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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

BYOB: What’s To Love About The Theatrical Experience

Formative stories all the way up to how moviegoing treated you the last time out of the house…

33 Responses to “BYOB: What’s To Love About The Theatrical Experience”

  1. Pete B says:

    Can anyone explain what the deal is with the automated curtain? It comes in from the sides during the pre-show features, then goes back to the corners for the main film. I’m been to several shows where it got stuck and they needed to pause the film to fix it. Why is it even necessary?

    As for a cinema related story, I have to close my eyes at the beginning of every Regal Cinema showing as they have that rollercoaster, and it gets me nauseous EVERY time.
    Embarrassing to admit.

  2. Ray Pride says:

    Sounds like change in screen ratio, as if the commercials are in 1.85-ish and the feature is widescreen.

  3. Pete B says:


  4. Hcat says:

    So in the last thread I said movies are communal, now as someone mentioned there is something decadent and lovely about showing up to a 10 AM Sunday showing and being the only one there. But I enjoy it more if there is one or two additional people so if it’s Fury Road or Lady Bird incredible you can nod at them on they way out and say “right?” Good movies are better when you bear witness to them together. Now of course this can happen on the small screen as well.

    But I have always felt that movies are communal not just in how we experience them but in their meaning. I have always held that literature is all about self realization any therefore internal, while movies are external, with their overarching theme being that we are all in this together. Movies are about needing other people, whether it is Sally on New Years Eve or John McClane on Christmas. That is why reading in the park alone is ideal, and experiencing a film with a packed audience is ideal.

    Hell, that’s why logging into the comments is ideal, to share the experience.

  5. PTA Fluffer says:

    I’ve become Sartre about going to the theater—hell is other people. It used to be my church, but it has been profaned by the apostasy of those who would check their social media feed every five seconds. The movies are about entering a waking, externally triggered dream state. You can’t do that while texting, and your fellow moviegoers can’t do it while having their eye pulled away by flashes of light from sources other than that of the projector bulb.

  6. Bob Burns says:

    I like long-form better for the same reason I don’t read abridged novels.

  7. palmtree says:

    I was the one who talked about going to early screenings, and it wasn’t that you were alone. It’s that you were in select company with other people committed to seeing a movie that early, a special breed especially when it’s the opening Friday morning. Has a secret club feel. Movies are communal and the size of the screen has something to do with it too.

  8. Nathan Tremblay says:

    I’ve cut way, way back on seeing movies in the theater. I reserve it for a handful of event/eye-candy type films like Blade Runner or Dunkirk each year, and I pay extra and see it on a Dolby screen. But for the most part, I cannot handle the distractions. If someone turns on their fucking cell phone a single time, I’m glancing over at them waiting for them to turn it on again for the next 2 hours. Between people talking and all the cellphones, I watch almost everything at home now. 4K and a 60 inch TV helps ease the pain somewhat. Two of the big AMC theaters in Manhattan, 42nd st, and 34th st. Not exaggerating in the slightest, I’ll try to be as accurate as possible: Of the last 30 films I’ve seen at those 2 theatres, at least 10 were out of focus. It is just incredible. That might even be conservative. I should keep track, maybe it was 15 out of 30. I leave and get a refund and a free pass, and no one else seems to notice and the rest of the audience sits in there and watches the entire film out of focus.

  9. arisp says:

    Only must-see experiences for me at this point (Dunkirk and Blade Runner in IMAX) last year. Alien Covenant too. Otherwise, not a chance. (And I’m in Manhattan too)

  10. Stella's Boy says:

    I still love going to the theater (I’ll be going to one to see A Quiet Place in an hour). I don’t mind a big crowd for horror movies. Opening night of It and others was a lot of fun. Other times it’s nice to wait a week or two or see it on a weekday morning. The Marcus Theater I live near has $5 movies on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hard to pass that up.

  11. JSPartisan says:

    I love the theater, and don’t care about people on their phones. People have always been distracted. Sure. It’s worse now, but it’s a communal experience. I’ve never understood complaining about people being people, because most of the time… Jack all happens. Why let one time ruin everything?

    Again, it’s like music is to me now. The experience is the experience wherever it is.

  12. palmtree says:

    When a phone turns on in the theater, I always have to place my hand over my eyes to manually crop out the offending light. Out of sight, out of mind, almost. Except now I’m watching a compromised picture. The only way to reliably deal with it is to sit closer to the screen so that most everyone is behind you.

