If I have plans with someone and they suggest watching a movie at home, I die a little inside.
I grew up half an hour away from a drive-in, ten minutes away from a movie theater, and five minutes away from a Blockbuster. This means that I’ve always believed watching a movie in a mostly empty house was nothing compared to seeing it in a filled theater (or parking lot). There is something about being part of an audience that changes the whole experience; you’re sharing a memorable time with the people you’re meant to be with, in the setting that you’re meant to be in.
I often acted on this despite only having a subconscious awareness of it. In fact, before leaving for college for the first time, I convinced my friend to go with me to Riviera Theatre for a special showing of my favorite movie, Good Will Hunting (1997). Now, when it first came out I hadn’t been born yet, so prior to the summer of 2016 I had only watched the film alone . . . in my bed . . . on a laptop. Clearly, it was much more significant to be surrounded by people feeling the same things that I was.
This was also the case when I saw Eighth Grade (2018) this summer in Washington D.C. No one in the audience knew what to expect since we were at one of the few theaters playing it at the time, so I don’t think we anticipated how therapeutic the experience would be. I was able to hear people laugh while I was and feel their tension and compassion radiating alongside my own. These little reminders proved that we were a whole greater than its parts. They proved that people may look different than you and have different backgrounds than you but moments of common humanity are not just possible, they’re beautiful. For this very reason movies like this are intended to be viewed one way: in theaters.
Part of what makes this setting significant is its ability to showcase the uniqueness of each crowd. When I saw The Big Sick (2017) in theaters four times last summer I had four different experiences. The audiences didn’t laugh at the same lines, some groups were more comfortable with awkward moments, and one audience, despite being the smallest, was almost as loud as the rest. I also noticed that each built their own energy throughout the movie, which often happens in the theater and can only occur on a small scale at home.
While knowledge of this can make some want to go to the movie theater as much as possible, high-priced tickets can be a drawback. The good news is that, as students, we have a variety of money-saving opportunities. Pittsford Cinemas is only five minutes away from Nazareth College, and students can pay as little as $6.75 for a movie that starts before 6 p.m. Students can also visit the historic Little Theatre on a school night and see a movie for $6. However, if they visit on Monday, tickets are only $5.
So, in the age of solo viewings in the corner of a room, I challenge you to go out and be a part of something greater. Once you do, you’ll realize that the money you saved by watching a movie at home will never make up for the price you’ll pay missing out on a memorable time.