My interface with Hollywood chiefly consists of driving each weekday underneath the Interstate 10 sign downtown saying “Los Angeles” near my exit, thinking that I should just keep going west, to take a long-delayed shot at pitching my screenplay.
Each day, though, I put on the turn signal and exit, because, well, I still haven’t written it.
I’ve got a couple of catchy titles, though: “The Face of the Earth” (designed to cover just about every possible plot line) and for my anti-materialism manifesto, “A Corvette is Still a Chevrolet.”
Since tonight is Oscar night, I put aside my dreams of cinematic fame to look in on the annual speculation about whether movie theaters are headed for something our grandchildren will only learn about in museums. This notion is based on the idea that more people would rather watch 3D sensory-overload epics on a three-, or rather, four-inch handheld screen, or at least on a larger one at home.
The answer is: Not yet. Palm-size movies, not to mention those you can download at home, are a lucrative add-on to the in-theater revenue streams of the motion picture industry.
The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 31 that U.S. movie box-office receipts and theater attendance in 2012 were expected to be 6 percent higher than in 2011. The domestic attendance figure of 1.36 billion moviegoers is shy of 1.6 billion in 2002, however, the Times reported.
The expected 2012 receipts of $10.8 billion would be a record, bucking a downward trend that ended in 2011 with the lowest receipts since 1995, according to the Times, with the average ticket price of $7.93 remaining the same in both years.
No matter how efficiently we can bring the world into our homes, it seems that there’s still something to be said for going out, which is why in more than 60 years of nationwide availability, home television hasn’t made theaters obsolete, either.
Same goes for major sports. People are still battling for tickets, paying brokers more than face value, for the chance to “be there” at the big games and then to tell about it, which is at least half of the reason to see the action non-electronically.
No one is impressed if you tell them years later you watched that overtime buzzer-beater, that series-ending clutch hit, on your TV. And it won’t matter how big and flat your screen is or how plush is your seating arrangement.
Ask the folks who put on spring training baseball in the Valley about being there.
The big television markets of Chicago and San Francisco, whose National League teams consistently lead all those who train in Arizona each year in attendance, remarkably broadcast a large number of those teams’ spring games to their viewers back in Illinois and California. But the number of chilly fans making their way out here to watch their favorite players in the sunshine seems to keep increasing each year, and it’s rare to find a Cubs or Giants (or Angels or Dodgers or Athletics) game that isn’t sold out.
But back to movies: Ask the teenagers who would seem to be the most averse to paying $10 to — gasp — enter a theater, turning off their smartphones as requested and watching a movie there. How many times did you see “The Hunger Games” in the theater? The latest “Twilight” installment? Sure, they’ll watch it again on smaller screens, but the fact that they are, yes, standing in line to see it in a brick-and-mortar building is a consistent expression of the one thing, it seems, that trumps technology, what I call “participatory life.”
That should be good news to AJ Young, a graduate of Mesa’s Dobson High School and filmmaking student at Columbia College Chicago. As ABC15’s Adam Slinger reported recently (see story, page 3), Young won a competition entitling him to be an Oscar handler tonight.
Young will be one of those giving the prized Academy Awards to their official celebrity presenters and making sure that high heels don’t catch on the hems of evening gowns as their wearers walk to and from the lectern.
As he squints in the bright lights on the Dolby Theater stage, Young will be dreaming of returning some years from now, with someone handing him an Oscar.
I have never met Young, but I’ll bet that dream includes plenty of people watching his masterpiece in theaters, talking about it afterward on the way to get coffee and dessert. You can also get coffee and dessert at home.
But they seldom taste as good there.
• Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Reach him at email@example.com.