These days, conversation about going to the movies is likely to include complaints about ticket prices and distracting behavior. Maybe it's the guy behind you, idly kicking the back of your seat while chatting on his cell phone. Or the couple in front, with their running commentary on the film's historical accuracy.
Sometimes the distractions are internal. Like the longing to press the "pause" button so you can check your e-mail on your Blackberry -- and then "rewind" to catch that line of dialogue you just missed as your mind wandered.
Either way, it seems that cinematic rapture is getting harder to come by. It's led some to blame DVDs. Most people prefer these slim disks to traditional moviegoing -- and what's not to like? They promise the enjoyment of going to the movies without all the hassle -- and for a fraction of the cost.
You may have noticed that some moviegoers treat the theater like their living room, and that others treat a Hollywood blockbuster as just another title on Netflix. That's why they want to tailor their viewing with the convenience of the remote control.
But like a good thriller, the story is more complicated than it first appears. It involves how the mind works and how technology affects it. As you'll see, DVDs are just one player in a larger cast, and you can't consider one cause as the undisputed "bad guy." So, settle in with your popcorn and enjoy the show. And don't worry about anyone giving away the end -- there isn't one yet. Psychologists, theater owners and moviegoers are collaborating on the sequel.
First up: commerce, technology and the death of movie-theater magic.