Why Go to the Movies?

By resident film historian and your host, Liz McLeod.

Why, in this day and age, would anyone want to go to a movie?

You can see anything you want online, right? On your computer, on your laptop, on your smartphone, no doubt before you know it you’ll be able to see anything you want thru a microchip screen tattooed directly onto your eyeball and wired directly into your cerebral cortex. So why bother to spend time and money sitting in a big, dark room surrounded by random strangers when you can get all the entertainment you could ever want sitting in a little dark room all by yourself alone?

The question answers itself, really. As much as the prophets of the digital millenium preach the joys of “connectivity,”  there’s still something irreplaceable about the shared experience. It’s hard wired into us as human beings. Those of us old enough to remember three channels and a pair of rabbit ears remember gathering around the television set with friends and family. Those a bit older remember the radio as the shared focal point of mass experience. And so on, back thru the decades, back thru the centuries, people have gathered together to share their entertainment, all the way back to prehistoric man gathered around the campfire to share stories of The Hunt. Mass entertainment has never been a solo experience – and it still isn’t. Even the most hardened member of the You Tube/Hulu/Netflix/Whatever The Next Hot New Thing Is generation has a desperate need to share their experience – hence the endless comments posted beneath every bootlegged movie clip, every grainy video of teenagers shooting a potato out the end of a PVC pipe. Shared entertainment is in our blood, and it always will be.

And the movies are the ideal form for that entertainment to take. For over a century now, people have been gathering in dark rooms to look up at larger-than-life images, larger-than-life scenes, larger-than-life stories. The visual vocabulary of film, the endless progression of closeups, medium shots, pan shots, and distance shots, is keyed to the Big Screen, not those little flickering LCD rectangles you cup in the palm of your hand. Even the biggest of big-screen TV sets can’t fully translate the message the director is trying to send. You need a screen measured in feet, not inches, to fully accomplish that. You need to be enveloped by those images to fully disappear into the story they tell.  

And you need to share that experience, that sense of being sucked into the story, with others at the same time. You need, on a subconscious level, to know there are others who are experiencing, at the same moment, the same emotions, the same sensations, the same adventures as you.

You need to go to the movies. Why not go tonight?

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