Viau’s View/Scott Viau
Let’s face it – the movie theater here in Houghton isn’t great. And it’s not because of how it looks, the seating, concessions or the pricing – it’s for the main reason it exists: the movies it offers.
Now, before anyone reading this gets infuriated and wants to write in a letter to the editor, let me clarify that I’m not blaming the theater itself. I imagine the problem really lies with the corporation of Rogers Cinema, which is located in Marshfield, Wis.
This is a college town with thousands of students and it seems that like our population, the selection of movies should be a little bit more diverse. I’m not asking for the latest film from Todd Solondz to come here (I know his films are almost strictly for the New York/L.A. crowd) but it would be nice if one of the screens of the five available could be dedicated to more art house fare. I truly believe that movies like Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” or “Spring Breakers” could be modestly successful.
But maybe not. Almost every time I’ve gone to the theater in order to review a movie for the section you now hold in your hands, the theater I’ve been in has been empty. Normally, I love this. I love feeling like I’m receiving my own private screening. Perhaps the problem isn’t the movies the theater receives but the lack of people willing to pay admission to see those movies.
But it’s not just a problem for smaller films. Higher budget movies tend not to show up here until weeks after they’ve opened. For example, “Django Unchained” didn’t open here until mid-January. That’s a long time to wait for a film I really want to see. And I will travel to see movies how people will travel far to see a band. I ended up seeing “Django” in Marquette. I don’t want to have to do that, but I will if I can’t see it here. And since I can’t publish a review for a movie unless it’s either playing here or will be imminently, I have to wait until I know the movie will be playing here. The only upside to that is that I usually get to publish my review a day before a movie opens in Houghton and not a week after. But I’d rather give my money to the local theater than one in Marquette.
This isn’t just something that happened with “Django Unchained,” though. It also happened with “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables.” All three are movies that earned over $100 million dollars in their domestic box office alone and hundreds of millions more worldwide. There’s truly no reason why we should have to wait to see films of quality while we get “Scary Movie V” the day it’s released. That’s mind-boggling to me. And to add insult to injury, “Scary Movie V” was only at our theater for a short period of time, meaning it didn’t make that much money, meaning that it was probably just a waste of space.
Now that we’re getting into the summer movie season, I imagine this is going to be less of a problem. To be honest, I was surprised to see that “The Great Gatsby” will be opening Friday. I thought there was definitely a chance that it would get pushed farther down the line to make room for more Hollywood schlock. The problem usually comes when two or more big name movies are scheduled for release on the same day. With only five screens, the theater must prioritize what it shows, but there’s also a solution to that as well: add more screens. I think the most ridiculous thing about our theater here is that it only boasts five screens, while theaters in every other major city in the U.P. (Marquette, Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Sault Ste. Marie) can lay claim to theaters of eight screens or more. As stated before, this is a college town. We should have more to offer our residents. It’s sad when Escanaba and Iron Mountain, two cities I wouldn’t consider college towns, despite the presence of Bay de Noc Community College, have a better theater than we do.
I’m still new to Houghton. I’ve only been here about seven months. But from what I’ve heard, there used to be a lot more theaters. I would love to see The Lode up and running again. There’s nothing quite like a one-screen movie palace. Mind you, I wouldn’t want that to be the only theater in Houghton. I’d rather have an eight-screen multiplex rather than a one-screen theater.
In all fairness, the theater does have good qualities. It has upgraded to be able to show 3D films, and while I don’t care for 3D (with an exception for the re-release of “Jurassic Park”), I’m glad it’s there as an option. I also appreciate that the theater does midnight showings and “Man of Steel” is supposedly showing a day early.
I don’t expect this column to make any real waves and create any change, but it could. I will hold on to the hope that someone from corporate will read this column and say, “You know? That idiot’s right! Let’s put in a 20-screen theater in Houghton.” That probably won’t happen. But I also didn’t expect the theater to get “Jurassic Park 3D” and look how that turned out.