Yesterday at Cinecon 51, I had an interesting discussion with a film memorabilia vendor from Philadelphia about the changing tastes of the film audience. Both of us noted that there was a remarkable lack of younger filmgoers—anything under age forty—attending the recently restored films from former decades. In fact, most of the attendees were in their seventies or above.
That set me to thinking: I am happy that I did not achieve my educational goal of becoming a professor of motion picture history and criticism. If I had, I would have had to face the fact that my chosen field was, essentially, ultimately doomed for lack of interest. How many younger people would be interested in silent films, or early talkies in black and white, or even anything that had a more complicated story line. Who would even be able to sit still for The Seven Samurai or Doctor Zhivago or Rules of the Game?
People are clearly becoming more distracted as time goes on. Movie screens have gotten smaller, and home TV screens have grown larger. They haven’t quite met yet, though the tendency continues. One does not need to watch a television with rapt attention, not while one is texting, reading one’s e-mails, or watching YouTube on a smart phone.
So, if I were a professor of film history, I would feel as if I were ramming films down the throats of a younger generation that thought the subject matter was irrelevant. Who cares about the films of F. W. Murnau, Josef von Sternberg, or even Alfred Hitchcock? (I can just imagine trying to explain Hitch’s Vertigo or Shadow of a Doubt to a restive crowd who were itching to jump onto their smart phones.)
As far as my own tastes are concerned, I will follow them through à l’outrance, to the bitter end. The films I love, I will always love and continue to study, even though it separates me from the following generations. Does that make me a dinosaur? So be it!