The Future of Movies (Maybe)

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The Future of Movies (Maybe)

Movies have constantly improved technology since their inception, but where are we going next?

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Interesting ideas, but just one thing - surely 3d glasses can't make elements *visible* that are otherwise *invisible*, but only the other way round. So you'd wear the glasses in order to *hide* the subtitles, not to show them - or else you'd have to wear one polarization to see things in one form, and another polarization to see them in a different form.

No Bob, sad to say I don't know of anyone who mixes popcorn with Reese's Pieces. However I may have to try it someday, perhaps you've started something...

I'm sorry Bob, it's actually Buncha Crunch that will be premixed with popcorn, Reese's Pieces would just be weird.

I think the obvious change will be theaters themselves will go away. Many people have giant flat screen TV's and surround sound systems in their homes. Why go to a theater when they've effectively made a theater in their living room? What this means, I am uncertain. It could mean feature-length films will go away in favor of a series format. I thought Pacific Rim would have been better as a series. Wall-E would have been better as the series of shorts involving a robot cleaning up the planet. But these were made into features because that's what sells. It just doesn't sell as well as videos of cats on Youtube. If streaming can be done with theaters inexpensively, then it can be done with end users just as cheaply... maybe not as cheaply with server traffic and all. But it's already being done, anyway. Some movies can be streamed while they are in theaters. It's already going that way. And there's no reason to think people give a shit enough about the tradition of going to a theater to want to keep it alive for its own sake.

Here's a thing about 3D: it doesn't work. For all the work and technological advances, 3D still doesn't look like real life. Not even close. And since they have to flatten 3D presentations or else everyone would get headaches and discomfort... yes, they really do flatten it... it winds-up looking like a card board diorama. In Wolverine there is a shot of Logan and Mariko in bed. The camera goes past Tao Okamoto's shoulder to Hugh Jackman and she looked like a cardboard cutout that was a mile away from him. it just looks terrible.

Television had been slowly killing movie theaters for years. Technical innovations were quickly matched. Color movies came out and then color televisions were produced. It's an arms race. It's why theaters feature a wide screen and surround sound. It took a while, but now home theaters have that. And 3D as 3D televisions are also available. What do theaters off besides a reason to get out of the house besides the mini-golf course?

I'm kind of surprised Bob didn't mention the growing trend of movie theatre grills/restaurants. That is, movie theatres with table space in front of the rows of chairs and full food/drink menus available. I've seen places do it old-school style where you order your food and drinks outside the theatre and then bring them in and find a seat, and others (like Alamo Drafthouse and Studio Movie Grill) where you write your order down on a provided card or slip of paper (there are dim lights under the table-top so you can see the menu and your own order card once the movie actually starts) and waiters come by every now and then before and during the film to pickup orders, drop off food, re-fill beverages, and drop off/pick up bills.

It's a pretty great system that didn't exist in my area before the turn of the millennium, and I still run into people all of the time who have never heard of or consider going to a theatre that serves full meals (and alcohol!) during the showing.

*shrugs*

Was actually talking to a colleague the other day about similar uses of 3D glasses like example 3. You could potentially be showing 2 different versions of the movie, depending on what glasses were worn, and potentially what soundtrack would be playing (depending on whether you've got some kind of earbuds).
Another potential use could be to show both 24 and 48 fps versions. Didn't like the look of The Hobbit? Just use the glasses that are set to receive the 24fps version. Like the new 48p version better? Switch glasses.
Some other idea was movies with variable fps. Keeping the classic 24p for dramatic character interaction, while expanding with 48p for bigger area and action shots. Much like how certain movies change aspect ratio with scenes filmed in IMAX format.

We didn't really get much work done that day...

not Recess Pieces... I always preferred Milk Duds

!@%!# Madigan, you stole my thunder.

That is the future of movies. Not the movies itself, but the experience. Private viewings, Food, alcohol, reclining seats. It's going to come down to the actual viewing experience as much as the movie itself. As much as people harp on the comforts of home when viewing a movie, I just can't afford the type of hardware that kind of experience it takes. I'd rather blow the 20-30$ on a relaxed atmosphere catered food and loud speakers every couple of months.

madigan:
*snip*

It's a pretty great system that didn't exist in my area before the turn of the millennium, and I still run into people all of the time who have never heard of or consider going to a theatre that serves full meals (and alcohol!) during the showing.

*shrugs*

I've heard of such places, and it only makes me sad that AMC is still gagging my local cinema scene like the oversized turd that it is.

