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Going To The Movies

Paying admission to view a movie at a theater.

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Not As Worthwhile as It Used to Be

  • Aug 1, 2010
I'm a movie goer.  I often head to the movies.  Not because I'm hoping to see something good, mind you, but because I'm hoping to see something that might entertain me.  Going to the movies is usually fun for the sake of being able to sit in a seat and see something on the big screen.  And hopefully you won't waste your money.  The number of films I've been disappointed to see in the theaters I can count on one hand.  Even bad movies I'm okay with putting my money down for (the entertainment there is being able to pick at them--sometimes that's more entertaining than actually watching the good ones).  Lately, however, the movies haven't been as much fun.  For two major reasons that we'll talk about.

But first, the fun of going to the movies.  Let's just agree that some movies are MADE for the big screen.  Movies such as Star Wars, The Dark Knight or the recent Inception are movies that are just too good NOT to see on The Big Screen.  Not because they're good... but because they have aspects about them that make watching them on The Big Screen worthwhile.  For movies like Jurassic Park it's watching as the T-Rex comes through and snatches a Raptor... or watching that Death Star explode.  These moments work out on The Big Screen because they're epic.  A movie such as (500) Days of Summer doesn't exactly have that same appeal.  The ones that have moments that take us for a ride are what The Big Screen is made for!  That's not to say dramas don't have their place.  If you just can't wait to check out a film like The Kids Are Alright or something like that, you might as well go to the movie.  It's only to say that sometimes being taken for a ride isn't so bad either.  This is why you have stuff that comes out in the IMAX. 

Sometimes going for a ride isn't exactly about seeing a good movie, either.  The experience of going to the movies is always in danger of being ruined by people who have to tell you how horrible that action movie was because it made no sense (guilty as charged, but at least I won't do it while we're still in the damn theater). 

The experience of going to the movies has diminished.  One of the smaller reasons for this, I think, actually has to do with there being just too darn many.  Yes, there is the upside to having 4000 theaters as opposed to 1000.  And some of you are saying, "But I like not having to sit next to a total stranger," and the point is taken.  But consider that sometimes you really can get a good audience.  When I went to a release of The Dark Knight at 3 AM (yes, a 3 AM screening, and it sold out... when I got out the sun was up and I went to work), I was with such an audience.  An audience that, for the most part, was having fun.  Moments such as watching just a teaser for Harry Potter was enough to get the gang excited.  When the trailer for Watchmen played for the first time you'd almost think THAT was the show they came to see with how the audience applauded.  This didn't bother me.  In the first place they were previews, in the second place... I like it when an audience is willing to show they're enjoying themselves.  We're not talking about some idiot making out in the back row (or other naughty things happening--and they do happen, unfortunately) or being really loud, or talking during the movie and laughing obnoxiously.  We're talking about a crowd that came to see a show and isn't afraid to show that they're enjoying it.  I get it, we're supposed to be quiet in the theater, but I don't think there's anything wrong with say... hearing the audience showing that they're impressed by the spectacle.  No one gets upset when the audience happens to laugh during a comedy.  So I don't think we should be upset when an audience applauds a particular scene or gasps during a shocking moment or cheers when say... Indiana Jones just barely escapes death.  My personal favorite is when an audience applauds when a film ends.  Even if I don't like it, I can get behind it. 

The point is simple.  Movies are made to be fun.  And going to the movies is made to be fun.

That's not to say there aren't distractions:  People always texting on their cell phones.  Or people who have to talk really loud.  I'm not bothered by these things either.  If I'm getting distracted by that stuff it means the movie wasn't good in the first place.  That's just how I am.  Well, in terms of a cell phone.  I'm not distracted by that stuff (remember when people had big hulking cell phones that DIDN'T vibrate?).  I do understand, however, that others are.  Whispers and murmurs in the audience aren't as distracting either.  People have always done that at the movies (I'm not sure why people are acting like this a new phenomenon). 

I guess what I'm saying is... I like the crowds.  I like when I go to the movies and the seats are filled.  Because in the first place I just love being around other people (likewise I don't like going to the movies without a buddy).  I'm someone who likes to go to the movies with a crowd.  I hate empty theaters.  The 4000 theaters and playing a movie on over 6000 screens didn't ruin that experience, but it does explain why so many are so easily put off by the large crowds.  Many who go to the movies now are so busy trying to avoid the crowds that they don't know what to do when there actually is one. 

The denizens didn't make the movies less fun to go to.  I know you were all expecting me to say that, but big crowds anywhere ALWAYS have the potential to be annoying.  And consider that many years ago when your grandparents were going to the movies they had to deal with crowds all the time just to see a movie (and you can bet some of them were annoying too).  With 4000 theaters and so many screens (not to mention late showings) it's pretty easy to avoid the crowds if you want to.  So I'm not buying that the crowds are somehow dwindling the experience because they're easier to avoid now than ever.

