The Karate Kid. Cyrus. Two very different movies, both in theaters right now. Both of them I’d like to see. Which would I like to see more? Cyrus, by a long shot. Which will I actually end up seeing in theaters? The Karate Kid, for sure. Why is this?
Because The Karate Kid belongs in a movie theater and Cyrus doesn’t.
Cyrus is one of many movies which come out every year that do not need to be seen in a theater to be fully enjoyed. You can usually spot them easily: 1.85:1 aspect ratio; unremarkable visuals; sound that would be fine in 2-channel stereo. These factors come together to form a movie that does not warrant $10-$13 in ticket price (not to mention the gas or subway fare to the theater and back) no matter how enjoyable they may be.
However, for decades these movies had every right to be considered ‘movie theater’ movies, as the only way to see them in their proper aspect ratio with decent sound was at a movie theater. VHS or DVD on a CRT was no way to watch any movie, but we suffered through that era because it was all we had. With the advent of HDMI, 1080p, instant streaming, on-demand, and BitTorrent, what constitutes a ‘movie theater’ movie has been redefined.
The viewing public has realized that many movies look perfectly fine on their TV or computer. They would rather wait for these movies to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray than see them in theaters, saving their money for movies that really take advantage of a movie theater’s capabilities. Movies that adhere to the following criteria:
– Visually interesting, and shot in 2.35, 2.39, or 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
– Sound that is demonstrably benefitted by being played on more than 2 channels.
This is the new definition of a ‘movie theater’ movie. Any movie that does not fit these criteria is better off being distributed via instant streaming, on-demand, or BitTorrent for a pay-per-download or subscription fee.
Films like Cyrus would flourish under this new business model. They are the perfect films for studios to roll this out with. There is money to be made with smaller films, so long as this method is adopted. Let’s hope studios are savvy enough to embrace this on a large scale.