Why I Stopped Going to Movie Theaters: 7 Cinema Deal-Breakers

Watching movies on the big screen? Awesome. Everything else about the cinema experience? Not so great.
Image credit: Jaime Fernández/Pexels

There’s no doubt about it: watching a film on the big screen in a movie theater provides an objectively better experience than watching on a run-of-the-mill TV without surround sound or 4K. But for me, the cons simply outweigh the pros.

I’ve been to the movie theater six times in the last ten years: Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, the last two Harry Potter movies, and most recently, Shazam! (check out my review of Shazam!).

While I enjoyed all six of those films, only Shazam! offered an impeccably enjoyable experience; the others were tainted in various ways. It saddens me that movie-going has become so dreadful.

Here’s why I can’t stand movie theaters and why I refuse to go anymore (except when I’m gifted free tickets of course, wink).

1. Ticket and Concession Prices

These days, a movie ticket costs about $13. If you can go during matinee hours, about $10. In return, you’re getting on average two hours of entertainment. It’s really hard for me to justify paying that kind of price for anything but the most epic cinematic experiences, given that I can pay the same price for a month of Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

And don’t get me started on concession prices. Yes, I know that movie theaters make next to nothing on ticket sales and earn all their profit through concessions, but it’s not my fault their business model is outdated and unfriendly to movie-goers. I simply refuse to pay $10 for a soda and popcorn, thank you very much.

2. Missing Half the Dialogue

Real talk: I watch everything with subtitles on. Yes, even when the film is in English. I hate missing important plot points or the full impact of character moments because I couldn’t hear a particular line or two of dialogue. And subtitles are even more crucial when thick accents are involved.

While I realize that some movie theaters offer screenings with closed captions, they aren’t always available and the showtimes aren’t always practical. And after years of watching stuff with subtitles on, it’s become harder for me to parse dialogue on the cinema soundstage, and it really taints the experience.

3. Inability to Pause

Pausing during a movie is so clutch. Bathroom breaks are the usual culprit, but it’s nice to watch a flick on Hulu and pause when I need to address a work issue (because I work from home), or to give myself an intermission when a movie is longer than two hours.

I’m aware of apps like RunPee that tell you the best times to run out for a pee, but that’s not good enough for me. If I’m paying $13 to watch a movie, I want to watch the whole movie!

4. Everyone Else

Listed fourth, but probably the biggest reason why I’ve abandoned movie theaters: the other people in the theater are, more often than not, a nuisance.

You’ve got talkers. You’ve got people on their phones. You’ve got loud, lip-smacking chewers. You’ve got crying babies. You’ve got people resting their feet on seatbacks and armrests. You’ve got people leaving and returning to the aisle. Some people actually like this and consider it part of the movie experience, and more power to them if they feel that way. I certainly don’t.

And no, going during off-peak hours doesn’t address the issue. When I went to see Interstellar, it was a matinee viewing six weeks after release. I thought I had it good with a near-empty theater that only had two other viewers—both of them played peanut gallery throughout the film. FML.

5. Movie Times

I like scheduling my days on my time. Unfortunately, movie playtimes don’t often align with my schedule. The super popular blockbusters may have several viewings per day, but the typical film only has three or four daily slots, at least in the theaters around me. And it’s not like I live in Podunksville—I live right on the edge of a major US city. Timing-wise, on-demand viewing is so much better than hitting up a movie theater.

6. Seating Uncertainty

Finding seats in a movie theater can be such a drag, especially if you’re going as more than a couple. If seating is unassigned, you have to arrive early to claim the good ones. And it’s not like assigned seating solves the issue: the seats you want may already be booked, or you have to pay extra for them.

Not to mention the condition of the seats. Unless a movie theater has been newly renovated, the seats may be uncomfortable or even disgusting. And God forbid you’re stuck behind someone who’s freakishly tall or stuck in the front row where you’ll have to crane your neck for the next two hours.

On the other hand, my couch offers a consistent viewing experience every time.

7. The Commute

One reason why I work from home is that I hate driving to places. I see commuting as a waste of gas and a waste of time. In addition to all the downsides above, going to a movie theater also involves a 40-minute round-trip. There’s a lot I could do with an extra 40 minutes that aren’t lost to driving!