On the other hand, one of the major things that's worth talking about is that it costs a lot to go to the movies.  With tickets running ten dollars a pop now (more at some theaters, and less at others) it's a little annoying.  That's just for the ticket.  If you're the type that needs something from the concession stands, however, you'll find that going to the movies cost an arm and a leg.  I never get snacks from the lobby anymore.  When you can go to the local market and buy a drink and snacks for less than five bucks it seems a little extreme to pay more than ten.  It's not buying the ticket that's going to kill you at the theater... it's the snacks if you decide to go there.  If you buy a ticket--and only a ticket--it might not really be that bad.  But when you add in all you could blow on drinks, snacks and popcorn?  It can get costly. 

The second huge thing that makes going to the movies such a drag is simple: The DVD/Blu-Ray usually comes out mere months after the movie hits theaters.  Most movie goers seem to think that only the low grossing films come to DVD/Blu-Ray.  This is pretty false.  In most cases you only have to wait three or four (sometimes five) months.  Consider, for example that Alice in Wonderland grossed around 334 million in North American theaters alone.  Worldwide it grossed a billion bucks.  But consider the film hit theaters on March 5, 2010.  When did it come out on DVD/Blu-Ray?  June 1, 2010.  This means that Alice in Wonderland was barely in theaters for three months before getting a release on DVD and Blu-Ray... and during the time of that release it was STILL playing in some theaters.

Most movies that come out in the summer usually have a release date close to Christmas.  The Dark Knight hit theaters on July 18, 2008 and came out on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 9, 2008.  Not quite five months, but close.  The Dark Knight, as you know, was a HUGE Box Office Success and a success with critics as well.  Yet it was rushed to DVD/Blu-Ray in time for the holiday season.

But this is true even when a movie hits theaters in December.  There Will Be Blood was released December 26, 2007 and hit the DVD market on April 8, 2008.  Almost four months after its theatrical release.  What about a movie released in November?  Same deal, typically four or five months after release.  Twilight hit theaters on November 21, 2008 and hit DVD/Blu-Ray on March 21, 2009.  This is exactly four months after it hit theaters. 

With movies coming to DVD/Blu-Ray so quickly after theatrical release, it begs the question if it's really worth going to the theater.  Iron Man 2Toy Story 3The A-TeamInceptionSALT?  They'll probably get a DVD/Blu-Ray release in either November or December (if they don't get one sooner... the first Iron Man hit theaters on May 2, 2008 and came to DVD/Blu-Ray September 30, 2008).  They WANT those movies out for the holidays because they know you'll buy them (Clash of the Titans ALREADY came out on DVD/Blu-Ray... on July 27, 2010... the movie hit theaters April 2, 2010).  And let's be honest, many of us have the means to make our own home into a theater in and of itself.  If you've got an HDTV and a good sound system the experience of watching even the epic movies just becomes that much better from the comfort of your own home.  Why go to the actual movie theater when you've got a home theater?  Not to mention that if you want to watch the movie over and over again you've only got to plop down the money for it ONCE.  Want to see Inception four times?  That's going to cost you more.  But buy it on DVD/Blu-Ray?  Your own convenience.  And you can watch it any time you want! 

In short, home theater seems more appealing than the actual theater itself.  You get to make yourself comfy, you don't have to deal with all the crowds and you don't have to pay big bucks at the concession stands.  It's just more convenient.  This may also explain why studios also push the DVD/Blu-Ray release.  It's the paperback novel of the movie business.  Even if the movie does terrible in theaters you can almost be certain that the DVD/Blu-Ray might be able to succeed in the home video market.

This also takes away from the experience of going to the movies.  If you've only got to wait three or four months (five months tops) then there really are certain films that just aren't worth watching at the theater anymore.  Combine that with rising ticket prices and concessions and sometimes it's worth the wait.  Three months will pass by quickly anyway.  Before you know it... it'll be December and you'll be watching Inception in the comfort of your own home thinking that you just saw the movie mere months before.  It used to be that you had to wait a little longer.  Titanic came out in theaters on December 19, 1997... the release date for Home Video?  September 1, 1998.  It's not quite a year, but it's still a home release that's so far down the line (and the ticket price was low enough) that it was actually not so bad going back to the theater to see it.  Because you knew the release date was a little further down the line (and let's remember there was a time when there was no such thing as home video at all).

Is it still fun to go to the movies?  Sure it is.  Just not as much fun as it used to be.  It doesn't have as much to do with the crowds so much as it has to do with how costly going to the movies has become... and because studios are now quicker than ever to release put their films into the home market.  The experience of going to the movies has decreased in part because the importance of theatrical releases has gone down.  We still make a big deal of midnight releases... because those are actually still fun.  If it's an established franchise or a big sequel, you can find people who are willing to have fun by dressing up and a good crowd that's willing to enjoy themselves.  But after the first week or two?  Most movies just aren't worth going to after that.  They're already on their way out and to home video by then, anyway.

What did you think of this review?

