Do people under 50 still go to movie theaters?
Do they shell out for anything but kids' flicks (if they have kids) and 3-D superhero spectacles? Is the pull of Netflix and the laptop just too strong?
Do younger people stay home because TV does "adult drama" better than movies these days? (If theater owners could show next Sunday's "Breaking Bad" finale on their big screens, I'd be there in a heartbeat and buy a huge popcorn.)
Or is the problem that, since it's all digital now, people don't want to pay $10 to watch a bigger version of their TV screen?
Maybe it's one of those factors, or all of them, or none of them, that makes it hard to run an art-house these days. But those were the questions running through my mind as I read the latest grim press release from the Savoy Theater in Montpelier, titled "Drastic Cuts at the Savoy Theater."
Read it for yourself:
Montpelier, VT (September 24, 2013) Due to a prolonged decrease in attendance at the Savoy Theater, the owner, Terry Youk, is having to make cuts in staffing and hours of operation for the theater and the video rental business, Downstairs Video. In a direct comparison of the ?rst nine months of 2012 to 2013, the Savoy has sold 3,900 fewer tickets with an overall $61,000 downturn for the entire business from last year. “We have to let loyal and longtime employees go because the community is just not coming out to see movies or rent DVDs in the same numbers that we have seen in past years,” related Youk. “If this trend continues on the same trajectory, we will have to consider adopting a three day schedule showing only on the weekend or worse, reevaluating whether the Savoy is actually sustainable in Montpelier,” he added.
The Savoy is the only dedicated art-house cinema in central Vermont and shows independent and foreign ?lms that you are not likely to ?nd at a multiplex. "We are not asking the community to bail us out, we are just asking for them to come and enjoy a night out at the movies and at the same time support independent free thinking cinema. I think their response over the next few months will ultimately determine the future of the Savoy."
The image above? That's the Savoy when it drew a line around the block for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Not coincidentally, Best Exotic was a film that appealed disproportionately to the over-50 crowd: the people who still go to movie theaters even when their kids aren't dragging them there. The people who tend (yes, I'm generalizing here) to have disposable income and time.
I'm the last person who's going to guilt-trip anyone into patronizing their local movie theater or video store. It's not a civic duty — it's freaking entertainment. But consider a couple of more selfish considerations:
Because Burlington's Waterfront Video had to close, it's now a lot harder for you to pick up a disc of "Game of Thrones" any time you feel like it. (Well, unless you choose to obtain it illegally.) Video stores are nice to have. Montpelier still has one — for now.
The Savoy really does show "independent and foreign ?lms that you are not likely to ?nd at a multiplex." Because many of them only play for a week in the theater's hip basement space, you may not have noticed them. But they're there.
The Savoy played The Spectacular Now and In a World... before those movies came to Burlington. It played the new Pedro Almodóvar movie, which never made it north. This coming week, it's playing the documentary Salinger and the star-studded sex-addiction drama Thanks for Sharing. You can't see those in Burlington yet, either. (You might see them at Catamount Arts or the Hopkins Center, if you're lucky enough to live in their vicinity.)
These may not all be great movies, but they are movies that are attracting notice at festivals and reviews from major critics. You could wait for them to come on iTunes or Netflix. I won't lie to you. It probably won't take long.
Or you could go to the theater and see them now, and maybe meet some like-minded people and have a great discussion afterward. Take a chance on a movie that you can't turn off as soon as it bores you.
Maybe you'll see something so good you'll want to tell all your friends about it. And then you'll be happy you still have a local art-house theater.