Movie is a funny word, isn’t it?
This fact dawns on you when you consider what the opposite of a movie is. A movie is not a painting, or a photograph. How do we know? Because those things don’t move, do they? They are static pictures, unlike the moving pictures that everyone seems to love so much.
“What you doing over there, Archibald? Ogling a painting of a bowl of fruit?”
“No sir, Wilfred. This is one of those moving pictures. A ‘movie.’ It’s about a Spider-Man. I reckon they’ll never make another movie like it.”
It’s great that old-timey people named many things by basically using baby talk. A moving picture is a “movie” in the same way that a handheld transceiver is a “walkie-talkie,” a piece of dough that you cook is a “cookie,” or a splotch of parasitic pond scum is a “Trump.”
Movies certainly are wildly popular to this very day. At least, it appears that way here on the North Shore. Whenever the North Shore News runs stories about the latest happenings at our local movie theatres, the stories get clicked on and shared like crazy. This week is one of the biggest weeks in the North Shore’s cinematic history, with one movie theatre closing down after 29 years in the business one day before a new state-of-the-art theatre opens up down the road. Quite the coincidence.
They are a fascinating phenomenon though, moving pictures. According to film historian Wik I. Pedia, a seminal moment in the motion picture industry occurred in December of 1895 with French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière screening 10 short films in Paris, including the big opener Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory. That one clocked in at just 46 seconds, yet somehow still had more interesting moments than the entire Hobbit trilogy. All 10 films, in fact, were less than 50 seconds each, but only six of them starred Tommy Lee Jones.
The Nickelodeon, the first theatre dedicated to showing only films, was opened in Pittsburgh in 1905. Films cost a nickel, while you could get a soda, popcorn and candy bar combo for $15.
Before 1927, most motion pictures were produced without sound. “Silent films” were often accompanied by orchestras, organists, titles written on the screen or even dialogue or sound effects produced by the showman or projectionist. The switch to “talkies” was swift, with studios in Hollywood, California leading the way.
“What you doing over there, Archibald? Watching a silent moving picture with some guy sitting beside you making horse sounds?”
“No sir, Wilfred. This is one of those newfangled films with sound. A ‘talky.’ It’s about a mall cop named Paul Blart. It’s terrible.”
Some silent film stars sadly couldn’t adapt to the new technology, and quietly hung themselves with invisible ropes. But the introduction of sound paved the way for a whole new cinematic world featuring such great orators as Jar Jar Binks and Pauly Shore, a.k.a. The Weasel.
Soon after the introduction of sound came the “Golden Age of Hollywood,” with cinemagoers flocking to theatres to see the likes of Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and child performer Shirley Temple, who was so popular that they named a drink after her (Bud Light Lime).
The film world changed with the introduction of home video on a mass scale in the mid-1970s. Before Betamax and VHS videocassette technology, most films were basically inaccessible to the general public after their theatrical run. Videocassettes made it so that movies could be watched and re-watched at home, and nerds could tell you why Beta was the superior technology.
The advent of home video eventually led to that hallowed space, now nearly extinct, known as the video store, a place where you and your partner could go in looking for a perfect date night film to rent and come out 50 minutes later with a divorce.
Some people predicted the death of movie theatres with the advent of home video and its 21st century replacement, streaming video, but that hasn’t happened. People still enjoy the sensation of sitting in a huge room, feeling the rumble of the surround sound in their guts as they spend 120 minutes in the dark with hundreds of strangers looking at their phones.
Movie theatres are more innovative and extravagant than ever. The new one in Park Royal, which opens today, features recliner seats, adult-only VIP screens featuring in-seat food and drink delivery, and the latest technology such as UltraAVX, EarFX, D-Box, and SeatTckle (I only made up two of those).
These things are important for theatres, because throughout all the years of cinema, one thing has remained constant: lots of movies are pretty bad. That’s why we need organists, popcorn, people pretending to be horses, surround sound, 3D, D-Box and delivery. Don’t want to miss one second of the latest Spider-Man sequel prequel trilogy origin story alternate universe reboot? Don’t worry, your waiter is on the way. All it’ll cost you is a nickel. Plus $127.
Andy Prest is the sports editor for the North Shore News and writes a biweekly humour/lifestyle column. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.