
Barack Obama in “Wright Mouth, Wrong Time”
People were impressed with Obama’s speech on race following a build-up of pressure for him to respond to the blunt social observations of his church pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright. Many agreed that, at a moment where Obama might have deployed yet more of his forceful but calming communications skills, he opted instead to address our Achilles’ heel of race in a considered and practical manner.
While millions tuned in to that speech, what might have filled mall movie theater seats is live coverage of a meeting in which Barack attempts to get Wright to turn down the volume.
Obama: “I’m not asking you to stop speaking your mind. Just do it more like… that minister on the Simpsons.
Wright: “Did you look at those slogans I emailed?”
Obama, unfolding a paper: “I’m not sure I understand how ‘The Audacity of Cops Beating on Us’ is positive.”
Wright: “What about ‘Yes We Can, Screw the Klan’ ?”
Obama: “I bump on some aspects of that.”
Wright: “But you like how it rhymes, right?”
Obama: “You mean like, ‘I’m Trying to Win Votes, Stop Rocking the Boat’?”