Motion picture stars, genres, fads, fashions, and innovations come into fashion and go out of style. Who among us remembers Ramon Novarro, Mike Todd Junior's Smell-O-Vision, or even the time when movies were commonly called "flicks?" However, for nearly 90 years, the box office has consistently benefited from the Movie Date, or Match-Flick, as we would have it.
Celebrity Red Carpet Movie Dating
In the earliest, silent days of the motion picture box office, most parents forbade their adolescents from attending motion pictures. Back then, a movie date was verboten. In truth, in the days of the nickelodeon, the word "dating" hadn't even come into the lexicon as having anything to do with the relationship between two people.
According to some historians and most storytellers, dating, as a form of social interaction between the genders, was a byproduct of American lower class living between 1913-1919. Before that time, a gentleman simply visited his girlfriend in her parlor, where he met her parents or guardian, who supervised their time together. By the 1920s, lower class homes and apartments were small and overcrowded, creating the need for couples to court elsewhere. Middle and upper classes quickly embraced the dating habit too – not out of necessity, but because they saw expanded personal freedom in the phenomenon. The Women's Rights movement put the final nail in the coffin of the belief that it was
disrespectful for an unmarried woman to be alone with a man.
Young America's Favorite 1950s' Date
Quickly, movie theaters became a favorite courting place. Back then, box office admission was one thin dime. Forty cents bought popcorn and Cokes for the couple. The Match-Flick date of the 1920s was only marginally acceptable to parents, with an older brother or sister often tagging along as a chaperone.
By the 1930s, the movie date was bringing big bucks into the box office, and movie dates were largely believed to be respectible. Exhibitors created a romantic atmosphere in lavishly ornate movie palaces, lit dimly, artistically - and decorated primarily in the art deco and art noveau styles.
In the 1950s, young America's favorite date was the Drive-In Movie. In the privacy of their own cars, daters quickly shed inhibitions and clothing. Many a Baby Boomer claims – perhaps, rightfully so – that s/he was conceived in a drive-in theater while dating teens weren't watching I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN or BABY DOLL. Date night at the drive-in was depicted hilariously and accurately in the motion picture GREASE.
With the 1970s, the movie date moved back indoors. Land developers built shopping malls on pricey acreage that had once been used for drive-in theaters. Home video and advances in motion picture theater sound had coalesced to make the drive-in nearly obsolete.
The 1980s ushered in The Multiplex
Era. Movie dates were no longer the domain of the neighborhood theaters and drive-ins. The movie date moved to a new location: humungous theater complexes that featured a dozen or more movie auditoriums and screened a wide variety of movie choices – most commonly with THX sound and $5 popcorn.
Betty Grable Thrilled Wartime Movie Daters
One 21st-Century spin on the traditional movie date is mass movie dating: In this fresh twist on an old recipe for romance, hundreds of 20 and 30-something singles converge on a single multiplex, attracted by the possibility of hooking up, having a few drinks, and watching a film.
Lava Life, a Toronto-based dating service, has been organizing these gatherings for several years, in conjunction with Loews Cineplex and Svedka Vodka. The date nights, called "Click at a Flick," draw about 1,000 people in New York, Chicago, and Boston, every other Wednesday night. Many participants say, "It's a more entertaining way to meet a match than at a singles' bar." It certainly keeps box office cash registers ringing happily. Lava Life offers icebreakers, too. The company sometimes hires a fortuneteller who uses tarot cards and numerology to look into the future of would-be couples before the flick begins.
Whether in an old-time movie palace, at one of the few remaining drive-ins, or at a mass movie dating event, one thing seems certain: the box office can look forward to many more years of "dating revenue."
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Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.|
He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.
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