Movie Theatres vs. DVDs: Cinematic Showdown or Community Breakdown?

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The stormy debate over “Bubble” rages in Tinsel Town. Is this a Hollywood problem or a full-blown social crisis? The moviegoers’ outcry is finally heard as Kendrick Macdowell, General Counsel of the National Association of Theater Owners takes center stage on “If These Walls Could Talk” Online Talk Radio Show on the VoiceAmerica™ Network.

Do waning box-office numbers reflect a breakdown of community or simply a convenience-seeking public? Kendrick Macdowell joins host Katherine Morris to discuss the transformation of the cinematic experience, what it says about the American community, and what it means to the future of moviemaking.

Is the beloved movie theater in peril? If so, who is to blame? Soderbergh? Cuban? Fithian? Netflix? Or society? In the Hollywood battle over the simultaneous release of Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s new film “Bubble,” the line in the sand has been clearly drawn. NATO head John Fithian calls it a “death threat” to cinema, while Mark Cuban, co-owner of 2929 Entertainment, points out that he, too, is a theater owner. As the players continue to amass on both sides of this thunderous controversy is something more important being missed?

With the debate around profit margin, ticket price, and the timing of release windows, two significant factors have been overlooked: the outcry from moviegoers to reform the theater experience, and the telltale signs of a societal shift 35 years in the making.

Katherine Morris, an expert in setting psychology, views the issue as both art patron and psychotherapist. “The cinema is an American ritual. I’m curious to know if simultaneous release will affect the artistic design of films, or the types of films, we see in the future. Declining box-office sales could reflect a societal shift now manifesting in the movie theater setting.”

Although some moviegoers say they will remain loyal to the “big screen,” an increasing number feel forced into their living rooms by what some describe as a “torturous” theater environment. The collective finger points mainly to the disruptive behavior of audience members, pre-show commercials, and the feeling of abandonment by theater managers to control an environment that they paid to enjoy.

Hundreds of Internet postings from moviegoers echo this sentiment. “They used to have a thing called ushers, who made sure people kept quiet. Ushers no longer exist, so audience members are left to risk getting into it with other patrons by shooshing them themselves,” read one entry. “This is the last time I will ever go to a movie theater,” wrote another patron.

Is this a nod to the DVD? Morris sees the pros and cons of both sides. “Viewing a movie in a dark theater allows us to enter a trance-like state, to leave the stress of our real lives and enter a fantasy world on the big screen. While distractions from the audience are absent in our living rooms, they are replaced by controllable distractions – the telephone, snack breaks, email -- which do not allow us the necessary psychic break from the ‘real world.’ There is a deep-seeded need in humans to gather in groups and together experience a suspension of reality. The movie theater provides this unique ritual setting that the home cannot provide because it is not a space designed for large community gatherings.”

Morris points to a change in the social paradigm, a sort of hierarchal confusion as to who is in control, “While movie studios and theater owners cannot themselves act as catalysts for national social change, they can reclaim control of the theater environment and force social conformity, if only for 180 minutes.”

One thing is certain, the American cinema appears in crisis -- with or without simultaneous release. Perhaps this cry for help from the audience can provide common ground for an industry divided. Find out Thursday, March 30, 2006, at 6:00 PM EST, as Katherine Morris and Kendrick Macdowell meet on “If These Walls Could Talk” to discuss the transformation of the cinema and what it means for an American ritual.

“If These Walls Could Talk” is the world’s first and only show devoted to uncovering the hidden ways that setting affects how people feel, think and act. Each week host Katherine Morris reveals the mysterious influence of unusual and not-so-unusual settings, and shows listeners how to make their settings work for them.

Katherine Morris, Host of “If These Walls Could Talk,” and Founder of Psychology of Setting Associates, is an analytically oriented psychotherapist devoted to the betterment of peoples’ lives and the environment. Through a melding of depth psychology, environmental psychology, and Feng Shui, Katherine brings excitement as she leads her listeners to a better understanding of their conscious and unconscious motivations by examining the emotional effects of the settings in which they live and work.

Written by Heather L. Andrews.

For more information about this or other episodes visit or call 202/248-6810.

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