In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Goal, The Rules, Part 2

I stated my original goal here.  Since the new year, my sense of this project, and what I hope to get out of it, has changed.  Whereas movies are a big topic, and most movies have an army of reviewers stampeding to talk about them, I'm finding that far less documentation exists in the public space to record our relationship with movie theaters.  To that end, when pressed for time I've opted to skimp on my movie reviews rather than on the theater reviews.  This might not be reflected in the actual word count, but I assure you I spend more time writing fifty words about a theater than five paragraphs about a movie.

My original goal was just to see a hundred movies, and to have fun doing it.  But now this goal has evolved into something else, that of documenting the experience of "going to the movies", this year.  This includes getting to and from the theater, the atmosphere and structure of the building, the audience reaction, the pre-show, the trailers, and, finally, the movie itself.  Yes this is all from my singular perspective, and so doesn't represent the Truth or Aggregate of the movie experience, but I'm finding that it's more than what is generally available.

Also, though films are no longer left to molder as piles of decomposing celluloid, by preserving them as portable archives (e.g. DVDs), we allow them to leave the theater.  This is a boon for the enjoyment of film, but it also means that we are decoupling the relationship between films and theaters, and only archiving the former.  The theater is now just one tiny part of a movie's lifecycle; when we think of a movie, we're more likely to imagine it in the context of our living rooms, with only a few people, than in a theater crowded with strangers.

I'm finding it is more fun to photograph the older theaters, but perhaps more important to document the newer theaters.  The new theaters, because they are common and mostly unattractive, do not invite the camera, and are thus perhaps being passed over, and passing out of history.  The Bay Area has seen ~350 theaters come and go in the past hundred years, and for many of them we have only a few blurry photographs in the public space.  History shows that all theaters are threatened, from the single-screen neighborhood theater to the megaplex, so there's no time like the present to record details about these buildings, and hopefully stir up some interest as well.

I've decided to extend my goal to include not just a hundred different theaters, but every movie theater in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I'm playing around with the exact boundaries to which I'll adhere, but by the end of the year I'd like to have a comprehensive sense of the Bay Area's movie experience.  To this end, I collect daily showtime statistics for ~130 theaters; some interesting trends are already emerging that I'll report on later.  I've subscribed to every theater newsletter I can, to help keep me informed about a theater's special events, even after I've reviewed it.  By the end of the year, I'd like to be able to present this site as a snapshot in time of all the depth and diversity the Bay Area had to offer in 2010.

(I had toyed with trying to see a specific movie, The Last Airbender, for my 100th visit, but I'm finding it difficult to review the experiences as quickly as I can collect them.  So I'm going to scale back my speed a bit, try to get caught up on reviews, and try to not get behind.)


  1. Confused(?) are you now targeting 130 movie theaters for the year?

  2. I'm now planning to visit every theater in the Bay Area, which is roughly 130 theaters. Thus my final number will be Bay Area theaters + other misc. theaters. It's possible I won't be able to visit every venue that shows movies infrequently, just because of the timing, and my lack of information (or because they charge $100; I'm looking at you Davies Symphony Hall). So who knows what my final number will be. But it will certainly be in excess of one hundred.

    And as for my old record of seventy-nine theater visits in one year? I'm already at about sixty for this year, so that record is going to be trounced.

  3. And as for my old record of seventy-nine theater visits in one year? I'm already at about sixty for this year, so that record is going to be trounced.

    Freak'en Daisy Cutters!