The glasses stuff was really damn clever, though I think with current technology, some of the applications you describe are less than possible. The glasses can make something that's visible invisible, but they can't reveal something that's invisible without the glasses, at least not as far as I know. So the whole R/PG-13 simultaneous screening thing seems less than possible since the R version would have to be the one on-screen while the PG-13 version would have to be the one that requires glasses, and what kid is going to willingly watch the "lame" version of the movie? I guess you could make it so that both versions require glasses, but that just seems like more of an inconvenience than anything.

I don't see why you need to wait for digital streaming to do old film revivals. The theatre chains near me have been doing it for years with DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Unless it's an IMAX or AVX theatre, most movies are still in 2K resolution. That's practically equivalent to your 1080p HD television. You just need to secure the public performance rights.

the antithesis:
Here's a thing about 3D: it doesn't work. For all the work and technological advances, 3D still doesn't look like real life. Not even close.

You don't experience real-life in 24-30 frames per second either, but movies and TV have been shown that way for almost a century, and everyone was pretty cool with it.

Sorry but people who use phones in the cinema can go die in a fire! If you can't be away from it for the run time of a film don't go to the fucking cinema!

Flatfrog:
...surely 3d glasses can't make elements *visible* that are otherwise *invisible*, but only the other way round.

Strictly speaking this is true, but the problem is more technical than absolute. For instance, with subtitles, you can make the subtitles "invisible" to people not wearing glasses by disguising them with the normal movie, then have the glasses remove the "disguise", allowing the subtitles to be "visible" to people wearing the glasses.

Don't know about the future of movies, but..

wheee! RiffTrax mention. Love those guys(since they were doing MST3K)!

MovieBob:
Most immediately, it would be possible for a studio or filmmaker to make changes to an already-released film almost on the fly. Imagine a world where "movie mistakes" like incorrect clocks, makeup-continuity flubs, an out of place prop, visible boom-mics, etc are no longer part of a film's permanent record; since mistakes caught on the first day of release could hypothetically be learned of on the first day of release and then "patched" with quick FX work (and a new upload of the source-file) in time for the first showing of the second day.

Streaming is potentially really cool because it could actually drop entry prices if shipping is less of a factor. When reading this I'm guessing that everyone is worrying about one thing: The "Star Wars" effect. If a producer can patch a movie whenever he wants, what is to stop them from eternally tweaking a movie? If I'm going to see a movie and talk to my friends about it, it damn well better be the same movie that they saw. Constant patching of movies would kill the entire social atmosphere of movie-going, unless you consider peopler raging at 'special edition' changes to be an enjoyable experience.

MovieBob:
Worst case scenario, we all just accept that a sea of glowy squares in otherwise-dark theaters is just the new reality.

I could deal with light screens, as any really good movie has me glued to the screen without noticing my surroundings, but my worst case scenario is worse. If we get phones or computers in theatres then we have to deal with THE KEYBOARD CLACKING. Oh god, I want to stab my ears thinking about it. They've been trying to make silent key presses for a century now and aren't anywhere closer. It may never happen.

MovieBob:
WHEN YOU BUY POPCORN, THE REESE'S PIECES WILL ALREADY BE MIXED IN SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUY A BOX AND DO IT YOURSELF

...Other people do this, right?

Nope. You're crazy.

Captcha: Your Feedback
This is indeed my feedback. Very observant.

No bob. You aren't the only one. My brother does it with buncha crunch.

Ya know Bob, I've long been interested to have you go see a movie in Sweden, I'd be curious to see your reaction. In Sweden, I've seen someone texting like once, and never had to even see someone desperately trying to turn of the sound to their phone as someone is calling them mid-movie. The last time I was mildly annoyed at the movies were when some kids behind me tended to snicker to loudly at inappropriate times. People talking in theaters is virtually non-existing, the most you can expect is some banter during the trailers.

Not only are people well-behaved you never have to worry about finding a seat. You can only book numbered seats, most easily done online. This greatly simplifies big premiers, because once you've spent your nights in a tent to get tickets, you can pick the best seats then and there, no need to stand in line again. Also, there are no rules about bringing snacks from outside, near most cinemas in Sweden, you can find a big candy-store within spitting distance.

Whenever I read about your (or other people from US) frustration with movie-going, I get eternally thankful for this country and our civil and structured way of life.