  13. Triple Option says:

    I’d much prefer to watch a movie in a theater. I’m like Nathan Tremblay though. After someone lights up their phone, I find my eyes glancing over, waiting…all the while wishing I had a spiked mace I could swing over and swipe that phone right out of their hands from the wrists down. I also really hate when people behind me put their feet up on the seat near me or through the arm rest. Those people need to stay in the comfort of their own home.

    I just like being in the room, having come to experience a film. To see how the filmmakers intended or hoped it would be seen. I love it when people gasp at a big reveal or when you can feel the tension in the room and actually hear silence. The buzz and excitement over the long anticipated blockbuster when trailers stop and the lights go dim and curtains peel farther back builds on the experience. Comedies are better when a theater is howling.

    The only benefit for watching at home is pausing to go to the bathroom or winding something back if I didn’t catch a line of dialog. Even then I’m extremely reluctant to break the flow. I will almost always pop up some popcorn when I watch at home but it’s rare when I go out that I’ll get any popcorn. I tend to eat most of it before the trailers are done while it’s still hot.

    I tend to go to early showings on Saturdays and then come out ready for lunch, feeling like I still have the rest of the day to do something or get stuff done is a great feeling as well. Watching a film at home at midnight gives me a strange feeling of independence, like eating cold cereal for dinner or pre-noon margarita on vacation but overall I’d rather see a meh movie in a theater than good film at home by myself. If for no other reason than I then wish I could’ve had friends over to watch the good film together.

  14. palmtree says:

    If you live in LA and have a friend in SAG (and for a while I did), get them to join the Film Society, and they’ll get into DGA screenings where the level of respectfulness is very high and they almost always have a full turnout. The main downside is you have to wait in line for at least 30 minutes to be guaranteed seating.

  15. Hcat says:

    I used to have a tradition of calling in sick to see the first May blockbuster at the Uptown in DC on the Tuesday after it was release to avoid the crowds.

    Also loved the Greenbelt theater out there, it had to be fifty years old and the majority of the audience was usually 20 plus of that, but I would go for every SPC and Focus film they played and never had the pre show anxiety of “oh my god are these knuckleheads going to shut up once the movie starts!!??” They had no preshow ads only two previews and then the warm glow of the studio title cards that would wash over me like the second sip of whisky.

    For awhile I would steer my moviegoing to only the blockbusters in theaters since I thought, hey that’s the bang for my buck, but after seeing an interview with Barker and Bernard (I think it might have been one of David’s) and having them mention how much more powerful The White Ribbon is when seen on the big screen, it made me rethink my strategy. After being Meh on Birdman and Shape of Water I can’t help but think if I had seen them on the big screen I would have been a little more enthusiastic about them.

  16. Hcat says:

    I will say the one thing preferable about seeing a movie at home is that I can sit back and drink a twelve pack during the course of the movie which can really kickstart my emotional investment in the movie.

    Doesn’t work with Once Upon a Time in the West though, I’m asleep before the train gets there.

  17. LBB says:

    Hcat, your posts have nailed my favorite things about seeing movies in theaters and at home. Well done!

    I have the theaters I like and run into as little audience bad behavior as possible. Seeing WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS in a surprisingly packed house was one of my favorite things ever. When you laugh and it’s joined by a whole theater erupting with you? Hard to beat and can never be achieved at home.

  18. brack says:

    With MoviePass, I tend to enjoy going to the theater again, as it’s getting more attractive to seek out movies I normally would just wait for Netflix and the like. It’s still not as much fun as when I was growing up, but it’s still my version of going to church.

  19. spassky says:

    The gasp felt in films — recently “La Cienega” was one; last year I remember a pins and needles screening of “Suntan” that had the audience collectively gasp; the collective squirms during “You Were Never Really Here”… these are things that make me forget about the over-sexed whispers of horny couples, rude and broken UWS widows looking at their phones, and sociopathic monsters who take their shoes off and prop their feet up on seats (and countless others I don’t want to strain to identify). Furthermore, I feel these transgressions are just part and parcel of the casual atmosphere of culture in general in the last 30-40 years. The line has been moved across the board. Everyone wants to tell people about going, no one wants to just go. Museums are shrill holes of uninterested nonsense and forced upon student tour groups. Drama is littered with theater-fanboy types tweeting about performances they can’t decipher and slept halfway through on.

