By Walter S.Coppage
I saw “The Neon Demon” today at Cinemark and was the only one in the theater on its last day. It’s not a comic book movie. It’s not a romantic comedy. It’s not animated. It’s an independent film directed by a guy who says, “I don’t make films. I make experiences.” That’s the kinda movie it is. While I watched it, I wished I could create something as original and visually arresting as “The Neon Demon.” It’s not a horror movie but that doesn’t mean it’s not terrifying. The music. The colors. The intensity. It’s not the kind of movie you get the most out of at home with your phone and life at your disposal. This is the kind of movie you see in the theater so you are paying attention and getting the whole……experience. (I’m sorry this blog is getting pretentious. I have a point.)
I had been trying to see this movie for a week and life at 35 gets in the way. Appointments and plans kept me from getting there but I made sure to make it today because it’s gone tomorrow. Like many independent films, its time will be short lived in Wichita Falls all the while “The Jungle Book” has been here since April. Studio films always overstay their welcome but something happened this summer.
Wichita Falls has had at least two movie theaters for 35 years and most of that time it’s been two theaters bidding on which theater gets the movie. Something changed. I heard 20th Century Fox is just putting screens out everywhere no longer taking part in the bidding process. Someone else told me studios are out to put their movie everywhere. That’s just business. Well it is never how business had been done here.
I was in England and Spain for two weeks and when I got home I checked Fandango and “X-Men: Apocalypse” was at both theaters. That couldn’t be right but it was only the beginning.
With both theaters, we have 24 screens. 8-10 screens are being used for movies that are at both theaters. “Free State of Jones”, “Independence Day: Resurgence” and “Now You See Me 2” are at all locations and it’s not like these movies have been doing “Star Wars” or “Avengers” type business. Side note: “X-Men: Apocalypse” is only at one theater now.
This might seem like good business but it’s not for Carmike Theaters in the mall. In the late 90s, the newly renovated theater was coveted by everyone. You wanted every good movie to go there. Ever since the amazing stadium seating cathedral of Cinemark Theaters opened in 2005, people want every movie to go there. Ever since it opened, everyone hates on the mall theater.
“That mall theater, I’d rather drive to Dallas then see a movie there.”
“That mall theater, they have a sign that says I can’t have my gun so I’m boycotting.”
“That mall theater, I saw rats there one time.”
I’ve never seen any rats there and I’ve seen a thousand movies there. Is it in need of a good cleaning? Yes. Does it need new equipment and seating? Yes. Should they be cheaper tickets? Absolutely. I still go there. I still want them to stay open.
“They should just tear it down and build a new theater.”
There was even a Facebook survey about building a new theater. (Not exactly Nate Silver is it?) Everyone voted for a new theater. Here’s the thing. Theaters aren’t cheap and if you want a new one, it wouldn’t be able to be on the same property. It’s a huge operation. Plus it’s not a bond election. A corporation has to come in and make that happen.
If both theaters are showing the same movie, Cinemark is going to get people every time. This puts Carmike in the crosshairs of closing. Why on earth do we need four screens of “Independence Day: Resurgence”? Ground control to Major Tom, Will Smith isn’t even in it. You’re banking four screens on Jeff Goldblum. Roland Emmerich has destroyed The White House, New York City and 2012 and Carmike Theaters might be next.
Whenever people ranted and raved, I came to Carmike’s defense. For the average moviegoer, it doesn’t matter. “Star Wars” will still come here. “The Avengers” will still come here. But for people like me and my wife, we need two theaters. We need them because we read Slashfilm.com and listen to the Filmcast with David Chen, Devindra Hardawar and Jeff Cannata. We know about hits at Sundance and Cannes. We pay attention to the Golden Globes because it puts stuff on our radar outside of the blockbuster zone. We’re able to get movies that aren’t going to make a lot of money here but that doesn’t meant they’re not great movies. If we lose this crappy mall theater and become a one theater town, we lose the power to have more movies come to our town. When we pack four theaters with “Independence Day: Resurgence” we lose something riveting like “The Neon Demon.”