I've only ever seen the Buncha-Crunch combination. I have to wonder, is chocolate candy all that good if you get the popcorn buttery? I can't imagine it is.

1) Cell phones could already be used for texting or anything else that is 100% text in a movie theater, very easily. Either have the screen be mostly back with the words be a darker color than white (yellow is a good color for this). The amount of light coming out, in that case is very minimal and would not disturb others around you, as long as the phone is kept low. Also, something like google glasses could take care of it.

2) No, the future of movies is not "wear more/different crap to make movies magically change!" No one wants to wear stuff. You know what happens if the choices are, "pay more asshole, or get blasted with ads all over the place"? More people stay home, wait for a home release, or just pirate the movie. This is what happens when you antagonize your audience. See: video games.

3) You're right about streaming/digital distribution of movies changing things, drastically. When it comes to the end-user (read: us), it's really not going to be much different, unfortunately. Yes, we might have some more niche/oddball choices here and there, but the savings of not distributing movies will not be passed onto us and as much as a world where a film could be "fixed" while in the theaters sounds cool, it won't happen. There's no real money in it.

Honestly, what's going to change most in going to the movies is what's offered. It's not the 1950's, people don't need to go to the theater to see something, there are MANY other options. Going to the movies is expensive and compared to home, it's not a great experience. Offer more. Better seats. Better/more reasonable priced concessions. A better guarantee of silence and not having my seat kicked by the brat behind me. Then, and only then, will stacking things like "pop-up video," rifftrax, and other fun stuff will make me care.

Another thing I love about Alamo Drafthouse. They will eject your from the theater for using your cellphone. Seen it done and one of their big marketing points is that they will. They even mocked a customer that got booted out on one of their advertisements..

Captcha: Buffalo Wing? Nah, I usually get a personal pizza when I go to the Drafthouse..

the antithesis:
I think the obvious change will be theaters themselves will go away. Many people have giant flat screen TV's and surround sound systems in their homes. Why go to a theater when they've effectively made a theater in their living room? What this means, I am uncertain. It could mean feature-length films will go away in favor of a series format. I thought Pacific Rim would have been better as a series. Wall-E would have been better as the series of shorts involving a robot cleaning up the planet. But these were made into features because that's what sells. It just doesn't sell as well as videos of cats on Youtube. If streaming can be done with theaters inexpensively, then it can be done with end users just as cheaply... maybe not as cheaply with server traffic and all. But it's already being done, anyway. Some movies can be streamed while they are in theaters. It's already going that way. And there's no reason to think people give a shit enough about the tradition of going to a theater to want to keep it alive for its own sake.

Here's a thing about 3D: it doesn't work. For all the work and technological advances, 3D still doesn't look like real life. Not even close. And since they have to flatten 3D presentations or else everyone would get headaches and discomfort... yes, they really do flatten it... it winds-up looking like a card board diorama. In Wolverine there is a shot of Logan and Mariko in bed. The camera goes past Tao Okamoto's shoulder to Hugh Jackman and she looked like a cardboard cutout that was a mile away from him. it just looks terrible.

Television had been slowly killing movie theaters for years. Technical innovations were quickly matched. Color movies came out and then color televisions were produced. It's an arms race. It's why theaters feature a wide screen and surround sound. It took a while, but now home theaters have that. And 3D as 3D televisions are also available. What do theaters off besides a reason to get out of the house besides the mini-golf course?

People will still go to the theatre for the experience of it. There is just something massively different about seeing a movie in the theatre as opposed to your own living room or on your computer. The popcorn, the seats, the size of the room and the screen and even the presence of other people there watching it with you (for good or for ill) just creates this atmosphere that a home-theatre system just won't match...EVER.

Aside from that it just isn't practically feasible that home-entertainment systems will be able to replace theatres even if they could deliver the exact same experience. Not everyone has the money to buy one of those things, and far fewer has the extra space necessary to set it up. The size is a big part of the theatre experience so if home-entertainment is ever going to even have a chance of replicating it the space IS necessary.

Having the option to "patch" results in weaker quality control, and more patches. This is a Pandora's box that consoles opened up when they allowed for it. I prefer my games to work out of the box, and the last thing I want is movies to need day one patching just so that the job was done on a deadline. The job should be done right before it is released to the public.

The tech to stop the phone issue already exists, and has existed for decades. It's Illegal because of how it can be used, and if the people responsible fore that keep their heads on strait it will say that way. The first time a phone jammer gets used in a kidnapping will be the day the law goes right back to where it is now.

