During the past decade, there have been so many new outlets for watching movies beyond going to the theater. Some bloggers even maintain excellent sites while barely seeing any films on the big screen. The number of times I visit the theater has decreased considerably during the past few years. That relates more to a busy schedule with work, home, and school than an ideological shift. I've discovered that getting fewer chances to visit my local movie houses actually makes this event feel more special. When you're only catching a movie or two in the theaters each month, it adds an extra touch to each visit. It's true that there are more distractions than ever at the theater. Commercials blare on the screen before we even get to the preview. Kids (and adults) play on their cell phones and chatter loudly with little regard for anyone else's enjoyment. The prices for tickets and concessions have risen sharply, and 3D and IMAX bring extra charges on top of it. Even with all these obstacles, I still really enjoy watching movies on the big screen. I'm taking a positive approach this week, and I've provided five reasons why it still works for me.
This choice is tricky because it could show up on reasons for not wanting to visit theaters. I'm not someone who spends hours scouring the Internet for the latest trailers. Even this year, the first time I caught the previews for The Dark Knight Rises and Moonrise Kingdom was at the theater. It's still an amazing feeling to watch an exciting trailer for a highly anticipated film for the first time. I really try to avoid reading too much about a movie before I see it, so these clips can really raise my interest (or kill it). Theaters sometimes go overboard and show too many previews, but they're still a cool part of the experience.
4. Community Experience
When I speak about the "community experience" of seeing a movie, I'm not just referring to the atmosphere of seeing a new film in a packed house with an excited audience. That feeling is part of it, but it can also be a double-edged sword when comfort takes a back seat. What I've referring to is catching a movie with family or friends and just having a great time. I have no problem going to the theater by myself, and there are benefits of going that route. However, it's also fun to share this experience with others. Grabbing a drink and discussing our reactions after catching a film just adds to the fun.
3. Old or Renovated Movie Houses
Home theater technology has improved dramatically in recent years, and it doesn't take a fortune to build a solid system. Even so, it still doesn't compete with visiting a well-designed theater. I'm not referring to the giant multiplexes with 30 screens. These are smaller venues with just a few screens that have character. A great example in St. Louis is the Hi-Pointe Theatre, which is located right in the middle of the city. It can't compete with the big guns with technology, but it makes up for that fact with old-school charm. The single-screen theater is also locally owned, which is pretty rare these days. I also really enjoy the Tivoli Theatre, a renovated old movie house that's one of the most comfortable places to see a film. It has two small theaters that are nice, but the true draw is the giant center theater. Finally, there's the Moolah Theatre, which is easily my favorite place to see a movie in town. This massive single-screen location (pictured above) was once a temple and now offers a nearly perfect environment. The downstairs area has leather couches for a relaxing setting, but the best viewing spot comes from the balcony.
2. No Distractions
When I talk about theaters having no distractions, I'm not referring to the many obstructions from others who don't care as much about the viewing experience. Instead, what I mean is the lack of the other activities at home that draw my attention when I'm checking out a movie. Even when I'm trying to focus, it's easy to get sidetracked by the computer, my phone, and conversations at home. In a dark theater, I'm just watching the movie and giving it my full attention. While the idea of "forgetting your cares" is a cliche, it also is partially true because I'm separated for at least a few hours from everything. It's a lot easier to get sucked into a story when the other parts of my busy life aren't so readily accessible.
1. The Spectacle
With all the other entertainment options out there, few can compete with the spectacle of seeing a great movie on the big screen. When a master filmmaker has us in the palm of his hand, the effect can be magical. The routine of joining a group of strangers to see something amazing is really hard to match. Theater owners may try their best to ruin the spectacle by adding loud commercials and leaving the lights on during previews, but the excitement remains. I know this feeling isn't shared by a lot of moviegoers. It's just another way to pass the time when they're not working or doing other pursuits. In some cases, that's all a movie is, and there's nothing wrong with that. When a film goes beyond that level, it's hard to describe how well it works. This achievement doesn't happen every time, but it still affects me when everything comes together.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this list. What draws you to the movie theaters? You should also check out the archive of past Top 5 Lists if you've missed them.
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Not much to add besides "damn straight"!ReplyDelete
Why thank you sir!Delete
Hey, there's a pic of the Moolah!ReplyDelete
I don't know what it's like in other major metropolitan areas but we seem pretty lucky to have the theaters we have here in the Lou. Regardless of what they all show, they have character. One of my favorite theater experiences anywhere in the city is sitting in the Moolah bar at 11:15, waiting for a midnight movie to start, and talking to the bartender or bar patrons about the movie that's showing at midnight. Or better yet, talking to them about the movie they're showing on the TVs in the bar. They pick some really great obscure selections.
