As some of you have have noticed—and complained to us about—Alibi is missing something. Starting last week, Alibi’s film section stopped carrying complete film times for Albuquerque. We’re sad to report that this is not an error or an oversight or a case of late-summer laziness, but a permanent fixture. Times (in both the literal and figurative sense) are changing.
In the 20-odd years I’ve spent as the Alibi’s film editor, a great deal about the film industry has changed. Back in 1992, when Alibi was first published under the NuCity masthead, video stores and indie films (such as Quentin Tarantino’s debut hit, Reservoir Dogs) dominated the Hollywood landscape. Nowadays it’s YouTube videos and superhero franchises. Theatrical attendance continues to drop even as revenues (in the form of increased ticket prices) grow. Movie theaters in Albuquerque have followed the national trend, switching from screening actual, 35mm films to projecting digital, computer-downloaded content. Appealing to those who prefer to stay at home with increasing amenities, theater chains have added brewpubs and replaced their traditional fold-down seats with luxurious electronic recliners—cutting their capacity in half. And in a final attempt to lure today’s consumers away from their all-access smart phones and home entertainment systems, theater chains have begun treating their programming like video stores. Movies and times change on a daily basis now, thanks to the ease in which digital content can be hot-swapped out of individual theater screens on a moment’s notice.
It is this final development that has proven to be the final nail in the coffin for weekly film times. Last week, 19 new films opened in Albuquerque theaters. Of those films, nine were older, “repertory” titles. The biggest national release of Sept. 1? Steven Spielberg’s 1977 opus Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Add to that the weekly Indian film releases, the anime screenings, the concerts, operas and prize fights theaters regularly host. Throw in the simulcast sermons, marching band contests and other special events (Rifftrax, anyone?), and you’ve got a near-impossible scrum of titles to keep up with. And I didn’t even mention the fact that ABC is showing the pilot of its “Marvel’s Inhumans” show for two weeks on IMAX screens.
This near-daily changing of the guard on local movie screens has swelled our film times beyond capacity. For the last year or so, fewer and fewer theaters have been able to get their film listings by the time we go to press here at the Alibi on Tuesday evenings. Recently, by the time we post film times on our website on Thursday nights at midnight, many of the theaters aren’t even able to get us film times past Sunday. Printing a theater’s entire weeklong listings with any degree of accuracy has become virtually impossible.
For most people this is actually irrelevant. Driving all these rapid-fire evolutions in the film distribution biz is the fact that almost everyone consumes their media now on a portable electronic device. And if you insist on seeing a movie on a real movie screen? Simply type the name of that film into Google and it will spit out all the theaters in your zip code along with today’s updated times. Want to go to one of those screenings? Use PayPal to purchase some seats on Fandango and flash the downloadable QR code on your phone to the ticket taker. No lines and no tickets needed in today’s world.
Alibi may have been the last weekly newspaper in America to actually list film times. What can we say? We’re resistant to change. While the Alibi’s inability to print complete film times in each issue will be a burden to you non-computer-owning, non-millennials out there, rest assured that I will continue to pen complete capsules (hopefully in a larger, less-crowded font) and provide you with insightful, feature-length film reviews to guide you through today’s confusingly cinematic landscape… So keep reading and keep watching.