Why Go To the Movies?

Why go to the movies? I took the Little Man to see Rogue One last week1 and outside of the movie itself, the experience is not compelling. Consider this pitch:

  • We construct a large multiplex theater in which six, eight, or ten movies can be screened at the same time.
  • We offer all kinds of expensive concessions, the smallest of which will be a 64 ounce bag of popcorn buttered with something that isn’t even butter.
  • We preface the movie with 25 minutes of coming attractions, trailers which, by large, in their 90 second incarnations are far better than the movies they promote.
  • We provide assigned seating so that you don’t have to stress out about finding a seat once you arrive at the theater.
  • We install lavish seats that allow you to recline so that you can easily sleep through the boring parts of the movie you’ve come to see.
  • We have 3-D screenings complete with 3-D glasses so that the 3-D effects distract you from any flaws in the films.
  • To pay for all of this, we charge excessively high rates for tickets and concessions, knowing that you’ll pay because your impatient.
  • Oh, and also, we’ll show you the movie.

One might argue that better movies are being made than ever before, but the movie-going experience has been on a downward spiral for a very long time now. The pitch notwithstanding, I am hard-pressed to think of a reason for the continued existence of movie theaters. Why not just release the movies directly to streaming media? There are plenty of advantages to this:

  • You don’t have to find a parking spot.
  • You don’t have to sit through 20 minutes of previews you don’t care about.
  • You don’t have to pay for overpriced concessions.
  • You don’t have to worry about rowdy audiences.
  • You are blessedly free from the 3-D debacle.
  • You can pause the movie if you have to run to the restroom.

Movies are released in theaters first, presumably, because in a theater, it is one ticket per person. This helps with the box office receipts. If I watch the movie at home, well, Kelly can watch it too, and so can the kids, and all for the price of the download, which is probably something less than what four movie tickets would cost.

Going to the movies used to be an event. People would get dressed up. It was a special thing. Now, it seems, it has become a necessary means to seeing a movie as soon as it is released. But as far as I can tell, there is no other advantage to movie theaters today than being able to see the movie sooner, rather than later.

I get to the movies about once a year because of this, and I do so reluctantly. I wish that going to the movies was a real experience the way that it once was. I wish that we still had drive-ins. It was at a drive-in theater in New Jersey that I first saw Star Wars in 1977. That was an experience.

These days, I consider movie theaters little more than a place to go if you want an early preview of the movie. The real thing, when it comes out, can be viewed more easily, less expensively, and much more comfortably in your living room.

  1. We loved it.


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