When did the notion of quiet become such an alien concept to American society?
Or the idea of being bored - was that illegalized when I wasn't looking?
A quiet moment, a modicum of boredom - these are the building blocks of creativity and deeper thought. At least they used to be. These days, however, they are treated as the enemy.
I've thought this for a while, based on my rare visits to professional sporting events. And it struck me again recently when I paid to see a movie in a multiplex.
I arrived about 20 minutes early for the showing, because I'm compulsively punctual and because I actually hoped to have a few minutes before the movie to read that day's newspaper. I figured I'd find myself a well-lit seat and catch up on the day's events.
But no such luck. In fact, the lights were semi-dim - and instead of Muzak or a slide show, the theater had a digital program on the screen that ran right up until the lights went all the way down for the actual trailers. The digital show was more marketing: a blend of expanded trailers/featurettes for upcoming movies, commercials for phones, sports drinks and cars, ads for new TV series.
In other words, the movie theater chain - in this case, AMC - decided there was no time to waste. The movie itself is their loss leader; they make lots more on refreshments than they do on ticket sales (even at $13 a throw in midtown Manhattan). And now they sell the time before the movies, the way TV stations sell the time around programming. Suddenly, movies are the same as the TV shows and the news stories in newspapers - the thing that goes in the space that can't be sold for revenue.
What struck me wasn't just the naked capitalism of it. It was the invasion of my personal space by advertising and marketing efforts. No longer was the time leading up to the start of the movie mine to use as I pleased: to contemplate the movie I was about to see or think about whatever else was on my mind. Like so many other entities, the movie theater had determined that people no longer want or need quiet time to themselves when they're out in public.
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