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The Nickelodeon, pay-per-view…

October 24, 2013

A few years back, I happened to be volunteering at a film fest. I had completed my shift and was passing the main venue. In a few minutes the next screening would take place. I asked the usher if there were any seats left. Though the orchestra was full up, I was informed there were still seats available in the balconies. I joined a line of patrons wending their way up a staircase past the first balcony, then the second, and finally the third. Think Herzog’s opening shot Aguirre, Wrath of God. I took a look around and found an available seat several rows down from the domed ceiling of this former movie palace.

Now, it has been my habit for many years, many decades to worship in the church of saint cinema from the middle third of the orchestra. Better to “engage” the image as well as the soundtrack. But now, I found myself gazing down from a precipitous height at the screen glowing in the distance way, way below. The air was much thinner up here than I was accustomed to. After a beat, I unconsciously extended my arm out. My outstretched hand covered the white screen entirely. An “ah hah moment” had presented itself. From this distance, I finally realized how someone could watch Lawrence of Arabia (or Avatar or Gravity) on their iPhone.

A hundred plus years on, after a century of collectively hallucinating in darkened theaters, at the beginning of a new century, we’d returned to the nickelodeon, whether it be [i]phone, pod, pad, flat-screen TV, movie theater, or IMAX screen. Like Chauncey Gardner, we’re all liking to watch, whenever and wherever and on whatever we choose.

By the way, the picture I took in that day was Andrew Rossi’s excellent 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times.


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  1. margaret ehrhardt permalink

    Ray, I love the name of your Blog and thus far, I am enjoying your meandering thoughts on the cinema and all its parts. love and kisses, MinnesotaMeg



  2. jreesnc permalink

    I remember watching that doc a few years ago at Full Frame. Stayed for the Q&A and then contined the dialogue with Brian Stelter, one of the featured journalists on twitter.


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