Principal film critic at the Village Voice Bilge Ebiri recently wrote an article about the newly renovated Quad Cinema's return and the ever-growing number of theaters sprouting up all over the city. You can read it here:
As cynical as I get about the city's transactional nature, the omnipresence of new cinemas gives me pause, in a good but also skeptical way. I really like what the Alamo is doing although eating a burger isn't essential to me enjoying a film. Metrograph has its overpriced concessions but okay. Film Forum, oh, Film Forum. I love you but I think we need to talk about your seats, they're killing me. Much fondness for BAM and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. MOMI too. All this and a Nitehawk Cinema will be opening a few blocks from my home. You'll see me there. I'll be the one with the sleeping bag. Ebiri sums it all up: "To be a cinephile often means to never be entirely satisfied, for reasons both good and bad."
One thing I can say all these theaters share is the programming. It's probably the best in the country, if not the world. That will always make me leave my home and if that matters to you then here is where you want to be. It makes me thankful and takes the sting out of watching all the other cultural institutions of my beloved city dissolve. This brings us to a just as important, overriding point: cinema is not dead just the experience as we know it is. This pivotal moment was inevitable. Why? Because with the rush of technological convenience we forgot that some things are more important than others. Trading true cinematic experience for mobility has its own cultural price especially when that experience has become more scarce. Those who want to watch THERE WILL BE BLOOD or the upcoming P.T. Anderson film for that matter don't want to watch it on an iPhone or an iPad. On the flip side, Scorsese's choice to direct THE IRISHMAN under Netflix's banner is a little baffling to me but I guess the backing and the overall creative control was too tempting and yes, of course, I'll watch it.
As fragmented as the film watching experience is, people, especially young audiences, will go to the theater if you give them a reason to. If you build it, they will come. That's something Netflix cannot and will not provide. At least Ted Hope and Amazon understand the relationship between the audience and the filmmaker. They're betting on it. They will release a film theatrically, even if it's a limited release before it streams through their service. Kenneth Lonergan's MANCHESTER BY THE SEA was an Amazon title as was Nicolas Winding Refn's THE NEON DEMON with many more to follow. The comparison between the online streaming services of Netflix and Amazon and the offline world equivalent can be likened to the multiplex and the arthouse. There are valid opportunities for filmmakers with both services that should be considered but take note, a theatrical release is still on the table. Don't think the studios haven't noticed. This is where the divide is most apparent — it's a pre-loaded audience tentpole or nothing.
Truffaut said, "A film has to tell us something about life and something about cinema." Will it also be telling us something based on how we experience it? Either way, let's cross our fingers for the future of cinema.