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July 13, 2011
There are far fewer movies with lines going around the corner. When I was growing up, there were huge lines for popular movies like The Beatles, Snow White, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Sky Above and the Mud Below, True Grit, The Snow Queen and numerous others. Producers simply are not focusing sufficiently on subject matter that the public wants and needs.
November 07, 2011
I lived in a small town with only one movie theater when I was a kid. If a movie was popular there would no seats available and you would be allowed to stand in the lobby and watch the movie. They would post a standing room only sign in the box office window. You just don't see that these days.
November 08, 2011
Movies tend to be more popular when they are just released. I find that the bargain movie days are the best since there are fewer crowds and the movie is easier to watch.
August 02, 2010
I hear ya! I'm not a huge movie buff, so I don't watch movies in theaters unless I get a guarantee that the majority of people think that it's totally worth watching, the ones that you mentioned that were just made for the theaters.  Which, lately, there hasn't seem to be to many of.  Plus, there's the cost issue, too. Since when did tickets raise to $15? That adds up to a lot for say, a family of five, plus you might want snacks, which would cost you another arm and a leg.  I don't mind movie crowds too much though, unless it's flu season or something.  And all this is why I really appreciate all you die hard movie fans for sharing your reviews on what's hot and what's not ;)
August 02, 2010
I forgot about going to the movies in big groups and how much it can cost that way.  And a big group at the concessions is really going to hurt your wallets.
August 03, 2010
I know, one time we went in a group of 10 and the concession stand bill was over $ 100--ouch!
August 02, 2010
Great write-up!! I agree with you totally that some movies are much better on the big screen; one with lots of special effects and so on. I don't mind crowds at all, and I like it when the audience gets into the movie with the applause and laughter. The only time I minded going to the theater was when someone threw up during a horror scene when someone's head blew up; that sucked, but other than that, I enjoy it. I admit though, that I can't go to the movies without buying popcorn and a large Pepsi - it just isn't the same for me to take my own snacks! LOL which is probably why we don't go that often. I have a home theater, so I still enjoy movies in the comfort of home, but going out occasionally does have it's perks, as you stated. And I'm glad you mentioned that movies come out quick on DVD/BluRay whether they're hits or not in the theater. It did appear to me for a while that since they came out so soon, they must not have done good at the box office; thanks for clearing that up.
August 03, 2010
The guy was drunk to begin with; it was years ago when I saw Scanners. It wasn't the best experience I ever had in a theater and he evidently couldn't hold his liquor while the guy's head exploded. To this day, I can't watch that movie because of it! LOL
August 02, 2010
nice write up. Actually nowadays, dvd-BR sales will go sooner than the movie being available to be rented for some studios in netflix. I do like the occasional crowd, but for movies that I prefer to concentrate on, I catch the early bird show--cheaper, less people, quieter. I know how you feel, it doesn't feel the same--and truth be told, I spend more time watching movies at home than I do going to theaters.
August 03, 2010
You know what point I forgot to bring up with DVD/Blu-Ray releases that also makes a difference?  Netflix.  I forgot to include Netflix in my little observation!  People make a killing on their movie intake with Netflix now.  It's MORE popular than the theater by far!
August 03, 2010
Yup...netflix is really making a huge difference. That's why they're delaying the new releases of the movies there; to get more folks in theaters and to give a helping hand to Blockbuster (Universal, Warner etc.).
August 03, 2010
by the way, you see your name get mentioned in my review on "Dinner For Schmucks"? ;)
August 03, 2010
Wow, I completely missed that review.  I remember logging on thinking, "I'll read it at some point," and then got busy with other things.  I'll probably go read it now.
January 01, 2011
I just thought of coming back to this topic, seems like it is now 28 days (after sales date) that most titles are available to rent. I guess they want more people to buy the movies.
August 01, 2010
I tend to only go to the theater when it's something that might be interesting or something I REALLY want to see like Iron Man 2, I saw it opening day Friday and it's first showing. I tend to get more annoyed by people who bring their babies in the theatres, the same people getting up every 5 seconds to go pee or buy more Mike and Ikes/whatever.
August 01, 2010
For someone who goes to the movies as often as you do and for someone who claims to enjoy the bad movies as much as the good, I'm a bit surprised by your rating here.
More Going To The Movies reviews
review by . October 14, 2009
Going To The Movies 1
You walk through the doors of a multiplex and pay $12 or $13 for a ticket.  Next, you are herded like sheep into one of the dozen or more cookie-cutter auditoriums that have all of the ambiance of a self-storage unit only to find that commercials for the local furniture store or Chevy dealer are running on the big screen.  Then you are subjected to 7 or 8 trailers for upcoming movies, each one dumber than the one before it.  If you a craving a box of popcorn …
Quick Tip by . October 14, 2009
Going to the movies is fun, but its gotten so expensive! I'd rather rent or watch on the internet.
Quick Tip by . October 14, 2009
Going to the movies....not much fun, boring, too noisy, costly, poor quallity films....my film library (and popcorn) so much better!
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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