November 3, 2020:

There was a straightforward relationship between scarcity and events.

When my only chance to see Performance or A Clockwork Orange or The Devils or Marat-Sade was to be present at the Ken or the Unicorn during the one week per year when these titles were shown, that experience, which required my physical presence at a specific location in space at a specific location in time, was as much an event as any birthday or Christmas or Thanksgiving. It required planning, logistics, the juggling of commitments, funds, transportation. It took more effort than social holidays because I was on my own, and multiple bus trips were involved. Unlike social holidays I looked forward to screenings eagerly.

You can think of the availability of these films as a form of rationing. In their scarcity their few prints traveled the country, turning up one city at a time. While the theater managers had an interest in keeping them scarce. Screening The Devils just once annually made its appearance special. Made it an event.

Nowadays I own a copy of each of these once-scarce films and can watch them whenever I like. From the right distance my bigass flat screen is about the same perspective as the Ken's and today's home 48-bit sound is certainly better. I love having them, in part because they'd once been such rare and difficult treats.

But the event surrounding them is sadly no more. There's nothing special about streaming on demand. I wouldn't trade this for the old way, but, truthfully, it's not just the screen which has become smaller.