Revival Houses

Hollywood suffered a major disappointment at the box office this summer, and it looks like we’re seeing a major sea change in the way motion pictures and TV shows are viewed / consumed.

[We’re going full bore theological after the jump, but secular readers are safe until then.]

In a nut shell, fewer and fewer people feel like shelling out $10-20 bucks to eat overpriced popcorn while watching a movie they know little if anything about.

Previously, they had been willing to spend that kinda money for something they knew they would enjoy, either a branded form of entertainment like Walt Pixar Presents Harry Marvel’s War Trek 007:  Die With An Expendable Transforming Hard On, or Something Just Like It.

New[1] movies, unfamiliar concepts, non-popcorn crunchers just didn’t warrant a $10+ entry fee.

Wait till it comes on Pay-Per-Vue or HBO or Netflix or (really scraping the bottom of the barrel here) YouTube.

Heaven knows this is how I watch most of my media: If it ain’t on Netflix /  HBO / YouTube or available on DVD, I’ll pass.

As a result movie theaters are slowly starting to spiral the drain.  Their biggest hits are aimed at a teen male heterosexual audience that can’t find dates and whose parents monitor their computer so they can’t watch porn.

There’s next to nada for older and/or female audiences.

Movies used to be a shared common public experience:  You went to see something along with a bunch of other people, and then you discussed that experience with other people who hadn’t been there with you.

Now we share the experience online, comparing notes over TV shows and movies we watched in the privacy of our own homes.[2]

We don’t really connect with the rest of an audience in a movie theater.

Now, there is an exception to that, and that’s when  people come together to share a specific common interest.

Here in L.A. we have the El Capitan Theatre which shows Disney movies accompanied by elaborate stage shows.  People who go there go specifically to see a Disney movie with an elaborate stage show wrapped around it.

Or people go to sing-a-long events where classic musicals like The Sound Of Music are played with follow-the-bouncing-ball accompaniment, turning it into karaoke for the masses.

Or, if they are real film buffs, they go to the rapidly dwindling number of art / revival houses to see a specific film selected for them by the theater in the company of fellow film buffs.

Back in the day these sorts of theaters, while not exactly plentiful, were easy to find.  Every major urban area had at least two or three, sometimes many, many more.  Often they would show a new double every night ( not counting special kiddee matinees on Saturdays or late night cult films on Fridays and Saturdays).  The films would either be selected as complimentary to one another or as an interesting juxtaposition.  Once or twice a month there would be an evening of short subjects / cartoons / music videos.


In other words, every night a three to four hour block of interesting, thought provoking movies representing a wide variety of genres and styles.

If I were king of the forest, I’d want a neighborhood revival house where the staff selected an interesting double feature / selection of shorts for each evening.  Projection would be a state of the art digital system; it would be set up to scan 70mm / 35mm / 16mm / 9.5mm / Super 8 / 8mm films without having to run them through hellacious loud / hot / cranky projectors, as well as taking digital downloads / Blu-rays / DVDs / VHS / Beta / laserdisc / Fisher-Price PXL2000 sourced material.

There would be a selection of healthy / inexpensive drinks, good popcorn popped fresh daily, and quality snacks; and next door would be a Denny’s-style coffee shop so after the screening either the film makers or the theater manager could take people over to discuss what they had just seen and get to know one another better.

What we have instead, however, is a theatrical film going experience that relies more and more on variants of previous successes.  It is the rare theatrical film that makes even a token gesture at a fresh interpretation of old tropes, or presents itself in a style other than that of last year’s block buster.[3]

…and as classic Hollywood begins its slow death spiral, the churches are already imploding.

I’ve flogged this dead horse many a time in the past, and have nothing to add to the topic except whatever is happening to the small “c” church, the small “c” church richly deserves it having brought it all upon itself.

My prescription for a revival movie house won’t do jack to help  big bloated Hollywood studios survive, but it would create an environment where film buffs could flourish and where genuinely creative film makers[4] could connect with audiences.

If the small “c” churches was to survive, maybe the time has arrived to recognize their future isn’t with the theological equivalent of the Hollywood schlockbuster but rather with the spiritual equivalent of a revival house.[5]

Forget about a quantitative experience; that’s a mug’s game.

Go for the qualitative one instead.

People who want junk theology can find in in the comfort of their homes through any number of charlatans seeking to separate them from their pension checks.[6]

Make the experience meaningful for the people it means something to.  Make it meaningful for the ones with the love, the interest, the passion, the depth of knowledge to carry it on from generation to generation.




[1]  Well, “newish”…

[2]  And at a fraction of the price of seeing it in a theater with a bunch of rude gobs who can’t keep their yaps shut.

[3]  I live about as far away from Los Angeles proper as one can live and still be in Los Angeles county; my modest size town house is in an HOA that offers virtually no guest parking.  If I could I would invite dozens of people over every night to watch movies on Netflix with me; it’s boring to watch movies all by yourself.  But physical restraints being what they are, the best I can do is share the experience vicariously with others via this blog & FaceBook.

[4]  As opposed to hot shot slickee boiz…

[5]  And judging how much they like using the term “revivial” maybe they oughta read this as a big honking clue…

[6]  And why not?  I mean, they’d only spend it on food and medicine, right? 





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