Let us take a moment to recognize the heroes of movie-watching in Halifax: the Carbon Arcs, the Atlantic Film Festivals and the Video Differences of our city. Let's remark upon their variety, their expertise and their dedication and resolve to not take their benefits in vain, nor their deficits too personally. Let's meditate on them for a beat, because the rest of my thoughts are dedicated to the villains of cinema going; the seat-kickers, the talkers and the texters in particular. Example: At a recent screening I had a foot on my seat at the back, a beat-the-plot contestant to my left and a fatuous blowhard to my right, providing a weak commentary of redundant details. Argh!
More and more, it's not the movies, it's the audience that is persuading me to just stay home. A mostly full theatre is hotbed of false urgency: "Hey, I recognize that actor/location/universal humor/tense emotional situation/how gross that liquid could be and I MUST BE HEARD SAYING SO!" This on top of the harsh glow of cell phones? And I don't have the space to get into the price of this experience!
Perhaps you worry that the collective experience of cinema-going is being shortchanged, that I am conveniently forgetting magical nights of hive-mind excitement with my fellow audience members. It's an elusive ideal. One can, however, successfully and regularly connect with cinephiles via social media. As I write, my Twitter feed is as preoccupied with the wins, losses and dresses of the Golden Globe Awards as they usually are with weekly releases, reviews and box office returns.
In my book, all you need to enjoy a movie is a cozy room, a screen with a reliable picture tube and a large glass of wine. Sounds like your living room, doesn't it? —HT
One of the more surreal events I've experienced at the movies took place in a crowded theatre during a matinee screening of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. When Leonard Nimoy's Spock suddenly shows up in the film, the entire audience gasped then burst out in applause. There was no rational reason to clap, but it was infectious. Moreso, it made the Saturday afternoon movie a memorable event.
Now look, I'm as agoraphobic and utterly misanthropic as the next person. There are times when the last thing I want to do is go outside. But no matter how comfortable the couch or big the TV screen, there's always going to be a place for seeing a movie in theatres.
People like being out in the world. We like to be social and partake in events we find enjoyable. But beyond that, being in a theatre offers a certain sense of magic, regardless of whatever's on screen.
You sit there in the dark, alone in a crowd of 100 strangers, all transfixed on the same giant, flickering images. It's a hypnotic, nearly religious event that's hard to experience elsewhere in today's fractured, insular world.
Not that theatre-going is perfect. From overcharging to technical glitches, there's a wealth of improvements certain theatre monopolies might want to look into.
But there's an aspect of experiencing the world with others that seeing a film in theatres will always excel at. It allows you to laugh along during a raucous comedy, or scream in surprise with your neighbours during a scary scene.
Watching a film at home will always be safe, and usually pleasant while, yes, going out to a theatre can be a crapshoot. But that's a risk worth taking, because with the right crowd, on the right night, it'll be unforgettable. --JB