I understand the desire for these "options", but their consequences are unacceptable.

One idea I've had for the phone-screen-darkening thing is an interface with those Google Glass-things that causes the phone screen itself to be 99% dark, but the glasses to make it look like it's bright, only to the people wearing them.

If that's a tradeoff for getting re-releases on the big screen, then hey, I'm all for it. There are SO many movies I want to see again on the big screen, both recent ones and one from when I was a kid (also, "event movies" like MLP: Equestria Girls that only played for a single weekend, and my dad, who had been looking forward to it almost as much as me, was sick and couldn't go... I hate pirating stuff, but I downloaded it just so I could show it to him on my laptop)

How about going through a mandatory EMP machine, so that any electronic devices turned on when entering the theater automatically get bricked. You know to prevent texting and phone calls during the feature.

Silverspetz:

People will still go to the theatre for the experience of it. There is just something massively different about seeing a movie in the theatre as opposed to your own living room or on your computer. The popcorn, the seats, the size of the room and the screen and even the presence of other people there watching it with you (for good or for ill) just creates this atmosphere that a home-theatre system just won't match...EVER.

Aside from that it just isn't practically feasible that home-entertainment systems will be able to replace theatres even if they could deliver the exact same experience. Not everyone has the money to buy one of those things, and far fewer has the extra space necessary to set it up. The size is a big part of the theatre experience so if home-entertainment is ever going to even have a chance of replicating it the space IS necessary.

You can emulate a huge theater screen just fine with an Oculus Rift. Buying one of those can get you infinite cinema experiences for $300, and it only takes up space that your head is already occupying.

Darth Sea Bass:
Sorry but people who use phones in the cinema can go die in a fire! If you can't be away from it for the run time of a film don't go to the fucking cinema!

Agreed, I can't stand that. When the first Hobbit film came out, there was this guy sitting in front of my friends and I and was even taking pictures with a flash on... We promptly got him kicked out. It's just inconsiderate.

If people start regularly using their cellphones during the movie, I'm going to start regularly bringing a portable signal jammer with me into the theatre.

chikusho:
You can emulate a huge theater screen just fine with an Oculus Rift.

No, you can't. Even the consumer version simply doesn't have the resolution. You'll be looking at it through a screen door, as they say.

I never turn my phone off, ever! It is always on silent though.

MovieBob,

Hey, I really enjoy your work here and I don't know if you ever read the comments here on your posts but I think you should consider the idea that home alternatives might actually make the whole movie experience a home event:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdnuZVwMHS0

Of course I'm talking about the Occulus Rift as the early prototype for a virtual reality environment that gives you the feeling of being in a theater without having to bother with the lines and yes, those asshats that fiddle with their phones at your expense.

Do you think some at-home tech might eventually kill the movie theater experience in some way? Don't get me wrong, there's something magical and different about the theater. Like a get away. But what if tech can provide that in the important ways. What if the industry gets to a point that movie producers can make more money by including occulus rift users (or whatever the device name is that accomplishes this) in who they release to? I mean, it's not like bootlegging doesn't already have the movie online a day or more before the movie actually comes out so maybe theaters can assume that pirates are going to be lost revenue and consider this as safe way to get more money up front for one view than they would from a theater that rents the movie license? Release of long-term individual licenses (probably purely digital in the future) would continue to be a staggered release.

Just something to consider. I think there will always be a place for theaters. I'm just afraid that they'll become what drive-ins are today and I don't think that fear is entirely unwarranted.

The thing about using smartphones to access alternate audio tracks is interesting, but I don't see how it would work. How would it silence the normal sound of the movie? I guess the same technology as noise-canceling headphones, but hard-synched to the film and with a volume control you can slide until as little of the base movie as possible is audible.

Oh, and you're wrong that people will ever stop calling them "phones". If we haven't come up with a different term for them now, when calling is the least commonly used function of most models, we probably never will until the English language goes out of style. The Brits know where it's at, though; they've been calling 'em "mobiles" since before they were "smart".

NLS:
Was actually talking to a colleague the other day about similar uses of 3D glasses like example 3. You could potentially be showing 2 different versions of the movie, depending on what glasses were worn, and potentially what soundtrack would be playing (depending on whether you've got some kind of earbuds).
Another potential use could be to show both 24 and 48 fps versions. Didn't like the look of The Hobbit? Just use the glasses that are set to receive the 24fps version. Like the new 48p version better? Switch glasses.

