Funny how words in the English language take on a different purpose from generation to generation. Take, for instance, the word “overture”. It is used quite often as an expression to start the ball rolling in negotiations. Everyone seems to be chasing rainbows and looking to cut a deal. “Let’s make an overture” usually means “let’s indicate interest to the other party so that we can make an offer that they will not refuse.”
There was a time when “overture” served an entirely different purpose. It was mostly used to describe the beginning portion of a musical performance. It was intended to provide a nurturing effect in getting everyone to their seats, relaxed and prepared to watch a movie or concert. In the 1950’s and 60’s, when movie musicals were still very popular, a film would contain several songs that would be familiar to the audience before they even went to the theater. If you went to see a blockbuster film such as “Oklahoma”, “Carousel”, “South Pacific”, “West Side Story”, “The Music Man” or even a drama with a moving score such as “Exodus”, you’d expect to be entertained with short segments from many of the popular musical numbers.
Getting us in the mood was part of the piece of fantasy we bought into when we chose to go see those movies. We wanted foremost to be entertained as well as forget our daily concerns by spending ninety minutes to two hours in a world of make-believe. When the overture music finally stopped, the curtain drew open, the lights dimmed, and the opening credits started rolling on the screen. In most cases that is all we saw at first as we listened to the opening musical theme. Finally, the name of the movie’s director displayed, the opening scene appeared and the magic began.
Today, it’s different. Overtures are a rarity. You go to a movie house and you are inundated with commercials no different than if you are sitting at home and watching television. And for this you pay ten dollars to get a seat.
Since the 1970’s, a movie exhibits a sense of realistic action or the audience does not relate. Still, film lovers appreciate the make-believe persona of an old black and white movie from the 30’s-50’s because it takes on historical perspective with that once-removed feeling.
Young folk under twenty-five have grown up â€œtextingâ€ on their personal electronic devices while their parents and friends are trying to have a conversation with them. They are living like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century now. They want to be impressed right away or turn to something else. The action starts in movies nowadays as soon as the lights go out in the theater after the tenth commercial has been played. Five minutes into the film is about when the opening credits start to scroll. If you miss the credits when buying popcorn in the lobby, you need someone to tell you the movie’s plot already revealed.
As for me, a certified baby boomer, I like to sit back, get in the mood, and find my favorite performers of yesteryear on YouTube, play and pause at my convenience and give what I’ve watched a thumbs up or down. No popcorn nor drink that add another ten bucks to the movie house cash register. Anybody want to buy an old vhs vcr machine?