    Having said that, the cultural institution of movie theaters is still upheld in many cosmopolitan centers, and quite frankly I question the dedication of cinephelia when you all are talking about living Manhattan and mention AMC theaters — go to New Jersey on a Sunday and get some cheaper groceries while you’re seeing a DCP of Ready Player One. Manhattan is home to some of the finest cinemas in the world that cultivate an atmosphere of respect and reverence for the art of film. Metrograph, Quad, FIlm Linc, MOMA, MOMI, Anthology (!)… the list goes on. These are wonderful places where, as a person who demands focus in a theater, I feel comfortable and protected. To be quite truthful, I’m starting to get the sense that a lot of people on this blog see less movies than they do rant about them online. The line of questioning in this thread seems to be the cart leading the horse as a function of attention spans of others being blamed on the attention spans of the person making the argument. Yeah, of course you’re gonna get a bunch of gawp-faced phone addicts at the 8PM Friday screening of “Rampage” or even “Dunkirk”… but these aren’t films that demand focus, they’re films that demand reactions, and if people aren’t feeling them, then they aren’t doing their jobs as simple pleasure popcorn sellers.

    I know I come off as a snob in this rant, but I think the fake cinephelia and regressive reverence of blurgh-crash-bang filmmakers like Nolan and Spielberg is part and parcel of the dumbing down of cinema in general. Go see some fucking Kurosawa and be thankful that people go to the cinema to sup on the largesse of cinema and not the cheeto-falvored baja-blastification of the moviegoing experience.

  20. spassky says:

    Going to a mainstream cinema these days be like…

  21. palmtree says:

    Dunkirk doesn’t demand focus? It’s not easily digestible in the same way as most force fed blockbusters. So much of it was quiet and visual and sound intensive, qualities that appealed to my inner snob. In fact, I liked that it could be enjoyed both as an action film and a meditative film about survival and courage, or something like that.

  22. spassky says:

    You know what, you’re basically right — I’m being too dismissive of Nolan’s talents. Having said that, I believe it really doesn’t demand the focus of a movie house. Focus greatly benefits Dunkirk, but the film is designed to be digestible due to its lack of dialogue, not to mention its wilful dismissal of dynamic or even round characters. Nolan creates very compelling spectacle, but I don’t feel that really demands focus in a theater rather than it is simply benefited by it.

  23. palmtree says:

    I get what you mean. Interesting that you mention Kurosawa because he was criticized for being too much about spectacle over others like Ozu or Mizoguchi.

  24. Greg says:

    Haven’t been in years and won’t start this summer. I’ll be seeing Avengers in 3 months at home. F Cell phones.

  25. Stella's Boy says:

    Thank you to the two old ladies who didn’t stop talking during A Quiet Place. Ten minutes in one yells at the other, “Is that Emily Blunt?” The other says “I think so.” It didn’t get better from there.

  26. palmtree says:

    LOL the idea of shutting up is literally the premise of the entire movie.

  27. spassky says:

    Honestly, don’t even know why I mentioned Kurosawa– I much prefer Mizoguchi. Interesting I just saw “…Taira Clan” which seems like my man Mizo seemed to be doing his best version of Kurosawa to middling results. But I also think Kurosawa does some really interesting character work without sacrificing something. Whereas Nolan (jesus am I really getting into this?) does interesting character work and he seems to sacrifice something else (note: my favorite film of his is “Insomnia” so take all this with a grain of salt).

  28. spassky says:

    People sometimes talk during films. Sometimes people pull out their phones to check something quick. I can be understanding. It’s the indignation that some show when you *ask* them to be quiet or put away their phone where the ugliness of humanity rears its entitled head and I wish I could spray Greek fire on someone. They’re in the wrong, I asked nicely, get it over with.

  29. JSPartisan says:

    Concerts aren’t like they were 20 years ago. He needs to put down his phonograph tube, and join us in the future.

    I finally see RP1, and it’s a pretty neat fantasy film. What I found funny. While sitting their in the dark is… I completely forgot I was in the theater for a moment. It just felt like home. Go figure?

  30. Pete B. says:

    Sorry, but I’ve had too many shows ruined by a disinterested jackass who’s busy on his cell instead of focussing on the concert. Jack White is right on the money.

  31. JSPartisan says:

    So people have to be focused entirely on the show? It’s just a slippery slope of douchiness, that gets to weird Broadway levels of supervision. Also, I don’t go anywhere without my phone, for parental reasons alone. I guess Jack is expecting everyone with kids, to hope nothing happens while his show is on.

  32. Pete B says:

    ^ “So people have to be focused entirely on the show?”

    Gosh, that IS what you bought your ticket for, right?

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
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