The Magic Of The Movie Theater

The name of this blog is A Flickering Life and so far, I haven’t done much to echo that title, a reference to my love of film. There are references here and there but I’ve focused on HFA and how that’s affected my life. That will continue to be the case, I suspect. But I need to write this entry. To think for a moment on another of my favorite places.

In the discussion of movie theaters versus watching at home, I am a shameless partisan for the theater. To me the discussion is perfectly simple. Home is full of distractions. It overloads my senses. While I can certainly get lost in a great film at home, as I have with Her most recently, the theater will always reign supreme.

I know that that isn’t the case for many of us. I had an enlightening such discussion recently actually.  After all, video is on the order of 10X cheaper at redbox for some films. With a good setup, you can easily replicate the experience, if not “improve” on it. Even 3D isn’t an advantage as I’ve heard countless Bluray 3D advocates praise the format. We can also never forget the pain of other people in the theater. I see the argument for home viewing and it makes perfect sense to me. So I must concede that emotion plays a giant role in my preference. I mean, I’m incredibly cheap. Logic certainly isn’t the key here.

Why? Well, for starters I’m a deeply ritualistic person, as most HFAs are and the stations of the movie theater are some of my favorite. They go in an almost unchanging order. First, purchase your ticket. Second, take notice of everything in the lobby. The scent of popcorn is so intoxicating in this moment, and I don’t even eat it there usually!  The new posters always get examined. I might get a snack but usually don’t. There’s an obligatory bathroom stop. I don’t want to get up after all. Then I find my auditorium and take my seat. There’s usually a check-in on social media. I pay rapt attention to the trailers. If it’s a 3D film, glasses go on at the notice. And then, I get lost.

This experience is the same if it’s a bad movie or a good movie. My attention definitely wanders more at a bad movie but not nearly like it does at home. When I watch a movie in a theater, I give my focus over to it to the best of my ability. That means my phone is off. I’m steadfast in my refusal to text or even check the time during a film. I even try to tell people in advance I’m out of reach.

Weirdly, quality of the theater has very little bearing on the experience. Oh, don’t get me wrong I desperately prefer the nicest possible experience. My preferred theater in Little Rock is The Breckenridge Village 12, a well maintained Regal theater. But I used to live right by the dollar theater in North Little Rock and I went there sometimes as much as twice a weekend. A theater has to have inaudible sound or painful seats to drive me away.

Both of those are sensory of course. As I’ve stated before in my accounts and will state again, we have violent sensory issues. Weirdly enough, going to a theater is a balm on those. It’s dark, temperate. There aren’t a lot of loud competing sounds. Usually just the film and the audience. I’m also not bothered by good loud sound on a film. It just makes the experience that much more complete.

And there’s the audience. I love a great audience!  I love being in a room fully amped up. I saw I Am Legend at a rather depressing moment in my life and the crowd’s passionate reactions made my night. The Avengers was a party with a crowd full of passionate Marvel fans soaking up a perfect reflection of the comics. A great audience responds and reacts to what they see. Maybe my favorite moment at the dollar theater was watching the underseen Sex Drive on its last showing in a crowd full of people that utterly loved it. Even a bad audience is great! There was a crowd full of kids at Kill Bill vol. 1! That was an experience I’ll never forget.

Maybe most importantly, going to the movies is a journey. It requires going out of the house to get lost in a piece of art. There are very few places in the modern world we do that. I love that I get to go through that. I’ve walked across the parking lot to see films and I’ve crossed state lines to see films. But  in both cases I stepped out to go into another world.

I want to pause to once more praise cinematour.com. I’ve noted their site before. They  also have a Facebook group that I’ve started discussing in. These guys grab photos of every theater they can and they nail the joys of it. Visiting their site is transporting for me.

But back on topic, I get the virtues of home viewing. However, I’m a fan of the real thing. I love film however I see it. But the real thing, oh it’s amazing.

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