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Movie theatres are taxis

Movie theatres are taxis.


Anyone with a lick of sense understands why the concept of taxis and taxi medallions came about. Let me explain it to you, in case you haven’t been to a major airport since Uber and seen in action, or had to hike out to the Uber/Lyft/taxi lot instead of just walking over to the taxi stand from TBI.

You can’t just let any bozo in a clown car drive into the by necessity limited space of a an airport (or train station, or sportsball stadium, or concert arena). You’ll end up with localized traffic jams that are utterly predictable. And you’ll attract the casual thieves, sexual predators, and bad sorts that come with unlimited access and little oversight. That’s why they tell you not to get in unmarked cabs in foreign countries [1].

Taxi medallions were instituted to limit the numbers, and provide some oversight. The US of course sucks at the latter, and excels at making any limited monopoly a race to the bottom of lowered standards and maximum rent extraction. Thus taxis doomed themselves to extinction once some amoral and probably sociopathic venture capitalist saw that pile of money there waiting to be bled like a Sears pension plan.

Now, let’s get this straight. The whole taxi industry is a shithole from bottom to top, and no one likes them. I could tell you a dozen stories, and that’s with me having tons of white male privilege, and not having to deal with the horrible racist/sexist aspects. I regularly took limos (they were surprisingly affordable!) for all my airport trips until the limo companies decided that the way to compete with the “rideshare” companies was to double or triple their prices. Then I took rideshares to the airport and taxis home (despite all the horrible experiences), until LAX exiled the taxi stands to the rideshare lot, at which point they became all equally shitty in my eyes.

The taxi medallion holders could have seen this coming, and paid some SV techbros to write an app, call it Lubr, and clean up their act with actually having a clean cab with working AC, but that would have cost a nickel, so they didn’t. And now they are on their way out. Replaced with something that’s better for the individual, as long as you are the individual taking a Saudi-oil-and-murder-and-repression-subsidized-below-cost “rideshare”.

Movie theatres don’t even have the disadvantage of everyone hating them. Sure, no one likes the hassle, and the expense of parking and $20 buckets of low-grade carbs and sugar-water, but everyone loves watching a movie on a 100 foot screen (I really miss the Hastings Ranch wide-screen…) with an awesome sound system. I have a nice setup at home, and it’s great to watch movies on, but it’s not a immersive experience like a theatre, and there are too many distractions. I rarely watch a movie from beginning to end without something distracting me, especially myself.

Distractions! Everyone hates being around all the jerks who talk and eat loudly and look at their small pocket-sized suns during the movie. I won’t even get into the problem of all the 100′ screens being divided up into five 20′ screens with crappy audio and dimly lit projectors and sticky floors.

The theatres could have fixed this, and made movie-going more pleasant by simply turning each theatre into a Faraday cage where mobile devices don’t work. And by policing bad behavior. But that would have cost a nickel, so they didn’t.

And then the pandemic happened. No one could have predicted this! [2] The SV techbros and Hollywood studios had been trying to disrupt theatres unsuccessfully for years, but it speaks to the experience of watching a movie with others on a huge screen that they hadn’t been able to. Sure, they knocked holes in the model, but hadn’t been able to kill it.

Now they will. There will be a few left. We’ll go to the Alamo Drafthouse model, where you have to make a reservation, and it’ll cost a boatload, but the staff will be death on bad behavior, but all the major theatres won’t survive. They could have pivoted to this before, but that would have cost money; some exec would have gotten a smaller bonus and a smaller yacht.


[1] Here, it’s okay to be sexually assaulted by an independent contractor.
[2] Oh wait, everyone predicted this. There was even a movie or two about it! They didn’t gross as much as Avengers so no one cared. I think there might have been an office in the White House devoted to it, but that swamp got drained… but we have F-35s so it’s all good.