I think people who are bothered by 48fps video would find that having to watch a movie through polarized glasses isn't any better.

Varya:
Ya know Bob, I've long been interested to have you go see a movie in Sweden, I'd be curious to see your reaction. In Sweden, I've seen someone texting like once, and never had to even see someone desperately trying to turn of the sound to their phone as someone is calling them mid-movie. The last time I was mildly annoyed at the movies were when some kids behind me tended to snicker to loudly at inappropriate times. People talking in theaters is virtually non-existing, the most you can expect is some banter during the trailers.

Not only are people well-behaved you never have to worry about finding a seat. You can only book numbered seats, most easily done online. This greatly simplifies big premiers, because once you've spent your nights in a tent to get tickets, you can pick the best seats then and there, no need to stand in line again. Also, there are no rules about bringing snacks from outside, near most cinemas in Sweden, you can find a big candy-store within spitting distance.

Whenever I read about your (or other people from US) frustration with movie-going, I get eternally thankful for this country and our civil and structured way of life.

Yeah, well, Swedes are probably just better people than Americans. One day I'd like to study the cultures that are Just Better than America, like Sweden and Canada, and figure out just what's up with that. Maybe it's the cold weather. People can't work up the energy to be an asshole when they're too cold all the time. That would also explain why people from the South are so much worse.

medv4380:
Having the option to "patch" results in weaker quality control, and more patches. This is a Pandora's box that consoles opened up when they allowed for it. I prefer my games to work out of the box, and the last thing I want is movies to need day one patching just so that the job was done on a deadline. The job should be done right before it is released to the public.

I think that has more to do with the complexity of games going way up around the same time. I've actually found that the worst quality control this generation tends to be from games whose publishers don't bother to patch anything.

So, for a while now I've been thinking that the only way theatres survive beyond ten years is if the role of them changes from "exclusive first release to get people to cram in and overpay to see something" to "club where people who like movies go to hang out and watch things together".

Already, the theatre doesn't really provide anything that most people don't already have in their homes. My home screen is higher quality than my local theatre's, though maybe they've got an edge on surround. Everything you've suggested could easily be made to accommodate personal viewing rather than the bigger screen. It'd even be more convenient, and then you'd axe a significant part of Hollywood that tries to use gimmicky tactics to persuade people to buy a ticket.

Imagine a world where a movie comes out and is instantly available to pay to stream directly to people's homes, which actually does work now, but imagine a world where it's the future, so things have been ironed out to not suck. When somebody's TV setup rivals the movie theatre, just forget trying to compete, let them pay to watch it at home. Then, the theatre changes roles.

Make the theatre a place that people who Love movies go. When you go there to hang out with other people and talk about what you've seen and what's coming, and you can literally just start a movie - old or new - whenever a group of people decide they want to see it, and it becomes a hub for a medium of entertainment, then you've got something. Dinner-and-a-movie is and has been a thing for a very long time. Make that a thing. The theatre is much more exciting when it's a place you want to be at, and yes, I am thinking back to the twenties. Cut the dying mass market and turn it specialty shop. People will spend money for the things they love, so let them.

In my spectacular science-fiction future where this is a thing, it's also amazing for independent films driving the industry, because they're available anywhere, so if people want to watch it they just can.

Don't pull your phone out at my local theater, people WILL say something.

Mark D. Stroyer:
Already, the theatre doesn't really provide anything that most people don't already have in their homes. My home screen is higher quality than my local theatre's, though maybe they've got an edge on surround. Everything you've suggested could easily be made to accommodate personal viewing rather than the bigger screen. It'd even be more convenient, and then you'd axe a significant part of Hollywood that tries to use gimmicky tactics to persuade people to buy a ticket.

Imagine a world where a movie comes out and is instantly available to pay to stream directly to people's homes, which actually does work now, but imagine a world where it's the future, so things have been ironed out to not suck. When somebody's TV setup rivals the movie theatre, just forget trying to compete, let them pay to watch it at home. Then, the theatre changes roles.

My local theater's bigger screens are way bigger than the 60" plasma we have at home. Like an order of magnitude. They use digital projectors that have a great picture. The sound system is amazing. The theater still beats the hell out of any home theater I have ever seen. Of course I haven't been to Bob Murray's house so who knows what he has.

The theaters still compete quite nicely with all the 1080p, future 4k, and large 60"+ HDTV's and 600watt home sound systems out there.

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