We recently reported on the Moviepass announcement that the company would now limit subscribers to seeing only four movies a month under the current plan, as a method of trying to reduce the sea of red ink the company finds itself contending with. Now, the web site Wired reports that the company has reverted back to its initial program that allows subscribers to see one movie a day, every day of the month in return for a $9.95 monthly fee. The service has proven to be wildly popular in America and over two million members are now on board. However, the company has not succeeded in its goal of getting theaters to share revenue from concessions, which is crucial to the ability of Moviepass to survive as a viable entity. Meanwhile, the company has told Wired that recent problems with the AMC movie chain have now been resolved. Click here for more.
(Thanks to subscriber Karen Keithler for the alert.)
Those of us who have easy access to Central Park often take its magnificence for granted. After all, there isn't a person alive who can remember New York City without this oasis of sanity and beauty amid the chaotic goings-on that surround it. But had it not been for some prescient, progressive thinkers of the mid-1800s, chances are the world's greatest park might not have even existed. Director Martin L. Birnbaum's entertaining and informative documentary "Central Park: The People's Place" is a charming valentine to the massive landscapes that form the titular area, stretching from 59th Street to 110 Street and bestowing upon Gotham its most defining feature. Birnbaum's relentlessly upbeat look at Central Park includes discussion of its origins through interviews with historians and academics. By the mid-1800s, New York was expanding at a lighting pace. The main population centers had originally been confined to the downtown areas but before long what is now known as midtown became the booming northern boundary of the city. There was a fear among many prominent citizens that the unchecked expansion of housing and businesses would ultimately render the city into an urban jungle (during this period, much of the city consisted of unspeakably inhospitable tenement sections where the tidal wave of immigrants from Europe found themselves confined to.) In 1857, the city father's agreed to designate 843 acres for the construction of a major park that would serve the needs of the city's population. Under the direction of architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the enormous undertaking began in 1858. Martin Birnbaum's documentary covers all of this in an interesting fashion, pointing out that there were negative aspects to the construction of the park, primarily the dissolution through the eminent domain laws of Seneca Village, a small but thriving community populated primarily by poor blacks and immigrants. The decision to eradicate this small community lead to considerable protests from the residents, who were ultimately financially compensated for their losses, though not to their satisfaction.
Most of the documentary centers on activities in the park today. There are many interviews with people from all walks of life who share what aspects of the park they enjoy the most. The place is so vast that it is possible to visit it over a period of years and not fully explore its many treasures. There is a beautiful garden area, a stage where world-class plays and concerts are performed, a massive lake where you can still rowboat for a nominal fee, a literal castle, a zoo and many other sites worth seeing. The film also demonstrates that among the most enjoyable aspects of Central Park is the choice to do nothing but take in the sights and sounds around you. We see parents playing with their children, the old tradition of sailing model boats in the lake, people playing music or practicing yoga or those who just simply enjoy a walk through the beautiful greenery. There is also an interesting discussion of the huge, ancient rock formations that date back hundreds of millions of years and which ended up in their present location during an ice age of 21,000 years ago.
Birnbaum's film is not exactly an objective look at the city or the park. It ignores the fact that when the city went through its decline in the 1960s through the early 1990s, Central Park sometimes had an ominous reputation due to the soaring crime rates. The very isolation that makes the place so attractive often gave opportunities for horrendous crimes to be committed. Small wonder that the park was often seen as a foreboding place in urban crime thrillers of the era such as "Death Wish". However, those were the bad old days. Naturally, in a city the size of New York, bad things can still happen in Central Park but Gotham is now recording the lowest crime rates since the early 1960s the park has regained its original magic. Don't take my word for it...see it for yourself.
First Run Features has released "Central Park: The People's Place" on DVD. There are no bonus extras but if you've ever enjoyed the park or contemplated making a pilgrimage to it, this DVD is highly recommended.