Movies are awesome. Watching a movie in a theater makes them awesome-er. Sadly, most people are skipping movie theaters and just watching films online instead. Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster, even wants to bring the latest blockbusters to your living room as soon as they’re released. This is all a very sorry state of affairs.
Even today, when watching a movie at home has never been easier, the movie theaters have a lot going for them. Here’s why you should give going to the movies another shot.
Movies Are Made for the Big Screen
Movies aren’t made for tiny laptop screens with poor displays, fuzzy details, over-saturated colors, and tinny sound.
Movies are made for gigantic cinema screens — they should be seen spread across an entire wall, carefully calibrated by trained technicians to ensure every detail is crisp and clear, and every color is accurate, with countless booming speakers surrounding the audience so they can feel every footfall.
When a director shoots a film they aren’t imagining some solo viewer hunched over a diminutive device, they’re thinking of an ample auditorium packed full of people whose only focus is the film.
— Melissa Walsh (@TheMrsWalsh7) December 28, 2015
OK, so that may have been a touch over-dramatic, but movies ARE made for theaters and not smaller screens. Yes, there’s an element of spectacle to the whole but there are also practical reasons to consider. When directors are working, they’re using the whole frame. Subtle details will happen in the background. Characters will react at the edges of the scene. These details are next to impossible to see on a laptop or smartphone.
Aspect ratio also matters. The widest laptop screens are normally 16:10. TVs are 16:9. Movies, however, are shot at either 1.85:1 or 2.35:1. This means that every movie ends up letter boxed, or even worse, cropped by whatever device you’re watching it on. A screen that’s already too small is made even smaller.
If you want to see a movie in the way it’s meant to be seen, you need to go to a movie theater. You simply cannot get the same effect at home without investing thousands of dollars in a home cinema setup.
You Can’t Distract Yourself
As I learned when I binge-watched seven seasons of Californication in justfive days and made myself stare at screens for 48 hours, I’m easily distracted. Unless someone’s naked or exploding on screen in front of me, I get tempted to take out my phone and start flicking through Facebook and Twitter.
This isn’t something I’m particularly happy about, but it happens, and I suspect it happens to many of you too. I’m just so used to sitting on the couch with my phone out that when it comes time to watch a movie, I fall prey to habit.
— Harry Guinness (@HarryGuinness) August 24, 2015
In the cinema, you can’t get away with having your phone out. Some utter degenerates will occasionally check their phones but most people are above such atrocious behavior. The best cinemas, like the Alamo Drafthouse and my local independent cinema, have really strict policies. If they catch you even glancing at your phone to check the time, they rush you out of the door. That’s the way it should be.
The Cinema is a Social Experience
Some movies need to be watched with a crowd. Watching with other people makes horror movies scarier and comedies funnier. The simple act of hearing other people scream or laugh can amplify your own experience.
Going to the theater is always better with friends. You can meet up beforehand, grab a bite to eat, head in to watch a movie, and then have a drink and talk about it afterwards. It’s a social event rather than just something you’re doing to pass the time.
You can replicate some of the social aspects at home — invite a few friends, order large pizzas, and embark on an epic The Lord of the Rings marathon — but most people don’t do that. Instead, they sit around, casually throw on a film, and then witness everybody taking out their phones to check Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, or possibly even Grindr. That simply can’t compare to the cinema.
You Can Only See Some Films in Theaters
Although Netflix has thousands of films available to watch, (especially if you use a VPN) the actual selection is relatively limited. Rental services like iTunes tend to have a greater range of options, and piracy an even greater range of options, but even they don’t offer every film.
More than my family, what I missed when I was in the Alps was the cinema. Best way to watch movies.
— Harry Guinness (@HarryGuinness) May 11, 2016
There are only a few blockbuster movies each year that get most of the media attention. These are The Avengers and the Mad Max-style movies. However, there are hundreds of smaller films released each year that never make it to general release. They’re only watchable at film festivals, or in small cinemas that specialize in independent films.
If you love movies, you’ll know that these are often regarded as the best films of the year. They frequently make it to the top of critics’ lists and become fan favorites on Rotten Tomatoes but because they don’t have “commercial potential,” they’re not widely available.
If you want to see these kind of films, you have to go to a theater for one of the screenings. They’ll often only be shown four or five times and that’s it. They’re sometimes released online months down the line, after the festival circuit has finished, but you have to wait until that happens if you don’t catch the movie in the cinema. Waiting doesn’t sit well with me at the best of times, and especially not when there are so many other good reasons to go to the movies.
It’s Good to Support Artists
If you love a particular director, actor, or film franchise, watch it in the cinema. Hollywood judges the success or failure of a film based almost entirely on their performance in theaters.
As an example, Ryan Reynolds fought hard to get Deadpool made. It has ended up being a massive success, and a sequel has already been greenlit because hundreds of thousands of people flocked to theaters to see it. Now, if it had tanked in the cinema but become a cult classic on Netflix, a sequel might have happened in 10 years time. But we can do better than that.
If you like a movie and want the creators to be able to make more like it, the best thing you can do is watch it in a theater on opening weekend. That’s when a studio makes the most money from a film, so they’ll be happiest about it performing well. If you don’t go to the cinema, you can’t complain about the state of movies currently being made.
Non-Traditional Movie Theaters Are Amazing
Every summer in my home town, classic films are shown on a massive inflatable screen in a park. You can sit outdoors on a warm evening, lie back on the grass, and watch E.T., Indiana Jones, or some other fantastic flick. It’s got all the benefits of a cinema without the sticky floors.
These sort of non-traditional cinemas are popping up everywhere. You can watch movies on a big screen while floating in a pool, lounging on a beach, or in a retro drive-in screen. Going to them is a wonderful experience, and it’s one you cannot replicate at home.
As should be pretty obvious by now, I really love going to a movie theater. And hopefully my enthusiasm will have convinced you to give it another shot. It really is the best way to see movies: it’s how directors want them seen, it makes for more of an event, film festivals are fantastic, supporting artists you like is important, and there are more unusual options than ever before.
Do you love or hate going to the movies? When was the last time you visited a cinema? How do you watch most films these days? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Credit: cinema screen by Andrey_Kuzmin via Shutterstock