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New Year's Resolutions For The Chicago Movie-goer

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 4, 2012 10:00PM

2012_01_04_movies.jpg To judge by the box office receipts, 2011 was a terrible year for movies. We mostly concur with the good Dr. Ebert's diagnoses of the diseases contributing to the patient's poor condition. And whether or not the theater chains and studios had a bad year, it doesn't mean that you have to. Here are our proposed New Year's resolutions for the film-goer to getting the most out of 2012.

Improve your diet: Relying on the multiplexes for one's cinematic diet is a lot like relying on the chain restaurants along the clogged arteries of America's suburban sprawl for one's sustenance: it is Franchise City, and more about profits than nutrition. Last year saw more sequels than ever before, and Hollywood may try and break that record. Just try getting through this list of the slated sequels, prequels and reboots in one breath: The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey , Alien: Prometheus, Wrath of the Titans, American (Pie) Reunion, Scary Movie 5, Halloween 3D, G.I. Joe: Retaliation , Step Up 4, The Bourne Legacy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, The Expendables 2, Madagascar 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Bourne Legacy , Men in Black III, Resident Evil: Retribution, Paranormal Activity 4, Taken 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, and (most inexplicably of all), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. That's more colons than a chitlin festival. Some of these will surely be tasty and satisfying, but relying on them for the bulk of your intake is going to lead to long-term unhappiness.

Get Some Exercise: Luckily, living in Chicago gives you great opportunities to diversify your movie diet and eat local. Sometimes this just means having to get to some out of the way places. From Hyde Park's Doc Films offering incredible fare to Chicagoist-fave Portage Theater regularly screening all kinds of gems, there is a rich ecosystem of movie culture available here that is too often taken for granted. We're not saying you need to head out to the Beverly Arts Center to watch Margin Call tonight, but... actually, yes, we are saying that (it's a tragically overlooked movie). If we don't want movie-going options pared down to 18 screens showing three Hollywood blockbusters, we have to keep the good guys in the black, even if it sometimes means taking a trek.

Get Out of Debt:Yes, movie tickets cost more than they used to. We recommend that you seek out matinees when you can: the theater may not be as full or lively, but the audience of bargain-hunting cinephiles is the least-likely crowd to distract you. Many theaters offer loyalty programs and discounts for purchasing in bulk. It's worth asking at your local theater (even a tiny first-run house like The Davis offers a gift certificate program. Bigger operators like The Music Box offer discount cards, and a membership to the Siskel Film Center not only saves you on ticket prices, but comes with four free popcorns.

Spend More Time with Family and Friends: Box office receipts are not the only depressed figures for the movie industry in 2011: DVD sales are down as well. While 2010 saw seven movies with DVD sales in excess of $100 million in domestic sales (including Avatar, which nearly doubled that), 2011 saw exactly zero. This is partly due to the increased availability of downloadable and streamable incarnations, in both legal and illegal flavors. There are now far too many good movies available on some form of video for anyone to watch them all, but you don't have to hand the reins of taste entirely over to the algorithms at Netflix. We've still got many local video stores with some, such as Facets and Odd Obsession, worth going out of your way to patronize.

Get Organized: You wouldn't know it from looking at the headlines, but we are living in a time when more great movies are being made (and made available) than any other. It can be frustrating to find what's worth watching, let alone what merits shelling out coin for the privilege. We'd be lost without
Cine-File, the weekly list of independent and underground cinema we look forward to receiving every Friday morning. A constant reminder of how lucky we are to be movie lovers in a city that can merit such a periodical, Cine-File is an indispensable guide to what is worth the effort.