People and their cell phones!
Parents bring their too young kids!
The food will kill us!
The lines! Oh the lines!
It costs SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much!
People who aren’t me or my friends and family are LOUD!
Read any article about going to the movies and they are likely to note all the above concerns. This is why people don’t go to the movies, the articles tell us. This is why the home theatre experience is preferable. And so on and on, forever and ever.
To which I say, kindly, screw that noise.
Yes, people can be jerks at the movies. Just like they can be jerks everywhere. Even at your home.
Yes, there are lots of ads. Just like on TV or your drive to work or in magazines.
The food will kill you if you eat a lot of it. But what a way to go, right? Also, if you are like most Americans, most of the food in your house is killing you too. And it doesn’t have the good sense to be drenched in synthetic butter.
Yes, people are loud at the movies. So are you. You are just fooling yourself in imagining you are somehow exceptional in this way.
I’m going to come out in favor of the going to the movies experience. I like it. I like it at the cost, both momentary and “comfort.” I like it despite, and sometimes because, of all the annoyances it contains.
For one thing, no matter how my wealth increases—and believe me, every day it increases…I roll up in the club so large, my friends, so large—I will never be able to afford a full scale personal movie theatre. I just won’t. And chances are, you won’t either. You’ll never have a screen as large or a sound system as powerful. Even as the picture quality of TV’s and take home movies (DVDs, blu-rays, digital downloads) have improved, you are still not seeing the film as it was intended. You are not taking it in in its full glory. Similarly, you can never reproduce the sound to the same extent as a truly up-to-date theatre.
This isn’t to put down watching movies at home. I love that, too. It’s just to point out that, no matter what, you’ll never have the same visual and auditory experience at home. Watching a movie at home has gotten closer, but it cannot truly replicate the experience of going to your local cinema.
For another, those other people, in all their cell phone using, talking too loud, inappropriate choices regarding when to bring kids to the movies wonderfulness…they make a difference. And I don’t mean in the negative. Go see a comedy opening day. Or better yet, a horror movie. A well attended screening, not necessarily filled, but a goodly amount of people. The laughing, the screaming, then laughing, the one person yelling “oh damn!” or gasping “watch out!” Now watch that same movie at home, by yourself, or even with a few friends. Does it seem as funny or scary? Are you having as good a time?
Chances are, if you’re honest, the answer is no. There’s something about the way we are in crowds—for good or ill. We feed off one another’s emotions, our own experiences become heightened, sharpened, when a room full of people share them with you. It can rescue an “eh, that was ok” movie and elevated a good one to a truly excellent viewing event. Those people might annoy you at times, but when a movie sweeps you all up, they make things better. It’s the difference between telling your friends about this crazy night you had and having them along for the ride. The night doesn’t objectively change and, yet, it absolutely does.
Finally, the cinema promotes a sense of escape like almost no other place we can all visit with some regularity. I have a friend who loves movies that create a world that he feels absorbed into, a new and different place. I understand that perspective but I’ve never quite had the same criteria because going to the movies always makes me feel like I’m escaping. Part of it is certainly the aforementioned sense of community with strangers, but a lot of it just has to do with how different the environment is. The big seats, the darkness, the hush (even with those who are a bit too chatty); it’s immersive. Even when I hate the movie I’ve come to see, for those 90-180 minutes, I am in a different place and time. I can lose the weights on my shoulders, get comfy, and let the images wash over me.
All of this is why even if everything people complain about the movies is entirely true, every last bit of it, I still love going. I love settling into the seat, watching the lights dim around me, and feeling the communal heartbeat tick up ever so slightly. Going to the movies now is different than it was five, ten, fifteen, or 50 years ago, it’s true. But in some ways, in the important ways, it is the same as it ever was.