December 20, 2014
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Culture Watch: How About Some Quality Movies This Summer?

Theaters should do more than spruce up the accommodations.

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

So, summer’s here. you bored yet? At least we have the movies, right? That refuge of air conditioning and increasingly comfy chairs where for two hours we can forget our suddenly event-free environs.

 Ever since the Silverspot plopped down its oversized, leather reserved seats at Mercato four years ago, its rivals have launched a near nonstop barrage of improvements. Some were very much needed. Anyone who went to the old Towne Centre theaters off the East Trail can attest to the need for the major overhaul it got this past year. Same goes for the reinvigoration planned for the theater at The Pavilion off Vanderbilt Beach Road.

 But while theater owners are spending more and more time worrying about making the theater-going experience as inviting as ever—gourmet food, craft beer, wine you can bring to your seat—they haven’t spent much time worrying about what they are actually showing.

Due to the realities of magazine production schedules, I’m writing this piece about four weeks before it will publish. But with near certainty I can tell you what 14 movies will be playing in almost every theater throughout the month. Iron Man 3 will be nearing the end of a three-month run. Star Trek: Into Darkness should be pushing some serious box office numbers closing in on month two as well. Fast and Furious 6 will be doing better than you expected (depending on your expectations for the sixth movie of any series that doesn’t involve young Brit wizards or galaxies far, far away).

The June releases are more of a similar sort. There are high-budget dystopian adventures (World War Z with Brad Pitt), big-budget and likely R-rated comedies with star power (the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson buddy comedy The Internship and an attempt to cash in on the success of Bridesmaids with Melissa McCarthy in The Heat), superhero reboots (Man of Steel) and animated prequels (Monsters University).

July takes over where May left off in the throes of sequel madness. Despicable Me, Red, Grown Ups and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine all get another go. The team behind Pirates of the Caribbean launch the Lone Ranger franchise, replete with Johnny Depp in makeup. Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots versus aliensblockbuster Pacific Rim will likely flounder under the weight of a massive budget and great expectations.

With all those sure-fire “hits,” theaters aren’t going to pony up precious space for the other good movies that are coming out at the same time. Joss Whedon’s modernization of Much Ado About Nothing has been the toast of nearly every major film festival in the past 12 months. Even big-name director Woody Allen will have a tough time getting screens for his latest movie, Blue Jasmine.

It’s understandable that the theaters want to improve their quality. It’s hard to compete with the comforts of home, what with giant high-definition TVs, video on demand and the fact that you already paid for all of that. But it would seem to me that one intrepid theater owner would put a premium on the quality of the movies shown rather than on just the grain of the leather in the seats to give a theater an edge in the never-ending war for your entertainment dollar.
 

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