Yeah, I'm late to the party, as usual. But being an early adopter is costly. It almost always pays to wait a few years after a new technology comes along. Once it succeeds in the marketplace -- if it does -- economies of scale mean it becomes a commodity and drastically cheaper.
So, thanks to a Christmas present, I am now a card-carrying member of the Blu-ray League.
In the unlikely event you are not familiar with Blu-ray, it's the highest-resolution videodisc format for high definition TVs. The discs contain far more information than earlier generations of DVDs (and they're read by blue-violet laser beams, hence the catchy name).
My new Sony Blu-ray player can do all sorts of fancy stuff, especially receive streamed movies wirelessly from Netflix and other sites. I haven't quite worked out how to set that up yet, but it's supposed to be easy. Instead I immediately signed up with Netflix for Blu-ray discs and put several at the top of the queue.
I had actually never watched a Blu-ray video before, except those hokey demos they play in stores. Let me tell you, this is a serious step forward. Coupled with my LCD 1080p television, the Blu-ray image (and sound) are not only as good as what you get in a movie theater; they're better than you will find in many.
Among other Blu-ray films, I've seen Margin Call (vanished without a trace on its theatrical release, but not bad); an IMAX film, Under the Sea (dazzling); The Transporter (I was led to expect more than it delivered in mindless entertainment, but Jason Statham does have a certain magnetism); and Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (a near-great Western almost ruined by Eli Wallach's typical scenery chewing). And The King's Speech, which I had not seen before -- I may do a posting about that one.
This past weekend my Blu-ray fare was the visually poetic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I enjoyed it more than when I first encountered it in a theater on its release.
As Blu-ray and HDTV become the norm in homes, will they kill the traditional movie theater? Probably not. The end of the movie theater has been predicted ever since TV went big-time about 60 years ago. (The movie industry countered TV with color film and CinemaScope, as well as a brief flirtation with 3-D.)
As long as I have the Blu-ray/LCD combo, I could live without ever seeing a film in a theater -- the only exception perhaps being a state-of-the-art venue like the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. But a lot of people still respond to the hype that surrounds new-movie openings and can't wait a few months till the disc comes out or they can stream it from their computer.
The best thing would be for Blu-ray and HDTV to put the tacky multiplexes with shoebox theaters out of business. Then maybe the remaining movie theaters would have to emulate the Arclight, and we might get something like the movie palaces of the '20s and '30s.