I'm all in favor of your article. There's something magical about going to see movies on the big screen.
John, I had to get that gorgeous picture of the Moolah in there. The top one is also the big theater in the Tivoli.Delete
I still want to try and see a midnight movie at the Moolah over the summer. I love that little bar and the whole atmosphere of the place, which is a lot different than most other St. Louis theaters.
I agree that we're in good shape in St. Louis. There's also the Wildey Theater, the Webster Film Series, and a lot of other small festivals that happen throughout the year. There just isn't enough time to see them all!
I wondered if that wasn't the Tivoli but I wasn't positive. I just had that theatre (almost) all to myself a few weeks ago when I saw a matinee of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Only one other person bought a ticket.Delete
If you haven't heard, Hazelwood 18 is showing Singin' in the Rain on July 12.
That's funny. I actually saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail there during a re-release a while back. It was great to catch it on the big screen. Strangely, I've actually seen Singin' in the Rain at the Tivoli. It was back when the AFI 100 was new and they were showing some of the movies at different theaters across the country. Thanks for the info!Delete
For me, I think community experience and spectacle would be tied for number 1.ReplyDelete
Can't argue too much with you there. I think the downsides of the community experience pulled it down a bit.Delete
Good post, Dan. Two and three are my faves.ReplyDelete
Thanks Angela! Glad to hear from you!Delete
I mainly go to the big screen for blockbusters and the spectacle, I love 3D, sadly it can give me a headache, hopefully I don't sound like a cry baby...ReplyDelete
I like how optimistic your article is. I suppose since you don't go as often, the excitement of visiting is greater! The trailers certainly are fun, I just saw a 3D trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, amazing stuff!
Very true, we are 'forced' into putting our full attention into the theatre experience, beacause there is no pause button(that is also a negative for me)
Chris, I'm actually not a big 3D guy, but it's mostly because of the extra charges. I can see the appeal even if I usually avoid it. I do see what you mean about the pause button, especially when a quick run to the restroom is needed. Still, I think it's worth it overall.Delete
Great list, Dan! I am with you on all of these, especially the enjoyment of going to an older theater. We have one here in Chicago that still has an organ, and they occasionally play silent films with live music accompaniment. It's great.ReplyDelete
Eric, they've done that a few times at a local university that has a great film series. They also do City Lights with a full orchestra at a big theater here most years. There's also an organist who plays before movies at several theaters from the local chain, and that's always a nice touch. Thanks!Delete
I'm one of those folks that has retreated to only going to the theater a few times a year. My primary reason for doing so is your #1 - I want to see a particular film on a big screen.ReplyDelete
Chip, that's a big part of the draw of the theaters for me. I finally saw The Avengers last night, and the spectacle definitely made it worth the trip.Delete
Pretty much the same reasons to me, although I never watch trailers. This means I'll be looking at the ground while they are playing. Want to go into a movie knowing as little as possible.ReplyDelete
Nostra, I'm definitely in the "know little about the movie" camp in general. I'm usually okay with watching the trailers because the movies don't come out for a while and I rarely remember much, however. It also does give me a glimpse to help decide if it's worth the trip. Of course, they can also have the opposite effect too.Delete
Great post! Despite a few minor quibbles here and there, I still do enjoy going to the movies, too. The spectacle and sound is still unmatched compared to my home viewing and like you said, you can be completely engrossed in the film for two hours or so. I also love watching the trailers before the movie starts, though the endless TV show commercials can be quite annoying.ReplyDelete
Thanks Ruth! I agree about the commercials, which can get irritating pretty quickly. It's still a fun experience overall, though.Delete
I would have added "Mess with Twihards" at some point in there, but these are all great reasons to keep going.ReplyDelete
Alan, you know that was very close to making the list. It was so tough to remove it. (:Delete
The reason I agree most with is number 3. I'm still impressed when I find a beautiful movie theater.ReplyDelete
I guess if you find a good crowd it can be magical too.
Max, it's rare in a lot of places, but nothing beats seeing a movie in a really attractive theater. If it's an older one, that's even better, assuming it isn't too run-down. Crowds are tricky and can be great, but it also can really kill the experience as you know.Delete
I just came across this article and enjoyed reading it very much. I agree that some movies like "Tree of Life" work better in theatres then they do at home because your not easily distracted.ReplyDelete
That's a good example because there are long sequences where not very much happens, so it could get distracting at home. Thanks Vern!Delete