I’m going to give you all a phone number. Jot it down and call it, then pass it along to your friends. Don’t worry, because it’s just an answering machine. OK, here goes:
This is the number for the Graham Cinema in Graham, North Carolina, and the man you hear in the message is Tim-Bob, the theater’s manager. I’ve never been to this theater, but the accompanying photo is indeed of the Graham Cinema and I would very much like to pay a visit to it some day and meet this Tim-Bob person. Not just because of the answering message, which he’s been doing for years, but because I’d like to thank him for having a single-screen, second run $2 theater in what is no doubt a shrinking marketplace. A few years ago I was living in suburban Buffalo Grove, Illinois for a few months for work and was surprised to see a slew of second run $2 theaters in my area. No fooling, there were about 3 or 4 of them out there, one of them no more than a 5 minute drive from where I was staying. I couldn’t help but take up the opportunity to see a few films I missed in their original runs and a few that I wanted to see again and it was something I truly enjoyed. In researching this piece, I decided to look up this place and low and behold, they’re still in business and still at $2. This does my heart proud, although I say this knowing that these theaters are pretty much on their way out. Used to be that a film would take 6 months from its theatrical opening to its home video premiere, but now that window has shrunk from 3 to 4 months at most, even for big hit films. BLOOD DIAMOND, ERAGON and the shockingly excellent ROCKY BALBOA premiere on DVD tomorrow a mere 3 months after their theatrical premieres. Now, sure, both films are played out theatrically. There might still a theatrical engagement here and there, but these puppies are pretty much tapped out otherwise, so in a sense, I understand. Like it or not, moviegoers are conditioned just like the studios want them to be to catch a movie in the first few weeks of release or wait for the DVD in a few months time. This isn’t necessarily a good idea if you ask me, but hey, it seems to be working, so what the fuck do I know? At a certain point, though, the studios will discover that they’re eating into their own profits, but for the time being everyone, seemingly, is happy. What’s interesting is that movies are now not unlike records, where they no longer have periods where they’re not earning a profit in some form or another. Maybe some of the older ones go out of print for periods of time, but films can now last forever in the eyes of studio accountants.
But what about my beloved 2nd run theaters? Speaking pretty much only for myself (but I’m going to assume you agree with me), I always loved knowing where my local 2nd run theaters were and taking advantage of them to catch those films that I would miss the first time out. Yes, those theaters had always seen better days (they usually became 2nd run when another newer theater would steal their customers) and maybe the projection wasn’t quite top notch, but dammit all they were… um, there. Hey, you got what you paid for and if you were lucky, you’d get a bit more sometimes, like a really good movie. NJ used to have a plethora of them, but now there’s only one that I know of that, thankfully, exists 10 minutes from my place and you can’t find any in NYC anymore, either. The Worldwide Cinemas, one of the last of them in NYC, is now the New World Stages, a multiplex of theatrical stages for small plays and musicals (and a unique place to see a show, I must admit). Places like the Graham or the Buffalo Grove Theaters fill an important niche and I’d love to see more of them come up to help fill the void. Going to the movies cost too damn much and having the option of waiting to see a film in a theater for less is one that I wish still existed for most people. DVDs are great and all, but it will always be about sitting in a big theater for me and to do so for just $2 is worth the price of admission as far as I’m concerned.