“Watching a Movie” and “Going to the Movies” Are Different Animals

Watching a movie…

on your phone, iPad, or other personal screen means privacy, control, independence.  You can press stop, pause, or play, rewind or fast forward. You can adjust the volume and brightness, or add captions.  You can watch anytime of day or night, anywhere you like. You can be alone, or sitting next to other people, at home or in a public place.

You can enjoy the intimacy of watching a movie on a little screen, all by yourself.  Or the public experience of watching, captive, in a plane, surrounded by multiple screens and images all competing for your attention!  


Going to the movies…

in a movie theatre means giving up control, and feeling that the world created by the movie is larger than life, larger than you.  Certain movies beg to be seen on the big screen (think Free Solo, the recent documentary about climbing El Capitán in Yosemite).  


Going to the movies alone can be fun because you’re alone but not really, when there’s an audience.  You’re alone in public, in a social space.  There’s a security in being with others; they are company, even if you don’t know them. Sitting by yourself and watching a movie on your iPad in a restaurant is similar, but not the same, because the people around you are doing something else; your movie viewing is private, not shared.  In a plane, others are watching something on a screen, but often not the same movie as you, and or maybe not a movie at all.

In a theatre you are usually watching a movie with one or more people you know, surrounded by a group of strangers. Depending on the size of the audience, you may not be able to see over someone’s head, or hear over their whispering.  But the audience may be fun (like little kids watching the animated Ernest and Célestine a few months ago on the OGT big screen).  People may be very quiet, excited, or scared as in a horror movie (think Us), which changes your experience a lot.  You can often tell how other people are reacting, which may also be how you feel or maybe not, and that’s interesting.  Can you think of a time when, at movie’s end, many people in the audience did not get up from their seats, because they needed time to take in what they’d seen?

Going out or staying in for a movie, on a date or with friends, doing something else before or after, for an evening out.  A movie at the Greenbelt followed by a guest speaker and group discussion. Movies at a theatre in the morning, afternoon, or evening – all different experiences. Movie rituals: Do you watch while eating doritos, curled up in a chair at home? Do you munch popcorn, looking around as the lights dim in a theatre, watching previews, feeling the excitement of a feature about to begin? It’s all good, but difference makes it better.    



Movies and movie going have always been one of Elizabeth’s favorite pastimes. Her early memories include going to NYC Radio City Music Hall to see Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in “Silk Stockings” after an exciting Rockettes performance, and TV Million Dollar Movie showings of old films like “Mighty Joe Young” or the very spooky “Spiral Staircase”. In high school Elizabeth organized a foreign film festival at school and on weekends went with friends to the Bleecker Street Cinema in NYC to see double features of mysterious French New Wave films. For many years now Elizabeth’s favorite date night with her husband has been dinner at the New Deal Café followed by a movie and best popcorn ever at the OGT.

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