Pain at the Pump
As I drive around L.A. and see gas prices approaching—and exceeding—$4 per gallon, I wonder how this might affect people's entertainment activities. I'd love to know how it's affecting you...
Maybe you're not going out to the movies as much as you used to. Of course, there are many reasons why that might be true—movie tickets are now over $10, and the quality of presentation often leaves a lot to be desired. Theaters are desperately trying to attract more moviegoers with stadium seating, digital projection, and other incentives, but is that enough to lure you out of your home to burn a gallon of gas, find a place to park, and sit there while some kid kicks the back of your seat the whole time?
Perhaps you're considering trading in that gas-guzzling SUV for a hybrid, but in so doing, you must postpone buying a new flat panel or front projector and screen. I feel your pain—it's not quite Sophie's choice, but a difficult decision nonetheless.
Do you like to buy movies on disc? Does the high price of gas mean you can't afford as many titles as you used to? This problem is worse for Blu-ray fans, who pay a steep premium compared with DVD collectors. On the other hand, the cost of all types of shiny discs could increase dramatically over the next few years—after all, petroleum is a key ingredient in plastic.
Of course, renting movies solves the high-price-of-ownership problem, but not the high-price-of-gas problem, at least not if you still rent movies from a brick-and-mortar store. Fortunately, that approach is fast becoming extinct in the face of mail-order rental services like Netflix. Discs are delivered to your door, and you can enjoy them as long as you want without having to pull the car out of the driveway. However, physical delivery is likely to become more expensive as transportation costs rise, so this might not be the best long-term solution.
What about online downloads? No discs, no physical delivery, no gas involved. This seems like a great way to beat high entertainment costs, but it's not yet ready for prime time in my view. Most video downloads are standard-def and compressed to within an inch of their lives, so they often don't look very good, especially on a large screen. HD content is also available, but not much, and it takes hours to download a single title. And even when it's on your hard drive, downloaded high-def material normally doesn't look as good as Blu-ray or broadcast HDTV due to higher levels of compression that are applied to reduce download times.
So I ask you: How is the rising cost of gas affecting your entertainment activities? Please post a comment here or send me an e-mail at the address below. I may not be able to ease the pain at the pump, but your fellow readers and I can certainly sympathize, and perhaps someone out there has found a way around the problem that might benefit us all.
If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to email@example.com.