Bob Bestler

Movies now slip from the silver screen

I got lost at the Oscars the other night.

It's been happening every year lately. I see one or two of the best films and spend the night trying to figure what the others are all about.

It's not enough to say I've got to get out more. I get out plenty, mister. I just don't get out to the movies much anymore.

Last year I placed all the blame on the theater at Colonial Mall-Myrtle Beach, which was closed for renovations for, oh, about 235 months.

After it reopened, I realized it was my own inertia, not the mall's lack of seating.

Sorry, Colonial.

For years I have said how much more enjoyable it was to watch a movie on a large screen, surrounded by an audience.

I'm starting to change that tune.

First of all, what audience?

The last few times I've been to movies, I sat in an audience of a dozen people or fewer.

Those were matinees, of course, the movie-time du jour for retirees who can't stay up much past 10 p.m.

Problem No. 2: It's the old home video thing, boosted in recent years by advances in television technology.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 75 percent of adults now prefer watching films at home. The typical adult goes out to see a movie only about five times a year, and Pew blamed that figure not on the Internet, but on the growing popularity and affordability of large-screen and high-definition TVs.

In some larger cities, theaters are fighting back with onsite babysitting, martini bars and waiters - ferrying Starbucks coffee and Ben & Jerry's ice cream to your seat.

(Note to Broadway 16: Maybe a little Yuengling with that popcorn?)

The video industry isn't helping. I subscribe to a video-order plan and I'm never without a movie at home.

I wasn't around to hear it live during the Oscars - that retiree thing, you know - but when I learned the next morning that "The Departed" was named best picture, I was delighted.

The rented video, still unseen, was sitting next to my DVD player, waiting to be popped in.

An essay in The Week magazine said the typical movie makes 25 percent of its revenue from the theatrical run and more than 50 percent from video sales and rentals.

Some envision the day when movies are released simultaneously in theaters and video stores.

I'm sure those are words no theater owner wants to hear.

Who's gonna buy all that popcorn - with or without Yuengling?