tampabay.com

Bring popcorn, ditch the Taser

By RICK GERSHMAN
Published February 3, 2006


People don't like to go to the movies anymore.

Box office receipts are way down - hard to imagine why, considering Underworld: Evolution was last week's top-grossing movie.

And viewers are sick of a cell phone-saturated, lout-laden theater experience. (These days, I consider theatrical must-haves to be popcorn, Twizzlers and a Taser.)

It hardly seems worth it, especially when half of Hollywood releases are sequels; the other half are remakes of television shows that weren't very good in the first place.

With the advent of DVDs by mail and home theater systems macked out with high-definition TVs and surround sound, many people avoid theaters entirely. And I can't blame them.

But I'd hate to see people stop going to the movies. I'd just like to see some people stop going to the movies. You know, the kind of people who think it's okay to:

- bring a toddler to an R-rated movie;

- answer a phone during the film as long as they sorta-kinda whisper;

- plop their big stinky feet onto a chair about 6 inches from your head;

- break up with you in the middle of Pirates of the Caribbean because you'll "never be half the man Johnny Depp is."

Sorry, that last one got a little personal.

Regardless, I know these jerks make the moviegoing experience less than ideal. But I worry that 15 years from now, there won't be any movie theaters, and people will miss out on a unique experience.

Watching a DVD at home, no matter how great your system is, can't match the wonder of the big screen, of a theater full of hundreds sharing the communal experience of entertainment.

I remember the thrill of watching Die Hard with an awestruck crowd, the eruptions of laughter throughout There's Something About Mary and the sea of sobbing during Schindler's List.

Movies are meant to be seen in theaters. That's why I love Tampa Theatre's classic movie series, though I'm bummed the original King Kong screened up against the NFL playoffs. (A brother's got to prioritize, you know.)

And that's why it's great that the Tampa International Film Festival is celebrating its fourth anniversary tonight through Feb. 11.

Though previous festivals were held in April, organizers moved the 2006 event to February based on a survey of Tampa Bay area film buffs. The festival will be held at Old Hyde Park Village's Sunrise Cinemas and North Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry.

This year's event includes films from China, India, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Argentina, Peru and Canada. Indian filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta will present a retrospective of four of his films, and Canadian director Bernard Emond will introduce his film, La Neuvaine.

A quick scan through the submission list indicates many interesting works on tap, including Dasgupta's acclaimed drama The Wrestlers, Liz Mermin's documentary The Beauty Academy of Kabul and Peter Gardos' anthology The Porcelain Doll.

If not for the festival, you would be able to see only some of these films on DVD. Others might not be available at all.

To really appreciate the artistry of film, though, you should see these works the way their creators intended: on the big screen. And the best reason to go: Your fellow viewers, cineastes themselves, will be far less likely to display the boorish behaviors enumerated above.

So leave the Taser at home. It's probably still recharging anyway. From Gasparilla.

Rick Gershman can be reached at http://sptimes.com/blogs/tampaarts/

IF YOU GO

The Tampa International Film Festival runs tonight through Feb. 11 at Old Hyde Park Village's Sunrise Cinemas and North Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for seniors. A gold pass to all screenings and events is $200. For information and a schedule, visit www.tampafilmfest.org or call 253-3333, ext. 3425.