Let’s go to the movies

(Originally published in The California Aggie)

Twenty-seven times last year, I got off the couch and drove at least 15 minutes to a movie theater that was neither spotlessly clean nor particularly memorable. I stood in line to buy a $10.50 ticket, picked my way through screaming kids and empty popcorn buckets and found a seat among strangers.

I sat through 30 minutes of commercials for products I don’t need and trailers for movies I don’t want to see. During the movie, I endured merciless kicking of the back of my chair, people coughing, whispering and squeezing their way through the row and heads that seemed to be in my way no matter how far over I leaned.

Why? Because, after 100 years of cinema, there’s still nothing like going to the movies.

That’s not what the latest technology would have you believe. With movies on-demand on every cable provider, Netflix streaming instantly to our TVs and 3D TVs already on the market, we’ve never had better excuses for enjoying the latest blockbusters from the comfort of our own living rooms. Combine that with higher-than-ever ticket prices, and it’s easy to convince yourself that there’s just no point in going to a movie theater anymore.

But what a shame that would be. You’d miss out on one of the greatest communal activities the modern world has ever seen – one that has remained relatively unchanged since its inception a hundred years ago. The newsreel and cartoon have been replaced by commercials, trailers and reminders to silence your cell phone, but that comforting ritual of buying a ticket and experiencing a film for the first time with complete strangers in the darkness has never gone away.

Sure, at home you’re spared the sticky floors, the crying babies, the chit-chatting ladies who always manage to sit right next to you – but where’s the fun in that? Retelling horror stories about the movies is often more enjoyable than talking about the movie itself.

I don’t remember the dozens of peaceful movie theater outings I’ve had, but I’ll never forget the midnight screening of The Dark Knight, when the movie started ten 10 minutes late and the crowd, made up completely of teenagers, nearly started a riot. Or the time my mom snapped at a woman who had refused to move to the empty seat next to her, which my family still laughs about to this day.

Snug on your couch, you’ll never experience the thrill of three hundred people bursting out in applause, or howling with laughter. A remote and a DVD player means you can sit (or lay) any way you like, but even the sharpest high-definition TV can’t match the impact of an epic battle or romantic love scene on a screen four stories high.

Inevitably, sometime in the next few weeks to a month I’ll once again drive to the theater and wait in line to pay money I can’t afford to spend. I’ll find a good seat if I’m lucky and try to ignore the child-size foot banging into my spine. I’ll do all this because, really, there’s no other way I’d rather see a movie.

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