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Magic Johnson Theaters To Feature Silent Movies

By Craig Bates

Movies showing at Magic Johnson Theaters will no longer have audio.

(LOS ANGELES) Magic Johnson Theaters across the nation are experimenting with a radical new approach to showing movies: Not playing the sound.

While silent movies were all the rage in the 1920s, and made legends of actors like Charlie Chaplin, this new technology is aimed at African American audiences who are notorious for keeping a running dialogue during movies.

“You know how my people do,” Johnson tells The Peoples News. “We are on our cell phones, we are texting, we are feeding our babies. There’s no need for sound.”

The push for picture-only theaters started in 1985, when African-American moviegoers turned The Color Purple into an audience participation event. Those who saw it two or three times recited dialogue along with the characters, sometimes even getting it right. The movement swelled with the release of subsequent movies like Malcolm X, when audiences regularly let out cries of ‘Ooh Lord, don’t go in there,” as the civil rights leader approached the Audubon Ballroom.

But support didn’t reach critical mass until Christmas 2006, with the release of Dreamgirls. Black audience members–both men and women–sang so loudly and off key to Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “And I Am Telling You” that no African Americans actually heard the singer’s voice until the song was released on the radio.

“Oh yes, I was singing my heart out that night,” says Arneatha Jones, a budding documentary filmmaker from Tallahassee. “When Jennifer won the Oscar, I felt like I had too.”

Johnson, who began his theater chain in the mid-1990s to tap into the urban market, says he feels picture-only movies will be a hit. For one, the tickets will be cheaper and secondly, because the audience is providing dialogue they might make up whole new storylines.

In the picture-only version of Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, for instance, audience members actually provided a credible plot.

“It was a nice change of pace from the usual Tyler Perry movie,” says Today Show film critic Gene Shalit, who saw the movie in Harlem. “No one was calling Angela Bassett a ‘young mother’ for one thing.”

Eugene Meadows, who went with his family to the same showing of Browns as Shalit, says he never noticed it didn’t have sound.

“But I was on the phone most of the time,” he admits. “Plus, I had to change my baby’s diapers a couple times, too. Whenever I looked at the screen, I just kinda made up what was going on in my head, like I always do.”

And that, says Johnson, illustrates the whole benefit of silent films: The viewer controls the show. At a recent silent screening of Scarface in Crenshaw, for instance, the movie took on a whole new flavor.

“Tony Montana cussed out people in a completely different way and there were whole new insights into his motivations,” Johnson says. “You just can’t get that type of entertainment if you, you know, sit quietly and actually pay attention to the movie.”

Note: This article is satire, brought to you by the creative minds at The Peoples News. It’s not real, but we hope it made you think.

© 2008 The Peoples News

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “Magic Johnson Theaters To Feature Silent Movies

  1. This was funny as usual— but we’re not the only ones who do the cell phone/baby thing during movies. That’s not just a black thing. I’m starting to wonder why people spend 8$ on these tickets and then sit there checking their phones for 2 hours. YOU CAN DO THAT MESS AT HOME— FOR FREE!!

    Posted by Lou | April 17, 2008, 8:56 am
  2. I agree and laugh at the satire. however every friend I know who isn’t Black is as rude in a theatre. I got so tired of paying premium for movie tickets and I can’t hear the dialog cause some fool two rows behind is trading stocks or talking to his mom on his cell.

    I guess with slow news day there can be slow funny day too.

    Posted by Lz4broc | April 18, 2008, 9:28 am
  3. Talking to the movie is definitely more common in south side Chicago or Southeast DC than it is in the suburb. I’ve lived and gone to the movies in all three places. I remember seeing Man on Fire in Queens and laughing my butt off because a few guys in the theater were making hilarious comments at every turn. Then I watched the movie again in the suburb and the only disturbances were the occasional murmur or phone conversation but no loud comments addressed to the film. I think this is a black thing. I’m black, by the way.

    Posted by CW | April 22, 2008, 11:33 am
  4. Ya’ll wrong for putting Tallahassee out like that but at least you put us on the map! LOL
    If they did need narrators for a silent movie, I would make sure that my grandmother, mother and a couple of my aunts were hired for the job. These chicks will talk throughout the WHOLE movie! I don’t know who can out do them. AND THEY GET LOUD AND COUNTRY!! DAMN!!!

    Posted by La' N'R'G' cia | April 23, 2008, 12:37 pm
  5. I’m a 57-year-old (very) white woman. The list of family and friends who will view a movie with me, even in my own home, dwindles by the day. The warnings (“Don’t open that door, Scully!”, even when I’ve seen the show before) and arguing with characters (“Knock off the subliminal anarchist propaganda, Jack McCoy!”) have left me virtually friendless in the TV room. My 33-year-old firstborn pointed out that I become physically animated as well. Actually, he said, “If you pinch or prod me one more time, I will LEAVE THE ROOM rather than EVER watch TV with you again.”

    I really miss the young man.

    Posted by Constance | May 1, 2008, 4:51 pm
  6. Great article….very funny. I’m a white guy, and have to agree that this is a completely universal issue, race-free. My friend Danny (black) CANNOT shut his mouth for two minutes when we go to a movie–seriously, we actually had some people move away from us once, so embarassing. But my other friend Carla (white as a lily) won’t turn her phone off for love or money–talk, text, email, the works. I’ve had to restrain myself from choking both of them at different times 😉

    Posted by Stephan | May 6, 2008, 2:36 pm
  7. I dont do much screen talking but I just cant understand why do the white girl always have to fall in the scary movie, and why do they always investigate the strange noises???? SO yes sometimes I have a few things to say during the movies! Sorry , I try to keep my voice down!

    Posted by Kyndal | November 7, 2008, 1:45 am

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