I don’t know. Maybe some of these reasons are stupid, but I’m being honest. I haven’t had a good movie theater experience in years, and it’s gotten to the point where I really have no desire to go. I’ve moved past “hate” and am now squarely in “indifferent” territory.

Let me know if you feel the same, or if you have counterpoints to my reasons, in the comments below!

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  1. I agree on the Price only, the rest i can deal with, especially since i sneak in my own food, and also Always sit in the very front row (I know weird, but I like it)

  2. I was never much of a theater goer; I’ve gone about a dozen times in my 6 decades on Earth, but not once in the last 1 decade. It was once a great date thing to do (prior to that it was the drive-in movies), particularly in places that were not a major city. Small town America was (and some still are) bars, bowling, and theaters.
    But if you’re a serious media/movie connoisseur, distraction is the last thing you want, and being in a large room filed with people is exactly not the prime setting. The (AMC) theater I walk past often, is currently under a major renovation after local news reports of bed bug infestations there: They’ve gutted the place! Sitting in any public chair is a risk, indeed; however, sitting in one for over an hour, is far riskier. I prefer my Lazyboy!

  3. I hear you on all counts. Back in the 80s my brother and I went to movies at least once a week, often more frequently. But, even in Houston, TX, it only cost a couple dollars to see the most current films.

    I’ve lived in Buffalo, NY since 2006 and have been to a theater maybe 5 times, not counting the two movies I took my granddaughter to see.

    Like others have said, I miss the big screen and the big sound but the aggravation simply isn’t worth it. People as a whole are inconsiderate which is a constant reminder that the unspoken etiquette of movie theaters died with affordable ticket prices.

    1. Sadly, the lack of etiquette is the biggest thing. Everything else is tolerable to a degree, and I’d be OK paying ticket prices if the theater experience was commensurate… but the other people! 🙁

  4. I always get good seats at either theater near me. I can get tickets for like $5 for the first showing in a weekday. I don’t feel a compulsory NEED to purchase popcorn and sodas that i won’t finish anyway. The reclining seats are great and spaced so i don’t have to worry about people in front.

    1. Whoa, $5! I’d hit up the theater a lot more if I could get that price with reclining seats. Maybe I’m just unfortunate with the selection of theaters I have around me. 🙁 Thanks for sharing Joshua

  5. I’ll only go to theaters like iPIC, Flix Brewhouse, or Alamo Drafthouse. All of them serve real food and drinks, which makes paying more for them a bit easier since they’re actual meals. The iPIC theaters have reclining lounge chairs, which makes watching a three hour movie a lot more bearable than the standard theater seat.

    1. I’ve seen a few movie taverns pop up in my area over the last few years, but I’ve never actually been to one yet. It’s on my list, but for one reason or another, just haven’t been able to. I definitely don’t mind paying a bit more for actual food and service, and I’m glad to hear that their seats are more comfortable. Thanks for the reminder, Austin!

  6. Generally agree, except the commute part. The local theater is within walking distance and does assigned seating (which means no front-row neck pain if you don’t want it). But the rest – there’s a reason I’ll buy/rent when it comes to digital and watch at home. Sure I miss the big screen and sound, but I get the rest of the benefits. I can’t take our youngest to the theater because she’d be crying from the volume. She sometimes cringes for an orchestra; a big movie would be far worse.

    I saw a lot more movies in college, but we were a second-run theater on campus and I was part of the cinema group so saw quite a few movies. In HS, there wasn’t much else to do so we’d kill time (and brain cells) watching whatever at the local theater. Now – I realize I’m not really missing all that much by not seeing something right away. Often, I forget about whatever movie looked slightly interesting until it comes up years later.

    1. I think I’d hit the movie theater more often if it was within walking distance—like once or twice rather than never. 😀 I totally agree with this: “I realize I’m not really missing all that much by not seeing something right away.” That’s why I’m fine with renting/streaming at home.

      The point about having kids with sensitive ears is good, I hadn’t thought about that. Thanks for sharing, Peter.

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