These days it’s normal to feel nostalgic about community. For professionals in the home electronics industry, it has been nearly two years since we came together. Most other professions are coping similarly. Cautious optimism and muted excitement surround plans for upcoming gatherings such as CEDIA Expo this fall. The caution and restraint are a result of all we’ve been through this past year. The optimism and excitement are due to our need to gather, to be a community. It is who we are.
Other gatherings are also being, oh so tentatively, planned. Social, entertainment, and sporting events. Cinemas are taking extra precautions, venues are planning trial events, and sports complexes are replacing those cardboard “crowds.” Opening any facility to the public, even in normal times, is a lot of work and costly. In these, hopefully “end-of-pandemic” times, more so. Why take the risk? Is it just business? The answer to those considerations lies in the raison d’être for such organizations. They exist to serve our intrinsic need to gather, for community.
Most of us belong to more than a single community — spiritual, social, professional, and special interests. We naturally gather with others who share our beliefs, interests, and passions because these are enriched when shared. The experience is better. Collectively we are a society of communities. Finally, communities of enthusiasts drive the interests of those pastimes to new levels of desirability, creating a perpetuating and sustaining environment for such activities and passions.
Interests flourish in groups; as participants gather, discuss and share, ideas are inspired. A group is where the greatest development of ideas occurs. Certainly, individuals exhibit ingenuity and have ideas, but how often have we seen instances of synchronicity where a few creators seemed to have developed similar ideas simultaneously? All that aside, it is when the group — the community that surrounds these creators — get their collective “hands” on these ideas that remarkable development occurs. Without the community, a brilliant discovery is no better than the tree that falls in the forest and makes no sound!
Communities are supercharged with the 3 C’s of collaboration, cooperation, and competition. These aspects of community are the driving forces of many ideas. Collaboration within a community is powerful because individuals with a shared objective and interest also have individual perspectives. It is this melding of differences toward a common goal that allows a collaborative effort to outdistance individual endeavors. Cooperation is like a superpower of the group. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.” Likewise, many minds make intellectual leaps possible. Finally, our naturally competitive traits prove beneficial as they push us to excel. It’s what drives us to new heights and beyond individual boundaries.
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A thriving community is self-sustaining and growing. Like a rising tide, the community provides an emergent setting for more participation, more development, and greater opportunity. It is why many industries sponsor “incubators” for developing businesses and why intellectual communities sponsor “think tanks” to cultivate innovative thinking. These “manufactured” communities are powerful in driving specific initiatives or points of view.
But what about more organic communities? Groups where a shared interest and passion bring diverse individuals together into an area of shared fascination? Fine art, wine, automobiles, and jewelry enjoy societies of passionate devotees. It could be argued that film is also such an interest. In just over a century, film came from nothing to become, in the words of Renzo Piano (architect, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures) “the most complete, truly contemporary art form.” It also became an enormous industry and has spurred a significant community of many groups. No one could have foreseen it!
The history of film is fascinating and, in spite of its short time span, would require volumes to relate. One aspect however is clear. Film, as an artform and as an industry, does not pursue compromise. “The movies” personify the spectacular and the memorable. The film community is diverse, comprising professionals of artistic, creative, technical, entrepreneurial, and critical skills, as well as the audience itself. All actively exerting their influence — collaborating, cooperating, and competing. We are all watching the movies, and I don’t mean in theaters (home or otherwise). Film is in the media all the time. We’re interested.
There is a related but, so far, very different story. The story of home theater. An innovation with so much potential that, initially there was quite a buzz. There are similarities. Like film, we seemingly came out of nowhere. Our first clumsy attempts to replicate “a night at the movies” in the home are almost laughable when compared to what we can do today. But back then, people were listening! Remember THX’s “The Audience Is Listening”? There was enthusiasm and we were sought out. Another similarity to film is the diversity of participants. Designers, integrators, engineers, craftsmen, manufacturers, and, most important, our audience. But the similarity ends there.
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The contrast is striking. The public actively pursues the movie industry, whereas we have failed to engage our audience. The movie industry has a history of grassroots fan and media involvement, starting in 1911 with Photoplay, which rapidly grew to a glossy publication with a circulation of over 500,000 (in 1911!). By the 1940s the nation’s obsession with film spawned a staggering 58 fan-facing magazines! These magazines were not from the industry, but they were about the industry and the industry facilitated them. The film industry has facilitated public interest in every aspect. From stars, to stories, to technology to awards. In the case of the movies, the audience is absolutely paying attention because they expect to be thrilled. Conversely, the home theater industry has no customer-facing media.
Don’t misunderstand. I don’t expect the paparazzi to stalk acoustic engineers and theater designers. Loudspeaker manufacturers are not likely to be featured in a tabloid expose. But we can make a concerted effort to build a community of enthusiasts of both professionals and the public to embrace and enhance the world of private cinema and film. This community will explore and celebrate the excellence, the best of what private cinema has to offer. Like Fine Art, The Jewelry Editor, Yachts, and Luxury Car, all public-facing specialty publications, and DuPont Registry and Robb Report, prestige amenity publications, we can work toward getting the message into the public purview.
Like Art-Basel, the annual jewelry and horology show, we can find ways to include key client populations in our get-togethers. Like the movie industry we can celebrate the superb and raise expectations and public furor over the extraordinary entertainment amenity we make possible. In turn, we will find an audience that pleads, if not demands, more of us and is willing to go to great lengths to assure their absolute delight rather than settle for good enough. The time is short to gather our audience and share the incomparable entertainment experience we offer. Will the audience be listening?
Sam Cavitt is the founder and CEO of Paradise Theater. Sam and his team have created nearly a thousand of the world’s finest private cinemas. Based on the core values of Experience Nonpareil and Excellence Always, Paradise Theater has developed and employs a definitive process that always produces excellent results. Paradise Theater works closely with the finest integrators, architects, designers, builders, and, most importantly its clientele to deliver the perfect solution, every time. Sam is also spearheading Cinema Connoisseur, an initiative to create a community of enthusiasts, cinema connoisseurs, both professional and public, to embrace and enhance the world of private cinema and film.