By Derek Delson
There is something so exciting about the movie-going experience—it could be the scent of buttery popcorn, the comfy recliner seats, the massive screen, or the surround sound. Even the act of getting off the couch to go see a movie can generate joy. For most, movie theaters have had some effect on our lives. Maybe you had a terrible batch of popcorn and threw up for four days, or maybe you enjoyed the hard work of thousands alongside friends and family.
One of the reasons why the cinema has survived through the streaming age is the faceless community it offers. Watching a movie is no longer exclusive to the theater. There is Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime waiting alongside a warm blanket and a cup of tea. Nowadays, it is even possible to watch movies on a crowded subway car, in a waiting room, or while running on the treadmill. The comfort of our homes or the screen of an iPhone seem like a satisfactory setting for watching movies, so why spend the money on an expensive ticket, overpriced popcorn, and the ride there and back? It’s simple: Witnessing a piece of art with a room full of strangers is magical.
During the inception of film technology in the late nineteenth century, inventor Thomas Edison created the Kinetoscope, a device that allowed an individual to watch a short movie through a peephole viewer. However, the success of the remarkable device was short-lived and replaced by the Lumière Brothers’ cinematograph. The Brothers’ projection device revolutionized film forever and allowed for multiple viewings with several people—the birth of the movie theater. Even with the two new technological inventions, humans preferred a communal experience rather than a singular one. One of the Lumière brothers’ first movie showings included a shot of a train approaching the camera. The myth goes that the audience scrambled to the back of the room in fear that an actual train was coming for their lives.
Whether the urban legend is true or not, it speaks volumes on the effect a film can have. Raw emotion is much more natural and acceptable in a dark room filled with dozens of strangers. In the theater, you might laugh at something unexpected and realize that others around you also find it funny, or you may hear sniffles a few rows behind and feel that your own tears are valid. Encompassed by darkness, one can feel alone and, at the same time, surrounded by others. This ideal environment allows for a somewhat therapeutic experience. Another benefit of the movie theater is the conversations that take place immediately after the film ends. The discussions that follow can often extend the life of a film outside of the theater and beyond. Films are made to provoke emotions and thoughts, and the cinema is the optimal environment for that.
While it is possible to watch a movie on a streaming service nearly anywhere these days, nothing rivals the ultimate escape of the perfect sound, visuals, and comfort of a movie theater. In this digital age, it is cathartic not to face the temptation to multitask. Today, it is common to be looking at three different screens at the same time. The theater is an excuse to focus solely on one wonderful piece of art. With special offerings like IMAX, 3D, and 4D, seeing a film in the theater is an event: anticipated, planned for, and cherished. The cinema allows for the opportunity to escape the rigors of daily life and the fierce competition for our time. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.