Movie Theaters Are Destroying Movies

As the 21st-century barrels on, filmmakers and film fans alike are in a constant debate about what modern institution is “ruining movies.” For many people – like Steven Spielberg – it’s the world of streaming sites, like Netflix, that are destroying the sanctity of the so-called “theatrical experience.” But Edward Norton has a different take on this whole matter. According to the director and star of Motherless Brooklyn, it’s not Netflix that’s ruining movies – it’s movie theaters themselves. Norton cites poorly run theaters projecting films dimly and playing sound poorly as the real culprit behind the decline of cinema. And honestly, he has a point.

Are you of the opinion that the moviegoing experience has been “ruined”? If so, who or what do you blame? Do you think streaming platforms have sucked the life out of going to the movies? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s movie theaters that are to blame? If you lean towards the latter, Edward Norton agrees with you. “It’s the theater chains that are destroying the theatrical experience,” Norton recently told the Daily Beast. “Period, full-stop. No one else.”

The actor and director continued:

“A lot of filmmakers and cinematographers that I know that have really started to look into this say that more than 60 percent of American theaters are running their projector at almost half the luminosity that they’re required by contract to run it at. They are delivering crappy sound and a dim picture, and no one is calling them on it….If [theaters] were delivering what they’re supposed to be delivering, people would be going.”

He’s not wrong, folks! Where I live – the greater Philadelphia region – the so-called “theater experience” has been completely ruined by theater chains (I don’t want to call any specific chain out, so let’s just make up a fake one, like, um, AMC) that clearly don’t give a shit. The quality of the projection is lousy, the sound isn’t mixed right, and there’s not a soul to be found who really cares. If you complain, the best you’ll get is a free pass to come back to the crappy theater you were just complaining about. Not helping matters: rude audiences who are just as apathetic as theater staff. They take out their phones, they hold loud conversations, they disrupt any semblance of decorum. Going to the movie theater has become a nightmare for me – which is a bit of a problem since I write about movies for a living.

Norton goes on to specifically (but respectfully) call-out Spielberg for his anti-Netflix stance, pointing out that Netflix is giving lots of money to the type of films most Hollywood studios would have no interest in these days. “If I disagreed with anybody, with great respect, it was  Spielberg,” said Norton. “Netflix invested more in Roma theatrically than any boutique label at any studio would have by a factor of five. They put a Spanish-language black-and-white film all over the world in theaters. Hundreds of theaters, not just a few; as many as Sony Pictures Classics would have done. They put more money behind it, in a theatrical context, than anybody would have. You can’t tell me there’s a whole lot of people making black-and-white Spanish-language films and putting that investment behind them.”

I’m sure the debate on this topic will continue to rage on. But even though Steven Spielberg is 10 times the filmmaker Edward Norton is, I have to say I agree with Norton on this one.

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