How streaming services hurt the movies

In summer 1965, my future wife and I were privileged to watch the memorable “Doctor Zhivago” in an Atlantic City theater. The big screen helped make that film. Subsequent viewings on TV significantly devalued the experience.

I love movies made for and shown on the big screen.  Movies in theaters have entertained me, frightened me, educated me and thrilled me for over 70 years.  When I was a youngster, television was new and dominated by movies in theaters — as they were intended to be shown — for many decades.

The first movie I specifically recall is “Treasure Island” (1950), in which Robert Newton’s piercing eyes portrayed the devilish Long John Silver; my mother took me to the back of the theater when the film frightened me.

James Largay

But I got over it and have fond recollections of sci-fi films such as “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951); “War of the Worlds” (1953), which closely followed the classic 1897 H. G. Wells novel; and “Forbidden Planet” (1956).  The numerous 1950s horror films included “Them” (1954), “The Thing” (1951), “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954), the Vincent Price version of “The Fly” (1958) and early 3-D movies like “House of Wax” (1953).

Remember how “Shane” (1953) — that western with perhaps the greatest gunfight scene ever filmed — introduced the general public to the breathtaking Grand Teton scenery? Later, “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) catapulted Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” to the top of the charts in its disquieting portrayal of juvenile delinquency.

As the 1950s became the ’60s and ’70s, more substantive and spectacular films appeared.  The great Charlton Heston biblical epics — “The Ten Commandments” (1956) and “Ben Hur” (1959) — transitioned into 1960s dramatic masterpieces like “On the Beach” (1959) and “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961). “The Longest Day” (1962) brilliantly portrayed the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion, preceding that unhappy sobering 1962 cinematic experience :To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Heston continued starring in great epics “55 Days at Peking” (1963) and “Khartoum” (1966).

Perhaps the modern era started in the late 1970s as George Lucas’s creative genius shined in the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” movies that began delighting audiences, like Errol Flynn’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” did in 1938 but without modern special effects and computer graphics.

I worry about the recent “streaming” trend and the slowly shrinking availability of movies on DVD for these specific reasons:

* Movies offer unparalleled “larger than life” entertainment displaying creativity, technology and unforgettable personal skills of human beings — actors like Humphrey Bogart, Julie Andrews, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep — and directors like Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. Comedies like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963), Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” (1974) and “Ghostbusters” (1984) had us roaring.

Films bring to life characters in widely read books, particularly the “James Bond” films based on Ian Fleming’s novels (at least those starring Sean Connery) and more recently “Harry Potter.” Additionally, “South Pacific” (1958), “My Fair Lady” (1964), “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “Les Miserables” (latest, 2012) come to those unable to see them on Broadway.

* For people who like to be frightened and shocked, the attack scenes in “The Birds” (1963), the appalling sex scene with Mia Farrow and Satan in “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), Max von Sydow’s work as a priest in “The Exorcist” (1973), the “Fatal Attraction” (1987) bathtub scene, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator” (1984) and “Predator” (1987) excel.

* Movies can be educational and stimulate interest in subjects like the Roman Empire: “Gladiator” (2000); the American Revolution: “The Patriot” (2000); the Civil War: “Gettysburg” (1993); the civil rights movement: “Mississippi Burning” (1988); and the Holocaust: “Schindler’s List” (1993).

* Thrillers use twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat; violence is secondary. Great thrillers include “Rear Window” (1954), “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) and “The Day of the Jackal” (1973) — remakes of the latter two are also very good — and “Valkyrie” (2008).

Today we bask in Cillian Murphy’s superb big-screen performance as Robert Oppenheimer. But as good as “Oppenheimer” is, it is no “Doctor Zhivago.”

Friends, enjoy the big screen while you can. Movies are best viewed in the solitude, darkness, sound systems and lack of distractions in big-screen theaters.

James Largay of Upper Saucon Township is a professor emeritus of accounting at Lehigh University. How streaming services hurt the movies

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