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In defense of digital moviegoing

From Brian Rose, Southern Illinois University:

In reply to Nate Kohn's comments about young people's experiences being limited to computers and portables, I thought I might add some perspective as a young person. From my own experience, I can say that I think he is right, but the youth should not shoulder all the blame. Don't forget that it is increasingly difficult to get that theater experience, outside of the multiplex, especially if you live away from the big cities. I live in Southern Illinois and the we have two theatres. Both are multiplexes. If we're lucky, a documentary might be shown on a limited engagement once or twice a year. If I want to see a classic film, I have to travel three hours by car or train to Champaign (which I've done twice for Ebertfest).

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In this context, I believe digital gadgetry is less a diversion from the true cinematic experience, and more of a liferaft. As businessmen have closed hundreds of doors, computers have opened a thousand windows. If it weren't for DVDs, I would have yet to see a single Powell & Pressburger. I would never know Renoir or Dreyer. If it weren't for computers and file sharing, I'd never have access to Welles's "Chimes at Midnight" or "The Magnificent Ambersons" (which at the moment seems to be languishing in DVD purgatory). You can forget about silent films, which seem to have been marginalized even by art houses, to where you can see them only at festivals such as Ebertfest or the San Francisco Silent.

It is true that many of my generation are satisfied with their digital appliances, and have no interest of exploring further. I might add that even the creators of films themselves did not think this way until recently, and allowed much of their legacy to crumble or be thrown onto the ash heap. But for others like myself, computers have been a revelation, a gateway to new possibilities. So I would take heart that not all of us are being lulled to sleep by those litle glowing screens. Some of us are being awakened.

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