Going to the movies — for a bit

Listening to people worry about how streaming services and mobile phones are changing how we watch movies, you’d be forgiven for thinking that in the past movie-going must have been a pretty straightforward affair. Not so, as this fascinating ramble through a long lunch with Orson Welles shows.

From the Time Capsule: Lunch conversations with Orson WellesVulture
H.J.: Warren Beatty was just saying that TV has changed movies, because for most of us, once you’re in a movie theater, you commit, whether you like it or not. You want to see what they’ve done, while at home …

O.W.: I’m the opposite. It’s a question of age. In my real moviegoing days, which were the thirties, you didn’t stand in line. You strolled down the street and sallied into the theater at any hour of the day or night. Like you’d go in to have a drink at a bar. Every movie theater was partially empty. We never asked what time the movie began. We used to go after we went to the theater.

H.J.: You didn’t feel you had to see a movie from the start?

O.W.: No. We’d leave when we’d realize, “This is where we came in.” Everybody said that. I loved movies for that reason. They didn’t cost that much, so if you didn’t like one, it was, “Let’s do something else. Go to another movie.” And that’s what made it habitual to such an extent that walking out of a movie was what for people now is like turning off the television set.

Author: Terry Madeley

Works with student data and enjoys reading about art, data, education and technology.

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