Popcorn for climes of conflict

The Yes Planet Cineplex chain''s new "Yes Planet Classic" series of screenings, which started running this past weekend, must have been planned several weeks ago at the very least, which means that Israeli general public''s access to these sublime specimens of escapist big screen entertainment could not have possibly been inspired by the rapidly escalating war between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces. Must be serendipity. 


We all know that armed struggle is good for absolutely nothing. But as the reelection conspiracy theorists will remind us, there sometimes can be parties which do benefit from bloody conflicts. Usually, when war nears, the military-industrial complex begins to hum, and media usage ratings spike. It wasn''t that long ago that Ted Turner was crowned a bona fide media mogul thanks to CNN''s 24-hour coverage of flairs rising from the Bagdad skyline and Scuds falling in Tel Aviv. We haven''t looked back.


Strangely, Israel''s relatively slow trajectory towards entertainment media consumerist maturity has traditionally been attributed to the country''s struggle for survival. If Israelis didn''t have to prioritize attending to their own security concerns, the logic went, then we''d crave Hollywood''s products a whole lot more.


Of course, this working theory was an oversimplified one, and evidence negating it can be found all over the annals of Israel''s evolving pop culture appetites. Local demand was so great that the Beatles themselves were ready to book a show here in 1965, we''re told, but the initiative was nixed by the then-powerful socialist idealists, who hoped to keep the souls of Israeli youth un-invaded by the British. 


In the mid 1990s, three decades later, in a generation with no anti-capitalist baggage and plenty of globalist ambition, pop consumption here was hardly limited to the trickle that we sometimes pretend existed. In these heady days of the first dotcom boom and the emergence of "alternative" guitar rock as a mainstream pop force, it can be argued that Israeli radio tastemaker Yoav Kutner personally put the band Radiohead on the global map for good, with his heavy rotation of the "Creep" single.


By the time of the post-millennial Second Intifada, though, media as a whole had changed considerably. There were hundreds of channels on offer via cable, which consolidated from splintered local systems into a consortium called Hot, now competing with Yes, the then-new satellite TV provider. Broadband web content and social media websites were beginning to emerge as powerful forces. And DVD rentals were all the rage. So in the early days of the 2000s, when Israel''s young adults did mange to peel themselves away from their news networks, they didn''t go out and party like they had just a few years prior. Instead, they watched movies. 


Nightlife might have become temporarily irrelevant, or maybe the kids were just scared of suicide bombers in the clubs. Either way, they turned to their screens, which were getting bigger and bigger in the multiplexes and smaller and smaller to fit into the pockets of skinny jeans.


Today, Bezeq sells their own branded web video streamer boxes that integrate with TVs both smart and otherwise. Cellular providers have their own video portals for pushing TV and movie content to mobile devices. And both Hot and Yes offer subscription-based on-demand systems, which can pull content from your home''s DVR or from the providers'' browsable troves. 

And the cinema here is now as experiential and multisensory as it is anywhere else. As of this past summer, largely thanks to the Rav Chen theater chain''s partnership with Yes, there are now many enormous screens in Israel that offer 4D movies, digital IMAX, the Auro 11.1 sound system, enough leg room that no squeeze-bys are ever called for, and VIP rooms with leather recliners and bottomless refreshments.


So to escape Operation Pillar of Defense, we''ve been invited to go to branches in Tel Aviv, Rishon and Haifa on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, to watch re-digitized versions of classics like Some Like it Hot, Gone with the Wind, Psycho, Ben Hur, The Godfather, Casablanca, Raging Bull and West Side Story (pictured). All presented in full 5.1 stereo, and according to the DCI 2k or 4k standard, which means pixel definition that probably puts your home entertainment system to shame. 


The complete list of Yes Planet Classic can be browsed here.