Last Sunday, for Father’s Day, all my dad wanted to do was to go out for lunch and see The Incredibles 2 at the theater. A fairly laid-back proposition, and he even bought the tickets for everyone! We had our lunch without any issues, but we discovered a problem once we arrived at the theater. See, the Cinemark website makes it hard to tell if you are purchasing tickets for the front row or the back row. This is a fatal mistake to make, as you are confusing the worst seats in the house for the best ones. My dad is a brilliant lawyer and an all-around smart guy, but he has a tendency to turn his brain off when it comes to more trivial matters. Needless to say, we ended up in the front row. Our necks craned upward as we struggled to take in the massive screen. Shrieks and other various noises emanated from the huge quantity of children in the room. And on top of everything, the movie ended up being mediocre. The twist to all of this? I remained enthralled by what I was watching the entire time.
Movie theaters have a strange power over me. The dark, cool atmosphere envelopes everything like a comforting blanket, and all of your senses are filled with the excitement of the cinema. The smell of popcorn, the sound of the incredible speakers, and of course, the sight of the impossibly large screens all surge through your body like electricity. Everything feels like it is of the highest quality, even if it’s the same products you’ve experienced countless times elsewhere. It’s a well-known fact that Coke tastes better at the movies, no matter how ridiculous that assertion is. All of these aspects are combined into an experience that is impossible to replicate at home, no matter how sophisticated your entertainment system may be. The hypnotic pull of the theater is so powerful for me that it can make even the worst movies bearable.
Allow me to provide an example. Back in high school a friend and I decided to see a movie. We couldn’t decide between two flicks, so we settled on the one with the more interesting name. That name would forever live in infamy for both of us: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is without a doubt one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly the worst I’ve seen in a theater. The acting, music, and cinematography were all acceptable, but the plot was the most incomprehensible mess I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing. At no point during the film did I have any idea what the hell was going on. When I explained my opinion to my friend after the movie was over, he said he felt exactly the same way. “Well why didn’t we leave then?” I asked him, incredulously. He simply replied, “Because you looked like you were really into it!” I thought for a moment and realized he was right. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, eyes transfixed to the screen. I did not enjoy what I was watching, but I was enjoying the fact that I was watching it. The theater provided all the experience I needed, no matter what was actually being shown.
The movies can also turn a familiar experience into something special. In the months leading up to the premiere of Volume 4 of RWBY, Rooster Teeth decided to hold theatrical releases for the three previous volumes. I attended a screening for every one, and each time I had a blast. At this point in my life I was a RWBY fanatic. I had just gotten a RWBY tattoo, I had bought all kinds of merchandise, and I had watched all three volumes countless times. Despite my repeat viewings, experiencing each volume in a theater full of RWBY fans was something special. Obviously the show had never looked or sounded as good as it did on the big screen, but the theater also granted a tangible sense of legitimacy to the series. Our webseries was in an actual theater, and we got to be there to see it. I was thrilled when Rooster Teeth showed the premiere for Volume 5 in theaters last year, and I will be equally ecstatic if they do something similar for Volume 6 this year.
I can explain how I feel about movie theaters, but I can’t pinpoint exactly why they have so much power over me. Maybe I associate the atmosphere with fond childhood memories. Maybe I subconsciously recollect how many times my family used the theater as a way to beat the brutal Texas summer heat. Maybe there’s something fundamental about my personality that is compatible with the cinema. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what film I’m there to see. I’m always happy at the movies.