July 16, 2015

My response to a film-based survey.

The other day I received an email from a fellow MA student asking for my opinion on "a world without cinema." I was forced to ponder the idea of a place without a movie theater. This is my unedited response:

For me the cinema is all about unique experiences. I'm from Salt Lake City and there's a certain energy to the summertime here that doesn't exist anywhere else. It's a hard energy to describe so instead I'll give you a taste of the sort of things that would be included in a typical summer night: Mexican street food, outdoor concerts, locally brewed beer and craft cocktails, outdoor art installations, restaurants featuring food from local farms and a combination of independent and classic cinema.

All of these activities take place in the early evening when the desert sun is at its hottest. The primary mode of urban transportation is one's bicycle, which means an evening like this requires a lot of stamina to survive. It is therefore the role of the cinema to give us respite from the heat, the brightness and the crowds. To provide a shelter from the physical, as well as the social, elements of summertime. 

Both the Salt Lake Film Society and Utah Film Center have wonderful programming during the summer. The section that fits into the above example is best is the "Summer Late Nights" series at the Tower Theater. Imagine a bike-borne evening as described, finished by a screening of a film like "Alien" or "Airplane!" An event which promotes social, economic and cultural interaction. 

Cinema keeps us mobile, keeps us simultaneously occupied and relaxed and keeps us together.

A world without cinema would remove many common denominators within youth culture. It's possible that some joy could be found from people watching the same films separate from one another and comparing experiences later, but it is most effective as a shared experience. It gives those of us living somewhere lucky enough to have a "Summer Late Nights" program a community experience like no other.

A world without cinema offers one fewer way of safely occupying the youth of the community. I'm not going to suggest that the presence of a cinema keeps kids from doing drugs but it's one of the few things that can be done legally by unsupervised teenagers.

Finally, it gives us reason to leave our own homes to experience something among people of similar interests. It's unlikely that we'll meet our new best friend or future spouse at one of these events but it is likely that we'll see the same people over and over again. Just that in and of itself promotes a certain psychological stability. Just knowing that the others who share the city with you are still here, riding their own bikes, drinking their own beer and forming their own opinions of a good (or even bad) film.

Clearly I'm waxing nostalgic but I stand by everything I said. We may spend years attempting to become better filmmakers, so let's not forget to become better at sharing the experience as well. Because a strong communal experience benefits everyone whether it takes place behind the scenes or on the cinema screen.

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