At the same time Quentin Tarantino announced last week that he had bought and would restore the historic single-screen Vista Theatre in Los Feliz, the mouthy Hollywood director inexplicably threw major shade on some of the big theater chains that were forced to close during the pandemic. “I never like any theater closing, but some of these exhibitors that are going, they fucking deserve to go. They’ve taken all the specialness out of movies anyway, some of these chains,” Tarantino said in a recent episode of Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast, insisting that a movie theater should not “recreate my living room.”
Really? I say how dare he go on such a rant just as people are finally feeling safe enough to return to movie theaters and exhibitors across America are struggling to get back on their collective feet after a yearlong shutdown.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s vitally important that classic boutique cinemas like the Vista and the 300-seat New Beverly that Tarantino acquired in 2007 survive and thrive, as they are cultural treasures. But why does that have to come at the expense of expressing such ill will toward the larger circuits? Tarantino’s diatribe is just downright nasty.
“Tarantino has long been a critic of corporate encroachment in the film industry, particularly in the way that multimillion-dollar theater corporations and franchise blockbusters cannibalize the market share from independent venues and filmmakers,” Khushi Patel wrote in a piece for TechCodex on July 6. “His decision to program classic films in his theaters may be seen as his personal act of resistance against big-budget Hollywood.”
So never mind that Tarantino’s 2019 film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” benefited from being funded and released by a major studio — Sony Pictures — and earned more than $350 million worldwide by playing at multiplexes.
I would like to think that all movie lovers and fans of the theatergoing experience — Tarantino notwithstanding — would be rooting for the entire exhibition community to return to financial health after cinemas big and small lost a ton of business during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
Movie theaters were experiencing declining attendance and revenue even before the pandemic struck. And the rise in streaming viewership by consumers over the past 15 months may forever hive off a portion of once-devoted moviegoers, threatening the long-term health of the theatrical business.
After a delayed summer start, multiplexes are just beginning to generate some decent box office returns for hits like Disney-Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Universal’s “F9: The Fast Saga,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” and Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla vs. Kong.” And as our box office maven Rebecca Rubin recently pointed out, the industry is hoping the positive trend will continue with other potential blockbusters on the way.
Tarantino should be celebrating cinemagoing — yes, at the cool art houses we all love but also at the multiplexes, which help fuel the movie economy and certainly don’t deserve his denigration.