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When it comes to movie theaters, the staff of WhatNerd are deeply divided. Some of us hate them. Others love it. I’ve personally written about the worst movie experiences I’ve ever had, even though I enjoy seeing films in theaters. Despite the fact that things can and do go wrong, this exploration into the ugly side of cinema got me thinking about my positive experiences, too.
Here are some reasons why movie theaters are still great.
1. Community Experience
Generally speaking, going to the theaters can be a great community experience—whether you do the VIP lounge or manage to grab a couple last-minute seats. The best theater experience I ever had was with my friends when we met up in Vancouver to watch the opening night of The Last Jedi.
We’re huge Star Wars fans, so seeing a new movie about the Jedi on the big screen is a bit like a religious experience. After watching the movie two times in one night (yes, two), we sat down in the in-house VIP lounge and drank. For us, this personalized, intimate get-together was a great example of the best sort of community experience that a movie theater has to offer.
For you, that community experience could be as simple as going to the theater by yourself and absorbing the hype surrounding a film. Maybe that community experience is a Friday night out with your friends, whether a fancy theater is involved or not. Sure, you’re not talking to your friends during the movie itself—or at least you shouldn’t be—but if you’re there with a group of people doing a shared activity that brings you joy, you’re on the right track.
Whatever the reason you go to the theaters, that community is key. It’s a lonely world out there, and we need to find the best ways we can to connect to others.
2. A Way to Feel Like You’re Part of the Movie
It goes without saying that some of these movies—especially the big, special effect, blockbuster movies—can’t be replicated on a TV. This is to our loss but the theater’s profit, because when you’re in a theater and you see one of these movies that’s meant for that format, it really adds to the experience.
When you’re watching a movie on a huge screen, there’s this quality to them that can make you feel like you’re part of the movie itself. From the surround sound, to the way that you can see all the micro-expressions of the actor’s faces when they’re enlarged to that size, the theater’s goal is to make you forget about the real world and sink into a fictional one. Some of these movies do this easily.
Sure, the ability to feel like you’re part of a movie may not matter so much if you’re watching a romantic comedy that’s set in a coffee shop. A coffee shop is probably something you can see in real life every day. But if you’re watching a sci-fi film, for example, where else are you going to be able to see a black hole or Jupiter, or the rings of Saturn, especially that close or “lifelike”? Nowhere, unfortunately, and this ability to touch the stars is something only a movie theater can do.
Nostalgia is addictive. I’m joking, of course, but only partially, because nostalgia can and does influence people’s longing for a particular time or place.
Some of my strongest memories of nostalgia are associated with movies; it’s in that summer storm that swept across the road after we watched Star Wars: Episode I with my dad; in the way my brother and I always go out for a burger and fries before watching the latest movie. Nostalgia is defined as a form of homesickness, but not necessarily in a negative way; it’s a sort of wistful yearning to return to a past situation that you have happy or very strong memories of, and you really want to get that feeling back.
Whenever I go to the movie theater, even if its in a difference place, I’m instantly transported back to these memories and I feel better because of it. It’s the same story for many others, too.
4. No FOMO
FOMO is something that strikes all of us every now and then, and for those of you who are not familiar with the term it basically means a “fear of missing out”.
When a huge movie hits theaters, everyone starts talking about it. Some of us don’t care one way or another what the movie is about, but if you love movies and you love geeky things, and you hear other people talking about this movie—either because they’re happy or enraged—you might want to know what’s going on. By going to the theater you won’t feel like you’re missing something important.
5. A Reason to Complain
Finally, movie theaters are still amazing because you have a reason to complain about them if you still go. Yes, that’s right. Complain.
People voice their displeasure about a film without having seen the film all the time, but if you really want to have an opinion on a film other than “I’m not interested,” you need to watch it. If you don’t want to go to the theater but still want to have an opinion, fine—wait until it hits Netflix or another streaming platform. Otherwise keep quiet. Let those who would enjoy the experience make that decision for themselves.
Want to hear more about our ongoing love-hate relationship with movie theaters? Check out our list of movie trailer pet peeves that can ruin the hype.