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Why the Big Screen Matters

Ben Atwater

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While Netflix and less legal sources on the internet are great ways for films to reach viewers they otherwise would not have, there will never be a replacement for the big screen experience.

A scene from Interstellar (AP photo)

A scene from Interstellar (AP photo)

Since the 1920s, the art of going out to the cinema for an evening of film watching either followed or preceded by social occasions has been one of the most widespread pastimes all across the world. Since the 20s, the act of going to a movie theater has become less like the opera-like occasion it was and more like an expensive sporting event.

Instead of dressing up and remaining quiet, the modern day experience stresses spending more on mediocre food that costs more than the price of the already expensive ticket.

Nevertheless, despite the commercialization of the industry, going to the movies is still my favorite pastime and always will be.

The key difference between watching a movie on Netflix versus watching it at the cinema is the experience of it.

Watching a movie on a laptop is merely watching a movie. Making plans to drive out with friends, get food, and get the best seats in the house is an event. I remember each and every film I have seen in the movie theater and the entire night surrounding it; where I went to eat before or after, who drove who, etc.

While we are paying more, we are a part of the American culture and file in with countless other strangers who all have enough interest to spend over ten bucks to sit in a chair for two hours.

Asides from the event of going out, seeing films projected on a 100 foot plus screen with surround sound blasting the story all around you makes the film that much more engaging. The difference is comparable to watching a sports game on TV versus going to the stadium on game day.

The former can never compare to the latter, despite the price differential. There are, or hopefully not, no distractions in a movie theater. The film is the one thing to pay attention to. As much as I loved Snowpiercer, watching it from my iPad, I was subjected to roommates coming in and out of the room as well as the inclination to check my phone every five minutes or so.

While still a very engaging film, the big screen experience must have been incredible. It is a shame that historical epics from the golden age of Hollywood like Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai are seldom screened in cinema.

In 2014, I was fortunate to catch a Classic Series at AMC Theaters where Ben-Hur was screened. Ben-Hur became one of my favorite films immediately, as the spectacle and scope of the film carried through completely on the big screen, even though it was a smaller theater.

Seeing what became one of my favorite movies on the big screen created a landmark event in my life. I will always remember the experience of going with my aunt to the diner beforehand, and then walking into the wrong theater before finding the correct one.

Since that Wednesday night over a year ago, I have understood the value in going to cinema. And of course, not only classic films are great on the big screen.

A few recent films that come to mind as being enhanced by the big screen experience are Gravity, The Desolation of Smaug, and Mad Max: Fury Road. All three feature beautifully rendered landscapes and special effects that draw in the viewer all the more. After seeing all three on the smaller screen, they are still great films but lack the impact that the cinema gave them.

While it is very expensive to see movies at the theater, there are cheaper options to still get the big screen experience for cheaper.

The Bowtie Criterion Theater in downtown New Haven runs an “Insomnia Theater” series. Every week, on Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 pm, movies are shown for $4.50. The offerings are typically older films with a large fan following.

Last year, I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a film I watched as a child and did not care for.  After seeing the alien saucers projected on a giant screen with surround sound, I have come to realize how much of a spectacle Spielberg’s masterpiece is.

Coming up in the Insomnia Theater programming is Blade Runner and Terminator 2, both of which are considered to be enhanced by the cinema.

A cheaper option to see great films on the big screen, programs like these continue on the art of cinema that has captured millions of hearts for a century.

1 Comment

One Response to “Why the Big Screen Matters”

  1. Best Legal Movies On Netflix | Best Simple Legal Advice on September 19th, 2015 5:34 am

    […] Why the Big Screen Matters – While Netflix and less legal sources on the internet are great … Watching a movie on a laptop is merely watching a movie. Making plans to drive out with friends, get food, and get the best seats in the house is an event. […]

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Why the Big Screen Matters