The Movie Theatre Survival Guide, Part 1

March 29, 2009 at 11:39 am 1 comment

The other day, I was in line at the concessions stand in a movie theatre.  The line wasn’t too bad, but it was moving slow.  I’d have to guess that it was because of the high number of parents herding their children around (Monsters vs. Aliens had just come out, so that was probably why there was a higher attendance of kids than usual).  Behind me, a man was conversing with a friend about their ‘theatre experience’, which was basically complaining about the time they were spending in line.

They mentioned over-priced tickets, over-priced food, and crowds, which led me to think of, “Why the hell are you here, then?”  The movie theatre is such a unique place that it requires learning and adjusting to certain customs, like paying for over-priced food and dealing with lines.  Actually, one of the reasons I enjoy going to movie theatres is because of crowds, specifically for those huge blockbusters that draws in a thousand people per screening.  So, I decided to put my thoughts down on something concrete (like the Internet!) so that others can learn from my experiences.  Or, comment on how much of a loser I am for spending so much time at the movies.

A quick note: I spell the word ‘t-h-e-a-t-r-e’, not ‘t-h-e-a-t-e-r’, only because I’ve been spelling it the Ye Olde English way since I can remember, and it just kinda stuck.

Anyway, off we go . . .


A lot of people now have a ‘home theatre’, which used to refer to just a really nice home speaker set.  Now, many common home theatres consist of a high-definition television, a DVD player, and at least a 5.1 Dolby Digital-capable speaker system.  If you want to get fancy, toss in an upscaling DVD player (with appropriate HD cables), or even a Blu-ray player, a 7.1. Dolby- and DTS-capable speaker system, a massive (50″ and higher) HDTV, and theatre-style seating.

Many of these home theatres mimic the visual and audio experience you may get when going to a movie theatre.  Sure, they cost a pretty penny, but for cinema buffs, technophiles, and people with money to burn, a home theatre system is a necessity, just like food and clothing.  So why spend $10 for a ticket, $8 for some popcorn, $5 for a drink, not to mention using gas, just to go to a movie theatre?  Well, the first thing I can think of is asking a person who loves paintings, “Why go to an art show when you can sit at home and view the paintings online?”  Or, “Why spend $30+ on a ticket to a play or musical, when there’s probably a home video version of it available for $20 or less?”

Simple.  It’s the experience.

OK, maybe that’s actually a little more complicated than it seems.  There are certain situations where the movie theatre experience outshines the home theatre experience.  You have to take into account what you will be watching and the mood you will be watching it in.  For example, generally big-budget Hollywood summer-action-spectacular-extravaganza-apocalypses should be seen on massive screens to assault your eyes, and with tens of thousands of watts of audio power to destroy your ears.  That is, if you’re interested in those kinds of movies.

Then you have your smaller-scale movies.  Generally, your comedies, dramas, and most other films that don’t have budgets higher than $100 million.  A Wes Anderson-directed film probably won’t have any scenes that will shake the floor so hard you’d think the San Andreas Fault was splitting.  But, on the other hand, a Michael Bay-helmed picture is nothing but ridiculous explosions.  If you love action movies, then you’d most likely be better off watching an action movie in a movie theatre.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “But I have a home theatre system.  I spent a bazillion dollars on it, what am I going to use it for?” There are plenty uses for a home theatre system.  Movies that you love should be watched in an environment that supports the watching of movies.  For example, you love Wes Anderson, you think The Royal Tenenbaums is the greatest piece of cinema ever put to celluloid.  Personally, you’d be doing that movie a disservice if you’re watching it on some rinky-dink 19″ cathode-ray-dinosaur.  The cinematography is gorgeous in that film, and deserves to be seen in the highest possible resolution, with the best color clarity you can get.  Or maybe you love Saving Private Ryan; you should be able to hear every bullet whizzing past the camera, every explosion rocking the scenery, every casing dropping to the ground.  That’s where a great speaker system comes in.

What I’m getting at is this: the home theatre experience is a personal experience.  It’s for you, and anyone you choose to share that experience with.  A home theatre allows you the freedom of examining every frame of your favorite film, and appreciate the skill in which those frames were put together, all in the comfort of your own home.  The movie theatre experience is, to me, something a little more social.  I love being there, with hundreds of other people who enjoy what I enjoy.  There’s also something about watching a really kick-ass movie, then at the end listening to, and feeling, the audience’s applause ripple through the theatre.

A recent experience I had was when I watched The Dark Knight last summer.  It was a midnight showing, with about 500 others sitting in the IMAX theatre.  Now, that was a movie that should be seen with a crowd.  Listening to the audience ‘Ooohh’ and ‘Aaahh!’ at all the right parts just adds something to the experience.  Also, when I saw the re-release of Star Wars back in ’97, every member of the audience I saw it with gave it a nearly 2-minute standing ovation when the final credits started rolling.  That is something you just can’t replicate with a home theatre.

Coming up on The Movie Theatre Survival Guide: On Timeliness, Preparedness and Food(iness).

(images found using Google Image Search)


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Review: “Monsters vs. Aliens: IMAX 3D” The Movie Theatre Survival Guide, Part 2

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