The experience of going to the movies has greatly improved at the same rate that the movies themselves have declined. When I was a kid, in the 1960s, going to the movies meant paying a buck for admission to a theater jammed with other screaming kids on a Saturday afternoon. It meant buying a giant bucket of popcorn — some to be eaten, some to be thrown. It meant a shitty sound system with barely-understood dialog pumped through ancient, crackly speakers. And the movie? Well, in my neighborhood, we had to wait several weeks until the big Hollywood productions made their way out of the ritzy, downtown theaters and into the twin-screen cinemas in the so-called "Greater Northeast," a section of the city that, while geographically was "northeast" of Philadelphia, was, by no means "great." So, our entertainment was provided by a movie that the rest of the world saw a month earlier or a years old, third-rate K. Gordon Murray twisted child fantasy. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience.
By the time I reached high school, the first-run policy had been relaxed and movies would premiere just a short drive from my house, in theaters that had been expanded to accommodate up to four separate screens. Most times, this was accomplished by splitting existing auditoriums in half. Economically, this made perfect sense for the theater chains, but the viewing experience was akin to watching a movie in a bowling alley. The ticket prices increased, of course, to subsidize the renovations, but the seats seemed more comfortable and the concession stands seemed to offer a wider and better selection of food.
Although I love movies, I stopped going when the ticket prices skyrocketed and the quality of the actual films diminished. There was that glut of big-screen versions of television shows — mostly miscast and filled with contrived premises. Then there were the plotless action films with more attention paid to explosions than to an actual script. So, I stayed away. Also, thanks to the advent of home video, people just flat out forgot how to behave in the company of other people. They'd talk loudly, text incessantly and parade up and down the aisles regularly. Some even brought screaming children to inappropriate films. My son and I watched a couple wander into a theater pushing, not one, but two strollers for a 9:15 PM showing of Hellboy. Really, Mom and Dad? Hellboy?
Then theaters began installing stadium seating and sophisticated, state-of-the-art sound systems. Concession stands were stocked with menus featuring deli-style sandwiches and side orders like french fries alongside the M&Ms and popcorn. The auditoriums were even cleaner. Shoes no longer stuck to the floor while walking to a seat. It was slowly becoming a welcoming experience again, albeit very slowly. My wife and I, however, could still categorize our movie-going frequency as "infrequent."
The movie, however, was another story. Jam-packed with convoluted sub-plots, faux-profound dialog, relentlessly lengthy fight scenes and a plethora of unnecessarily menacing characters (not to mention Ben Affleck's ligneous acting), it's no wonder this 151-minute mish-mash tanked in its second week of release. Even Mrs. P — who still enjoys 1983's misguided Superman III — shook her head in disgust at this mess.
Current movies still suck, but, damn!, if Movie Tavern don't got it goin' on.