Hooray for Hollywood
Interview after interview has celebrities declaring movies need to be back in theatres. Many insist a communal in-person theatre experience is the only way to enjoy films.
Is it though?
My kids love going to the movie theatre. The plush recliners that ease back with a slick push of a button. An array of candy as far as the eye can see. Gooey popcorn crunching in your mouth. And oh yeah, a 60 Ft. by 50 Ft. Technicolor display complete with booming surround sound.
But we don’t have the same experience of theatre-going. Just with anything else in life, human experiences vary. And we don’t all have access to the same things.
Creating opportunities for home-viewing of films is important. It becomes, oh gag, I’m going to say it, but elitist to insist the only way to enjoy a film is to pay and sit in a theatre.
Filmmakers can lament, insisting movies were intended to be viewed on a large screen. Actors can push for films to be shown exclusively in theatres.
This doesn’t change specific access needs for audience members.
Not everyone has the means to afford a trip to the movie theatre. Depending where you live and what time of day it is, going to the movies can be pricey.
For my family of four, our tickets alone usually cost around $30. After concessions are purchased, we are looking at a total of about $60. Imagine if I had more children.
If a movie is simultaneously released on a streaming platform like Netflix or Disney Plus, I’ve only spent the cost of the service. And I can buy movie goodies much cheaper at a store.
To give an idea of the costs, a Netflix subscription cost between $8 and $15. This is half of what I pay for my family to see a single movie, and I also have access to all of Netflix’s titles.
So, what’s the incentive for me to spend more at the theatre?
Could this be an issue wrapped up in capitalism? Gee, another victory for capitalism.
When we discuss financial disparity, we cannot ignore how racism and classism play a role.
We know that people of color tend to make less on average. Women of color even less. Demanding a single option to access something upholds so many isms, it’s astonishing.
Similarly, many disabled people live on fixed incomes. Paying to go to a theatre, and in many cases, paying for transportation isn’t always a viable option.
Again, the lack of options creates discrimination. We basically say that if you can’t afford something, then you’re out of luck. Only those with fewer access needs will be given privileges.
People also rarely consider disability access. While it has become more common, in 2021, not every movie theatre provides closed captioning or audio description or ASL interpreters. And what about those with certain sensory sensitivities, anxiety, chronic pain. The list goes on and on.
I have chronic pain/fatigue syndrome. It can be uncomfortable to sit in a movie theatre. At times, it has been excruciating. And at times, I don’t have the energy to get there in the first place.
I could enjoy a film at my leisure in the comfort of my home. Why should I be denied this?
Whether filmmakers, actors, critics or the general public, demanding movies should only be viewed in-person is ignorant and ableist. Per usual, decisions are made by those who have no clue about access needs.
I love films. I love all genres of films. I can get swept up in a good movie just as much as I do with a good book. I studied acting and once upon a time, fancied the idea of pursuing an acting career.
But I want equal access to everything. I want opportunities that work for all people. It’s 2021, we have the ability to create options. Movie-going shouldn’t be an either-or scenario.
I want Hollywood to stop making discriminatory decisions about who gets to see films and where. I want this elite group of people who claim to be liberal to take class and race and gender and ability out of the equation. Be innovators, create equitable solutions.
Regardless of the intent of a specific film, stop being precious about your films. Make it what film has always been about: entertainment for the people.
And since it’s for people, all people, give us options for viewing. Don’t just give us equal access but equitable access.